Schenectady County

Alco redevelopment gets mixed reviews

The Metroplex Development Authority’s proposed $200 million, 10-year redevelopment of the former Alc

The Metroplex Development Authority’s proposed $200 million, 10-year redevelopment of the former Alco site on Erie Boulevard was endorsed Monday by environmental advocates but got only a lukewarm review by the site’s major tenant.

Metroplex held a public hearing Monday night at which five people addressed a report on the plan. Public comments will be taken through March 12. The Metroplex board plans to adopt a final impact statement on April 12 and will issue its findings April 28. Metroplex has posted the draft impact statement on its Web site.

Ruth Bonn of the Schenectady County Environmental Advisory Council endorsed the redevelopment of the site, which she called a wasteland at the entrance to the city of Schenectady.

She also urged Metroplex, which is serving as lead agency on the environmental review, to exercise care in cleaning up the site. A majority of the site contains petroleum contamination and a portion of the site contains chlorinated solvents. The contaminated materials have to be dug up and removed off-site before any construction can begin, according to the report.

Jim Stori, president of STS Steel, a major tenant at the former Alco site, now known as the Nott Street Industrial Park, said he is concerned the project could hurt his company in the long term. His company has options to buy land at the site reserved for retail and commercial buildings under the redevelopment project.

“We are not against progress, but progress should not be at the expense of local jobs,” Stori said. STS fabricates steel and employs 60 people.

Richard Steinbrenner, chairman of the Alco Historical and Technical Society, urged the creation of a heritage museum for Alco at the site. Alco was responsible for bringing many people to the area for employment and once was the largest company in New York state.

Alco is an acronym for American Locomotive Corp., which owned and operated the site between 1901 and 1970, when it went out of business. It built locomotives for much of its history and military hardware during World War II. The site itself has been occupied for approximately 125 years.

Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said the $200 million figure represents a maximum effort to redevelop the 60-acre site and that the final investment will depend on economic conditions. “This is the development plan that is being proposed for the site and it obviously depends on market conditions, but we are committed to the plan and are moving forward,” he said.

The redevelopment proposal envisions the construction of 500 one- to four-bed apartments on 10 acres, plus the construction of a 125-ed sales and resales of apartments would generate approximately $10 million per year, according to the report.

Also proposed is 450,000 square feet of office space and space for research and development companies, built on 50 acres of the site. By comparison, the Golub headquarters on Maxon Road, a former Alco site, is 260,000 square feet. Retail, primarily representing small service businesses, would occupy 75,000 square feet at the site.

“We have had hotel developers look at the site and we have shown the site to [residential] developers,” Gillen said.

Redevelopment of the site would create approximately 1,000 mixed-use office jobs and approximately 250 retail jobs, said the report. In addition, redevelopment would increase the city’s tax base. City officials said the Alco site is currently assessed at less than one-seventh of the value of adjacent properties.

As part of the site’s redevelopment, some of the structures on the property would be demolished. Metroplex will use a Restore New York grant to demolish dilapidated buildings, opening a 1.5-mile stretch of the site to the Mohawk River waterfront.

The site contains 14 buildings, ranging in size from 1,500 square feet to 200,000 square feet, many of them former industrial buildings and large warehouse buildings. Many are in poor condition.

The site also contains a working nuclear reactor, operated by RPI. The facility generates about 100 watts of power, using low-grade uranium.

Gillen said some of the structures will be saved, primarily those closely linked to Alco’s former presence there. Some are eligible for listing on the State and National Register. He would not address the fate of the nuclear reactor.

The Schenectady Industrial Corp. currently owns 80 percent of the site, private tenants the remainder. The report includes a price of $8 million to acquire the property.

Current tenants STS Schenectady, Automated Dynamics and Advanced Energy Conversions will remain on the site following its redevelopment, Gillen said.

The draft environmental impact statement indicates a need to make some improvements to Erie Boulevard, but that otherwise the site contains adequate sewer and water services and that city emergency services can adequately handle an increase in coverage to the area.

The redevelopment of the site, according to the report, would enhance the look of Erie Boulevard and the Mohawk River waterfront by demolishing dilapidated, vacant, and underdeveloped buildings and adding new residential, commercial and office space.

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