Schenectady County

Bank branch may rise on site of old Edgewood Restaurant in Rotterdam

The former Edgewood Restaurant could be the next building in Rotterdam to face the wrecking ball.

The former Edgewood Restaurant could be the next building in Rotterdam to face the wrecking ball.

Representatives from Pioneer Savings Bank will pitch a project to replace the longtime banquet hall with a 5,150-square-foot building and drive through on 1.23 acres off Altamont Avenue. In addition to demolishing the existing building, the developers are hoping to tear up much of the existing asphalt on the property, thereby cutting the number of parking spaces in half.

The new bank will also be located closer to Altamont Avenue and incorporate more green space than the existing structure. Town Planner Peter Comenzo said the applicant will need to seek a special use permit for the drive-through window in addition to the normal site plan review.

“In terms of redevelopment, it’s a good project,” he said Monday.

In its heyday, the Edgewood was among the busiest banquet halls in the area. The business closed in 2002 after nearly five decades of business and the property was sold later sold to the Albany Realty Corporation.

The Dragon Buffet opened at the location in November 2003, becoming the fifth of six chain restaurants dotting the Capital Region and Hudson Valley area. But less than a year later, federal authorities arrested business owner Kun Fuk Cheng on tax evasion and money laundering charges, following a lengthy probe into the trafficking of undocumented workers at the chain buffet.

Upon his arrest, Cheng was found to have more than 75 undocumented Mexican and Chinese immigrants on his payrolls working up to 72 hours per week without overtime. More than two dozen of these workers were found to be living either at the Altamont Avenue restaurant or Cheng’s property on State Street in Schenectady.

In December 2006, Cheng was sentenced to serve 57 months in federal prison and required to relinquish $4.3 million in assets, including the former Edgewood. John and Robert Adamec, the owners who sold the property to Cheng, retained the property for $1 in January 2009, according to county land records.

Nearly everything inside the building was sold at auction in August. Comenzo said the project developers are hoping to get approvals into place so that the rest of the structure can be demolished sometime next year.

“They’re looking to take the building down,” he said.

The project could result in yet another vacancy in the nearby Hannaford Plaza, where Pioneer now operates a branch. Comenzo said the bank has indicated it will move once it constructs the new location.

CVS Pharmacy and Hollywood Video are among the recent departures from the sprawling shopping center. Nigro Companies, which manages the property, is advertising roughly 42,000 feet of space for rent.

Steve Powers, Nigro’s vice president, said Pioneer has a lease signed until 2013. He said the company is now transforming the former CVS location and part of another space to house Citi Trends, a retail clothing store with 430 locations across the country.

Powers said the company is trying to aggressively market the remaining space it has. But he admitted the economy has made filling Hannaford Plaza difficult lately.

“It’s a matter of the economy and it’s a matter of the changing of the market,” he said of the vacancies.

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