The convoluted saga of the Curry Road Shopping Center continues, even though Supervisor Harry Buffardi is optimistic the long-defunct eyesore finally will be redeveloped in short order.
Rotterdam received a total of two valid bids last month to purchase and redevelop the property, including one that would pump $1.23 million into town coffers. The Albany-based Columbia Development is proposing to either breathe new life into the existing structures or demolish them to build space for businesses, including retail or office space.
Columbia indicated a residential component for senior housing may also be considered, but wouldn’t commit to having it as part of the plan pitched in the bid. Marc Goldstein, the company’s director of real estate, said the overall demographics for the area suggest it is prime space to locate a “neighborhood center” that would attract customers from the vastly residential area surrounding the 12-acre lot.
“Although there is a fair number of retail properties along Altamont Avenue they are somewhat segregated and most are a bit ‘tired’ due to age,” he wrote in the bid submitted. “The success of the Recovery Sports Grill and Berkshire Bank that we recently developed on Curry Road has given us optimism that additional office and retail space, properly designed, constructed and marketed, will be well received by various users and by the community.”
But there’s a bit of a catch. The property once owned by the Golub Corp. has a deed restriction that prohibits certain retail uses.
Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub said her company would support generally any redevelopment effort that is not in conflict with the deed restrictions. She said the company wouldn’t support an automotive service station or a retail food store and any use that would “challenge the integrity of common areas.”
Columbia’s exact plan for the property isn’t clear and Goldstein could not be reached for comment Monday. Buffardi said he believes Columbia’s plans for the property would be in accordance with any restrictions on its deed.
“It doesn’t exempt all businesses,” he said.
Columbia’s bid also trumps one submitted by Forum Industries, the company awarded “preferred developer” status by a previous Town Board in April 2009. The deal with Forum to build 184 units of affordable senior housing met trouble after four out of five Republican board members were swept out of office in 2009.
The property was transferred to the Rotterdam Industrial Development Agency shortly before the new board took office in January 2010. The board under former Supervisor Frank Del Gallo then replaced all the agency’s board members and the new ones quickly moved to bring the Rotterdam IDA under the administration of the Metroplex Development Authority in March 2010.
The deal with Forum continued to plod on for nearly two years until the state Authorities Budget Office ordered the Rotterdam IDA to disband because of inactivity. The Rotterdam IDA’s board reluctantly complied with the order to dissolve by transferring all of its assets back to the town, including the Curry Road Shopping Center.
Metroplex then advised the town that it lacked the authority to negotiate a deal with Forum and that it would need to follow a public bidding process to divest itself of assets. In June, a request for proposal was sent to roughly 80 companies, with four responding with bids.
Forum and Columbia were the only two companies that properly followed the directions contained in the request. One company offering $200,000 for the property submitted a bid after the deadline and another offering $1 million for the land sent its bid to Metroplex instead of the town.
Buffardi said the town has received several legal opinions — including one from the state Comptroller’s Office — indicating that it should accept Columbia’s proposal. He said it’s the one bid that follows the guidelines and is the most financially attractive to the town.
“We have a fiduciary responsibility to go to the highest responsible bidder that meets the qualifications of the bid,” he said.
A representative from Forum Industries did not respond to a call for comment Monday.
This isn’t the first time Columbia has submitted a redevelopment proposal for the dilapidated plaza. In April 2007, Columbia teamed with Polito Homes to propose a mixed residential and commercial project.
But the Polito-Columbia proposal was scrapped in February 2009 after the developer indicated chemical contamination on the property would prevent building the residential component. Earlier this year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation issued a closure letter indicating the land where a dry cleaner once stood could only be used for commercial purposes, but that enough cleanup occurred at the site for redevelopment to move forward on the rest of the property.
Buffardi said the issue of awarding a bid will likely be discussed during the board’s next meeting in September.