Starlite Theatre leveled; redevelopment ahead

The old Starlite Theatre, site of many memories for concertgoers across the region, is itself a memo

The old Starlite Theatre, site of many memories for concertgoers across the region, is itself a memory now, and plans for the future of the site are being laid.

The theater in the round that drew some of the biggest names in show business was demolished last week to make way for more than $50 million worth of commercial and residential development.

It had been 15 years since a performer took the Starlite stage. Over the years, the theater went from grandiose to dilapidated, with peeling paint, smashed glass, a floor marred by debris and a collapsed gazebo. The Rotterdam-based Galesi Group is overseeing the development of the 100-acre site. Once demolition is wrapped up in about a month, the developer will firm up plans for the site based on tenant interest, said CEO David Buicko.

“It’s pretty sad with all the people that used to perform there,” he said of the demolition. “There were so many great names — Bob Hope, Ringo Starr, Johnny Cash. Mike Tyson even had a fight there.”

Indeed, major headliners performed on its 35-foot revolving stage over four decades, including Kenny Rogers, Sammy Davis Jr., the Temptations, the Four Tops, and comedians George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield, among many others. The Starlite was a summer destination well before the Saratoga Performing Arts Center or Times Union Center became go-to venues, but it gained traction during the 1970s and 1980s.

Eugene Weiss owns the property, which contains a mix of about 60 acres of developable land and remaining wetlands. Buicko said he began talking to Weiss about developing the property six months ago, but demolition plans have been in the works for well over a year.

A National Grid easement cuts the property in half, so approximately 30 acres off the Northway will be dedicated to commercial use and 30 acres to the south will be for residential use. The commercial portion has room for about 300,000 square feet of retail and office space. Approved zoning on the residential portion allows for 300 to 400 housing units.

“It’s a great piece of property that’s been vacant forever,” said Buicko. “It’s perfect because it’s centrally located between Saratoga, Albany, Troy and Schenectady. I think there will be a lot of interest here. What you have to do, though, is clean up the site and make it look developable because it’s pretty much a rundown piece of property.”

The site is also ideal for development, he said, because it’s right in the midst of the Route 9 retail corridor and zoning is already in place.

“It will be ready to go, and it’s in a proactive town that wants smart growth,” he said. “The town of Colonie has been very good in terms of working with development. And when you have a community that wants to work with you, it makes the whole process a lot easier.”

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