Schenectady County

Preparation work slows Alco project

Crews were expected to spread out nearly 200,000 tons of fill above the floodplain and build a hotel
The Alco site off Erie Boulevard is shown in June.
The Alco site off Erie Boulevard is shown in June.

Those who take Erie Boulevard into Glenville have probably noticed the overgrown mounds of dirt piled high where the Alco locomotive factory complex once stood.

Crews were expected to spread out that nearly 200,000 tons of fill above the floodplain and build a hotel and apartment complex there earlier this year, but officials confirmed Tuesday it would likely be early 2014 before any ground is broken. The reason: Cleaning up and redeveloping a site that was home to the American Locomotive Company for 121 years is no quick task.

“You can’t clean it up in a day,” said Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen. “It takes time. It’s all of the planning that’s required to develop a 60-acre site plan. It’s water, sewer and roads. We’re designing a bike trail on the site. It’s a complicated process.”

That’s not all. There are traffic studies being done and old clay pipe infrastructure being torn up. There are multiple agencies being consulted and plans being drawn up for just the first phase of the multiphase project.

Rotterdam-based Galesi Group owns the expansive riverfront site, situated between STS Steel’s high-ceilinged warehouse and Freemans Bridge Road. Galesi Group COO David Buicko said he has three different engineering firms working on the infrastructure and design for the site, which will incorporate a hotel; residential, office and retail space; a bike path; and a marina.

Last spring, Buicko announced that phase one of the project would be construction of a multistory hotel and apartment complex. BBL Construction Services said last year that it was contracted to build a Residence Inn by Marriott on the site, but Buicko refused to confirm any deal until an agreement had been signed. On Tuesday, he said he was close to wrapping up the hotel deal, but still had yet to sign a contract.

Plans for the apartment complex are also being worked out. It was initially set to include a mix of 100 to 150 one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

“We want to start building it, but we’re evaluating just how many units to do and how it lays out vis-a-vis the infrastructure and the water feature and access, which will be a part of phase one.”

Buicko said developers are also working with the state Department of Transportation to determine exact points of entry and exit at the site that will have the least impact on traffic flow.

In the meantime, the city of Schenectady received a grant to improve the main intersection at the site — Erie Boulevard and Nott Street.

Galesi Group and Metroplex are actively showing the site to potential office and retail tenants, and are working with CBRE-Albany to market the property.

“My guess is if we’re lucky we can start going vertical in the fall of 2013,” said Buicko. “Realistically, I think we’re looking at the spring of ’14. The designers, the professionals are taking the time they need to do it right. You design it and then you price it. Do I want it going up yesterday? Absolutely. But you want to do it right. This is a game changer for the Capital Region, and we want to make sure we do it absolutely right.”

Meanwhile, no decision has been announced on the fate of a low-level nuclear reactor at the site. Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy expressed interest last year in getting Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to decommission and move the reactor, also known as the L. David Walthousen Laboratory, from the site. Even though the reactor is tiny and contains practically harmless levels of radiation, McCarthy said he didn’t want it to scare off any potential investors or tenants of the site.

RPI released a statement Tuesday saying it is in regular contact with McCarthy, Metroplex and the Galesi Group regarding the reactor.

RPI said it “is committed to working with the parties to ensure the existing presence of the Walthousen lab does not interfere with the ongoing redevelopment efforts.”

But the college offered no firm indication of its plans for the reactor. Its statement concluded: “Rensselaer is in the beginning phases of assessing the future use of the Walthousen laboratory. If Rensselaer decides to close the laboratory, such determination will trigger a decommissioning process under the purview of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

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