Schenectady County

Empty Rotterdam store getting new life

A building at 2696 Hamburg St. that has been empty since Grand Union closed 15 years ago will underg
The former Grand Union in Rotterdam.
The former Grand Union in Rotterdam.

There’s new life coming to a Rotterdam eyesore.

A building at 2696 Hamburg St. that has been empty since Grand Union closed 15 years ago will undergo a $2 million restoration and get a new tenant, Schenectady County officials announced.

“We have a very strong team coming in, and there’s work underway,” said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority.

Superior Business Products, a seller of office supplies and furniture located a mile away, on Carman Road, has signed a lease for the building and plans to move in by the end of the year. Plank Construction of Rotterdam will restore the building.

“This will be a big boost for Hamburg Street,” said Tony Jasenski, chairman of the county Legislature. “It’s been on our radar for a long time.”

The announcement marks the latest development for a corridor that has lost businesses ever since Grand Union closed in 1999. In recent years, CDTA pulled its bus route from the area, citing low ridership.

But in May, the Schenectady County Unified Communications Center, a consolidation of the county’s various emergency dispatch centers that employs 55 people, opened next to the vacant site. In June, the state Department of Transportation announced plans to improve the streetscape from Howell Street to Careleon Road using a $5 million federal grant. That work, to include new sidewalks and a paved median, is slated for 2016.

“It’s a domino effect,” Gillen said.

Metroplex contributed a $95,000 facade grant toward the $2 million in renovations.

“We’ve sold up a lot of these vacant plazas around the county as part of our strategy, and this has been on top of our list for a long time,” Gillen said. “It’s very exciting to be able to fill this spot and have other things happen.”

Rotterdam town Supervisor Harry Buffardi called the announcement “a great opportunity.“

“We are grateful to the county for working with the town to build the new Unified Communications Center on Hamburg Street and now the terrific news that the former Grand Union building will be upgraded for a major new tenant in Superior Business Products,” he said. “This is momentum for Hamburg Street.”

Hamburg Street business owners have long been told finding a new tenant for the site was key to revitalizing the corridor, said Lisa Case, secretary/treasurer of the Hamburg Street Merchants Association.

“We’re very pleased that business and Hamburg Street is actually looking to come around again,” she said.

Case is the branch operations officer for the First National Bank of Scotia branch across the street from the vacant storefront.

“I can tell you that everybody that walks into the bank wanted to know what’s going on, so everybody’s interested,” she said.

Plank Construction and Highbridge Development owner John Roth, who owns the site, said the building will undergo a full restoration, including new electrical work, plumbing and HVAC. The exterior will look “completely different,” he said.

The old Grand Union canopies have already been torn down, and a leaking roof will be replaced.

“We’re taking away that shopping center look, and we’re putting brand new storefronts on the front of it,” said Roth, whose construction company also built the county dispatch center.

Crews have begun to stabilize the building. Full restoration work is expected to begin in August, after town Planning Board approval and a building permit are secured. The work is expected to be completed in November.

The renovations will also include a new parking lot with new lighting, significant green space and decorative fencing.

“I really think that it will be a showpiece once again on Hamburg Street,” Roth said.

Ray Seefeld, president of Superior Business Products, said he had been looking for a new location to accommodate his growing business, which opened in Rotterdam 30 years ago. Sales have increased, and last year, the business acquired the Yankee Business Solutions furniture store in Guilderland, which will be consolidated into the Hamburg Street location.

Seefeld will lease 25,000 square feet of the building, which will include office space, a warehouse and a furniture showroom. The remaining 7,600 square feet, which includes storefront space, will be marketed for retail use.

The business’ new home will employ about 20 people. It currently occupies 10,000 square feet of space at its Carman Road location.

“With those two locations being so close together, it was ideal for us to get into one location,” he said.

The new spot is also more visible, and that could improve with the DOT’s planned improvements to the streetscape, he said.

“It’s going to make it very enticing for people to find us and get to us,” he said.

Seefeld credited the Chamber of Schenectady County and Metroplex with connecting him with the Hamburg Street site and helping him keep his business in Schenectady County.

“It was really important to us, as a 30-year Schenectady business, to stay in Schenectady,” he said.

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