When Dan Maggs pictures a casino in Schenectady, he sees good things happening across the Mohawk River on Freemans Bridge Road.
“I think it’s good news for Schenectady and I think it’s good news for Glenville,” said Maggs, owner of Freeman’s Bridge Wine & Liquor. “We haven’t had any lately, and I think it will prime the pump for other things to happen.”
And while he said the casino “will be great for the area,” he also knows the town, and Freemans Bridge Road in particular, need to be ready for the changes.
“Can it handle the traffic? There’s going be a need for more police, more infrastructure, and I know for a fact that Glenville has not been given any money by anybody to prepare for the future growth,” he said. “I think somebody should address that.
“Supervisor Chris Koetzle is on top of it, as he should be, so I give my support to him in his effort to try to prepare Glenville for the potential growth.”
Following the state Gaming Facility Location Board’s recommendation last month that Schenectady receive one of three casino licenses in the state, town officials and business owners on Freemans Bridge Road are starting to prepare for the $330 million Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor planned for a 60-acre brownfield site between Erie Boulevard and the river, within a half-mile of the Glenville business corridor.
Koetzle set a meeting for 9:30 a.m. Thursday at The Waters Edge Lighthouse to discuss the potential impact with business owners and how the town’s southern gateway can be improved. Refreshments will be served compliments of the Glenville Business and Professional Association, which is hosting the meeting with the Town Board.
Koetzle said he hopes the meeting will be the first of many, and that a Freemans Bridge Road business association will form as a result.
“I’m going to be a strong advocate for our businesses, there’s no question about that, but I think the businesses need to be self-advocates as well,” he said. “And I think we need to work together to make sure our message is heard at the state, county and private development level.”
Koetzle has asked for the state road to be widened as part of the casino plans, and has advocated for the town to receive a share in the annual gaming revenue from the casino, which is projected to be $4.1 million each for Schenectady County and the city, to deal with issues such as the possibility of increased crime.
“We have a very lean police force,” he said. “We’re going to see increased public safety concerns.”
He said that will all be up for discussion at the meeting, as well as the possibility of increased competition from the casino site and what kind of new development business owners want to see on Freemans Bridge Road.
Casinos often bring “ancillary businesses” like strip clubs and adult bookstores, Koetzle said, that are not in line with the town’s character. He said the Town Board changed the zoning for many properties along Freemans Bridge Road from Research & Development to General Business last year, which restricted such businesses, but said “there’s still some potential for the zoning to be incompatible with the town’s character.” The zoning change was also meant to encourage more retail rather than industrial development in the town’s southern gateway.
Jeff Kausch, general manager of Goldstock’s Sporting Goods on Freemans Bridge Road, shares Maggs’ excitement for the casino project, which adds to a $150 million project already planned for the waterfront site to include 304 apartments, 70 condos, 10 townhouses, 60,000 square feet of office and retail space and a 50-boat harbor. A 124-room Courtyard by Marriott and biking and walking paths are also part of the plans.
“The biggest thing for us as far as impacting our business is that it will probably bring in some more traffic because people from out of town will be coming there, and that’s never a bad thing,” Kausch said, adding that the jobs created by the project will help local retail businesses.
Rivers Casino, to be developed by the Galesi Group of Rotterdam and operated by Rush Street Gaming of Chicago, is projected to create 1,200 direct jobs.
Pat Popolizio, owner of the Waters Edge Lighthouse Restaurant on Freemans Bridge Road, said the casino will attract “a lot more businesses” to the corridor.
“I’m excited because I think it’s becoming a destination for that whole spot,” he said. “We’re right across the river from it, and I think that it’s going to pick up all of our business. And I think that it’s probably going to be one of the best things that’s happened in the last 25 to 30 years.”
Popolizio said the county, the city, the developers and the town of Glenville should work together to prepare for the transformation.
“I think we need to spread our wings a little bit and take a look at maybe a 3-mile radius, and see what we can do to help each other,” he said.
Maggs said he owns an acre of vacant land just south of the railroad tracks on Freemans Bridge Road, which he expects to have an easier time selling now that the casino is coming to Schenectady. He said developers have been waiting for a casino decision, and now that Schenectady has been chosen, that should change.
“I’m sure you’re going to see development take off,” he said.
As for his wine and liquor store, which he opened 12 years ago, he’s optimistic that sales will benefit greatly from the casino.
“There’s one thing that affects sales for me, and that’s traffic, so if we can believe that the casino is going to increase traffic, then I’m happy,” he said.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: