Schenectady County

Reaction mixed on new casino design

Rush Street Gaming of Chicago released an updated design Thursday that pays homage to Schenectady’s
A rendering of the enterance to the proposed Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, released June 4, 2015.
A rendering of the enterance to the proposed Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, released June 4, 2015.

Glenn Tabolt, president of STS Steel, said the latest proposed design for the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor would allow his business on the old Alco site to blend in better with the proposed $480 million development.

Rush Street Gaming of Chicago released an updated design Thursday that pays homage to Schenectady’s industrial history.

The casino is part of Rotterdam developer the Galesi Group’s plan to transform the 60-acre brownfield, which used to be home to the American Locomotive Company. STS Steel is the only manufacturer to remain on the property.

“I’m hopeful that change is somehow related to the idea that we will be here with the casino,” Tabolt said. “I think the new design makes it easier to integrate our building into the development.”

STS Steel employs 60 and makes trusses, bridges, rail stations and lock gates for the state’s canals. The company moved to the property in 1989 and owns 70,000 square feet of space on the site.

Rush Street will seek site plan approval for the $330 million casino during the city Planning Commission’s next meeting June 17 in Room 110 at City Hall. The casino will be located on the south end of the site off Erie Boulevard along the Mohawk River.

Instead of a white-and-gray-colored building as previously depicted, the casino will be made of brown bricks and have metal panels.

Rush Street CEO Greg Carlin said he decided to change the design after learning more about Schenectady and making several trips to the area.

Gloria Kishton, chairwoman of the Schenectady Heritage Foundation, said it was worth considering a slight change in design to complement STS Steel and the city’s industrial past, but it wasn’t a needed switch.

“It’s not a historic site, and there is nothing left there that is historic,” she said. “It’s also sort of off on its own and isolated from the rest of the city. There are a lot of ways to redevelop the site in regards to architecture.”

Kishton said she believes Rush Street “had a free rein” designing the casino. City Councilman Vince Riggi agrees.

“It would have been nice if we were made aware of these changes earlier,” he said. “We wrote them a blank check. Most of the feedback I’ve seen about the new look is negative. It should be interesting to see how this shapes up.”

Planning Commission member Mary Moore Wallinger said she wasn’t surprised about the design change because a lot of information provided to the city was not very detailed.

“What we saw at the last meeting was mostly footprints and hinting where landscaping was going to go,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I don’t think it has a big industrial feel, but with the simplicity of the material, I could see how someone could see it as industrial.”

Wallinger said she is looking forward to getting more information about the project during the Planning Commission meeting, but after taking a preliminary look, she said she’s pleased overall.

“It’s a really big building that’s not too fussy with a good level of detail,” she said. “I appreciate that they put together a comprehensive plan and to see trees to soften it and visually mitigate the parking.”

Rivers Casino will measure 150,000 square feet with a 185-room hotel, 1,744 parking spaces and 14,929 square feet of signage, including a pylon sign 80 feet tall with a 32-foot digital display.

Under zoning for the site, Rush Street is allowed to have up to 19,000 square feet of signage with pylon signs up to 80 feet tall along with buildings up to 110 feet tall and 40 feet from the river.

The casino, according to documents submitted to the city, will be 72 feet tall, cover about 18 percent of the site and be located 71 feet from the river.

“The signs don’t really bother me,” Wallinger said. “They kind of break up the building. I was relieved to see that. It’s a lot of signage, but when you take into account the size of the building and amount of area it covers, it seems pretty tasteful.”

A majority of people who commented on the casino’s design on The Daily Gazette’s Facebook page Friday did not like the new look.

“Hideous. Looks like Wal-Mart. The modern design was much more inviting,” said Alison Maclean Molumby.

“New design is disappointing and not visually exciting at all. It does look like a Wal-Mart or mall,” said Kenneth Hawkey.

“Ugly, looks like a 1980s shopping mall,” added Rick Crow.

“If by industrial they mean a great big ugly block of cement and brick, then I think they’ve achieved it with the design,” commented Cathryn Hunt.

The casino is in addition to Galesi Group’s plans for housing, hotels and retail and office space on the site. The developer is also carving a 50-slip harbor and adding a bike path and pedestrian walkway.

During the June 17 Planning Commission meeting, Galesi is also seeking site plan approval for a 24-unit townhouse building and an office and retail building.

Riggi said he believes the previous casino design with a modern look was more in sync with the city’s recent developments and direction for the future.

“I understand the industrial aspect of it, since this was an industrial city, but it’s not anymore,” he said.

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