Schenectady County

Schenectady casino design gets green light

The city Planning Commission approved the site plan for the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbo
The most recent rendering of the proposed Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, released July 9.
The most recent rendering of the proposed Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, released July 9.

This time the Schenectady casino’s design is final.

The city Planning Commission approved the site plan for the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor — with one no vote — after a two-hour meeting Wednesday evening.

The green light from the commission was the last approval needed for the casino to be built. Now Rush Street Gaming only needs a license from the state Gaming Commission to operate it.

Discussion focused on the 80-foot-tall pylon sign planned for the casino. The commission plans to have a subcommittee meeting at a later date to discuss possible minor changes to the pylon sign, such as colors and materials.

Designer Mike Levin, principal with Development Management Associates, says the tall sign is needed due to poor visibility from Erie Boulevard.

“When you are coming west on Erie, we’re 21⁄2 blocks from the road,” he said. “So when someone is driving westbound and you have the roundabout, which is great for traffic movement, there’s no stopping there.”

Levin added that buildings on either side of the site, including STS Steel, will block the sign.

“People will be coming here two or three times a year,” he said. “We need people coming westbound to know where the casino is.”

The materials the pylon will be built with have changed from brick to metal, like the casino building. The sign will be lit 24 hours a day, seven days a week, also like the casino.

Schenectady resident David Giacolone said he doesn’t see the need for an 80-foot-tall sign.

“I just don’t see how it’s going to be so difficult for anyone to know where this casino is,” he said.

Under zoning for the site approved by the City Council, the pylon sign can be up to 80 feet tall. Commissioner Tom Carey said he believes the sign is too big.

“This sign is 80 feet and in other districts a similar sign, maximum size, is 10 feet for an internally lit sign,” Carey said. “I would encourage the developer to do anything to mitigate the impact of the design.”

The sign will be situated near Front Street where Automated Dynamics currently stands. (The building will be demolished to make way for the development.) The pylon comes with a 32-foot digital display.

Camille Sasinowski, who lives a couple of blocks from the old Alco site, said she’s concerned about light pollution and that the developers should address that potential issue.

“The Alco developers owe all of the neighborhoods that will be affected their due diligence and courtesy,” she said. “The light pollution certainly isn’t going to sell any housing.”

Levin said the total area of on-site signage for the casino has decreased from nearly 15,000 square feet to 13,700 square feet. Under the zoning, a total of 19,000 square feet is permitted.

The facade of the casino has shifted from an industrial look with brown bricks to a more contemporary look with white-gray coloring and metal panels.

Chicago casino operator Rush Street Gaming went back to the drawing board after being hit with negative comments from the public about the initial design plan.

Several of the commissioners said they like the new design better than previous renderings released to the public. Klai Juba Wald Architects of Las Vegas designed the casino.

“I like the design a lot better, especially the space provided for the public,” said Commissioner Brad Lewis. “We will go from very little waterfront to the point of where we have a lot of it.”

The 150,000-square-foot casino will have a 50,000-square-foot gaming floor with 1,150 slot machines and 66 table games.

The casino will be 72 feet tall, cover 18 percent of the 60-acre site and be set back 71 feet from the river, according to plans submitted to the city. It will have 1,744 parking spaces, including a five-story parking garage.

Under proposed casino licensing regulations made public Wednesday, Rush Street’s license would have to be renewed every 10 years.

Rush Street plans to build and complete the casino within 16 to 18 months of receiving a license. Under the licensing regulations, if the casino is not open for business within 24 months the operator could be hit with a fine of up to $50 million.

The proposed licensing regulations were published in the State Register on Wednesday, starting the clock on a public comment period that ends Sept. 5.

The commission must then adopt the regulations, and would have to do so by Sept. 15 to make the Sept. 30 State Register. That means the earliest the casino license could be awarded is Sept. 30.

Work is underway on the site off Erie Boulevard, with Rifenburg Construction creating the 50-boat-slip harbor, which is expected to be done by spring, along with carving out roads and a bike trail.

The casino is in addition to Galesi Group’s plans for a hotel, housing and office and retail on the site. Construction will start in September on a 124-room Courtyard by Marriott and a 191-unit apartment building.

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