Schenectady County

Galesi gets OK for Mohawk Harbor townhouses

The Schenectady Planning Commission approved Galesi Group’s townhouse building for Mohawk Harbor and
Matthew Cuevas was named Chairman of the Planning Commission in Room 110 at City Hall Wednesday, September 16, 2015.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Matthew Cuevas was named Chairman of the Planning Commission in Room 110 at City Hall Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

The Schenectady Planning Commission approved Galesi Group’s townhouse building for Mohawk Harbor and named a new chairman during a meeting Wednesday evening.

The Rotterdam developer returned to the commission for approval on the building a second time after downsizing from 24 to 15 units and changing the design. The commission unanimously approved the new proposal.

“Some loved it and some didn’t like it,” Galesi VP Paul Fallati said regarding the original townhouse design. “The other building was more of an industrial-looking building that mimicked what was at Mohawk Harbor at one point.”

The townhouse building will front the Mohawk River at the end of the old Alco site off Erie Boulevard by Freemans Bridge Road. The building will have 15 units with between 2,000 and 2,800 square feet per unit. All of the units will face the river with balconies.

J.T. Pollard of Re4orm Architecture said the number of units had to be cut nearly in half because the developer ran into bedrock and there’s an easement that runs through the site.

“Originally we had more property to work with,” Pollard said. “We thought we could sheet pile, like the harbor, but unfortunately we couldn’t. The engineers recommended we lay the bank back, which decreased the property we had.”

The new building design, more modern than previously proposed, includes metal siding, wood panels and a rooftop terrace. The parking garage is on the first floor and living areas on the second and third floors of the building.

The commission approved the 35,000-square-foot townhouse building contingent on city staff reviewing resubmitted plans to narrow the driveway to 22 feet, change the pavement and provide a landscaping plan.

Fallati said construction on the apartment building at Mohawk Harbor would break ground this fall, followed by the 124-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel. Galesi also received approval to build condominiums, office and retail on site.

The 60-acre brownfield will also be the future home of Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, to be operated by Rush Street Gaming of Chicago. The casino is expected to receive a license by the state Gaming Commission as early as next month.

New chairman

At the start of the meeting, commissioners unanimously appointed Matthew Cuevas as the new chairman and Mary Moore Wallinger as vice chairwoman. Cuevas is succeeding longtime chairwoman Sharran Coppola who resigned in July.

Cuevas has served on the Planning Commission for 20 years and works for Albany engineering firm CHA, formerly Clough Harbour & Associates. Cuevas has recused himself from voting on all projects at Mohawk Harbor due to his position at CHA.

Coppola said in an interview last week that she decided to step down before her term was up at the end of the year after the commission granted site-plan approval for the casino project.

“The mayor and I agreed that when the final approval was given to the casino that I would submit my letter of resignation,” she said. “Without a doubt the casino has been the largest project that we have seen, but certainly not the most controversial.”

Although the commission granted site plan approval for the casino in July, the board is expected to review Rush Street’s final design for the casino’s 80-foot-tall pylon sign during a meeting next month.

The Daily Gazette previously reported in June and July that commissioners met with architects and developers for the casino project ahead of the public meetings as part of “subcommittees.”

Reflecting on tenure

Coppola said she “doesn’t know if subcommittees is the right word,” adding that the commission has held “subcommittee meetings” not open to the public since she has been chair of the commission for the past 16 years.

“It’s a tool and we certainly don’t make agreements with anyone,” she said. “I don’t believe they should be held in public. There are times that you can’t do everything at one meeting.”

The one project Coppola wished never got approved by the Planning Commission? The new Family Dollar on State Street in Hamilton Hill. The store will be built next to the Phyllis Bornt Branch Library and Literacy Center, which is now under construction.

“The issue the commission had in general was that if you look at the Family Dollars you do have they are hardly stellar retail establishments,” she said. “I wish I could have said we don’t want that.”

But Coppola said the commission couldn’t vote no on the project because the board only reviews project design and follows guidelines of the zoning code.

Coppola served on the Planning Commission for about 20 years and as chairwoman for 16 years. She said she believes the commission is 100 percent transparent and that she will miss being a part of it.

“I miss it terribly already, I really do,” she said. “I loved doing it and I loved working with the commissioners. They are a great group. I just felt my position in my personal life and the amount of time that I’ve been there it was time for someone else to take over.”

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