Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said she believes the Schenectady casino will be a “destination” and that the future Electric City Apartments is a “hip” project.
Hochul visited Schenectady on Tuesday, touring construction at Mohawk Harbor, new companies at the New York BizLab, an apartment project at State Street and Erie Boulevard and workforce training programs at YouthBuild Schenectady.
Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, compared Schenectady to Buffalo, saying the Electric City is experiencing a revival “on steroids.”
“I’ve witnessed a transformation like this only one other place and that was the hardest hit place in the state of New York, which is Buffalo, my hometown, with an abandoned waterfront and abandoned steel plants,” she said during a CDTA bus tour of the Mohawk Harbor site Tuesday afternoon.
She described the future Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor as a project that would give “new hope” to the area and have a “ripple effect” for the entire Capital Region.
She also praised the developer for creating opportunities for local businesses, like the Mallozzi Group.
“This is not just a casino for people to go gamble,” she said during a meeting with The Daily Gazette’s editorial board after her tour of the city. “This is an experience. People are looking for a destination and conventions and want to bring their families.”
When Galesi Group COO David Buicko mentioned to Hochul that the Mallozzi family would be doing the food on site, Hochul perked up and asked if they own Villa Italia.
“I love that place,” she said.
Hochul visited Villa Italia in August 2014 while she was running on the ticket with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She now finds their pastries irresistible.
The Mallozzi Group will operate the casino’s 10,000-square-foot banquet facility along with a marketplace and steakhouse. The Mallozzis plan to hire between 180 and 220 people to staff the new location.
“You’re not bringing outside businesses to compete with the people who have been here all these years,” she said. “Now there is an opportunity for them to expand their operations. Having local businesses go into the space is very complementary.”
In addition to the casino, Rotterdam developer Galesi Group is transforming the 60-acre brownfield off Erie Boulevard with housing, hotels, office and retail buildings and a 50-boat-slip harbor.
Galesi is partnering with Rush Street Gaming of Chicago on the $330 million casino that will house 1,150 slot machines, 66 table games and 15 poker tables. It will also have an adjacent 163-room hotel.
Joe Scibetta, vice president of operations for Rush Street, said the casino is still on track to open by the beginning of next year.
Scibetta said Rush Street will ramp up its search for employees by the end of the year and expects to hire about 800 people locally. The casino is expected to employ a total of 1,200.
Buicko said Galesi’s 204-unit apartment building, which is also under construction now, would be available for occupancy by the beginning of next year.
The 124-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel will be the first building to open on site in the fall. The hotel is being constructed out of wood because it’s not taller than four stories, according to the contractor.
“The apartments have underground parking and steel construction so that’s going to take a bit longer,” Buicko said. “The Marriott should be done by late fall. We have to get the roads in before year-end and get the utilities in. All the environmental work will be done by year-end.”
Buicko said there is interest in about 70 percent of the future office space on site and he is also in discussions with potential retailers.
“We will announce a couple of things pretty soon and we’re courting a lot of people,” he said. “We want to make sure we complement what’s in downtown and what’s in the casino. We don’t want to put things that are competing.”
Buicko added that he is looking to also have a small grocery store locate on the property to provide tenants with a more convenient option.
“Right now the nearest grocery is Price Chopper on Eastern and stores in Glenville,” he said. “Maybe we can have a boutique for people to pick up things who are living in the apartments.”
After Mohawk Harbor, Hochul got a look at the demolition ongoing at the intersection of State Street and Erie Boulevard, which will be the home of the Electric City Apartments with 105 luxury units and 9,900 square feet of retail space.
Jackson Demolition of Schenectady is now demolishing the former Olender Mattress building to make way for the development.
Highbridge Development of Schenectady and Prime Companies of Cohoes are investing $20 million into the project. The 144,000-square-foot building is expected to be done by the end of next year.
Hochul said she was impressed with plans for the building’s amenities that include a rooftop garden and a bocce ball court. The apartments will also have outdoor cooking facilities and a fire pit.
“It will have recreational activities, grills, big-screen TVs outside and fireplaces,” she said. “I think that will be an attraction not just for local homegrown people but anyone who has left the area and thinking of coming back.”
Hochul said she believes Schenectady is “taking off exponentially” and that she’s confident “success will breed success.”
“There is a great feeling in downtown Schenectady,” she said. “There really is.”
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.