National developer eyeing 245 acres at Malta tech campus

This rendering shows where buildings would be located in the Luther Forest tech park under a proposal by a national real estate developer.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
This rendering shows where buildings would be located in the Luther Forest tech park under a proposal by a national real estate developer.

Categories: News, Saratoga County

MALTA & STILLWATER — Most of the vast Luther Forest Technology Campus has remained open for more than a decade, even though GlobalFoundries built its $13 billion Fab 8 semiconductor foundry — a project that has transformed Saratoga County — there.

But now a nationally known real estate developer wants to buy 245 acres and invest up to $250 million over the next few years in a complex of large supply chain or manufacturing buildings.

Scannell Properties of Indianapolis wants to acquire land in the heart of the campus, where experimental rocket fuel was tested in the decades after World War II. Potentially, Scannell’s interest could mean $250 million in investment in several new companies coming to the site, and create 2,500 jobs.

“There are really significant job numbers,” said Malta Town Board member Tim Dunn, chairman of the town’s Economic Development Committee. “This is what the technology park was envisioned for. This is what the millions in water, sewer and electric infrastructure was put in for.”

The Town Board on Nov. 5 received a Power Point presentation from a Scannell representative, and town officials said they expect the company to be applying for whatever zoning amendments are necessary within the next couple of months.

Scannell Properties has done a number of large developments for major companies across the United States, including the Amazon regional distribution center that opened in Schodack in September.

Supply chain and distribution and light industrial uses are among the possibilities for the Luther Forest site, Dunn said, with development expected to occur over a five-year period. The company hopes to start work next year, according to the presentation.

Scannell Properties on Thursday confirmed its plans and that a purchase was being negotiated, while releasing few details. It is working with the Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp. and Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency, it said. The EDC owns the land, while the IDA could grant incentives for new investment and job creation.

“An initial informal conversation regarding conceptual plans has taken place within the towns of Stillwater and Malta,” a statement from Scannell said. “Formal presentations to both town boards are occurring in November. We will share more information when the deal is complete.”

The land being considered by Scannell includes the former General Electric rocket fuel and Wright-Malta weapons testing site, which was active from just after World War II until the 1990s. It is a known brownfield due to industrial soil contamination, though it has been through a federal Superfund cleanup. If the plans go forward, much of the site would be paved — in effect, sealing any remaining contamination underground, which town officials said would reduce the risk of human exposure.

Under the proposal, one building per year would be constructed, each costing between $46 million and $65 million. Each building would measure between 451,000 square feet and 645,000 square feet, according to the Power Point presentation. The buildings would cover roughly between 10 acres and 15 acres each.

The 245 acres includes two different properties: one along Rocket Way between the Malta athletic field complex and GlobalFoundries, where four buildings would be built; and one on the west side of Stonebreak Road Extension, south of the roundabout that leads to GlobalFoundries, where a single 451,000-square-foot building is planned.

The 1,414-acre campus located on the Malta and Stillwater town border was envisioned nearly 20 years ago as a regional center for computer chip manufacturers and the companies that supply them. Other than GlobalFoundries, though, it remains the pine woods that gave Luther Forest its name, despite a road network and other infrastructure built in the 2000s to attract tenants.

The Scannell interest came just as officials in Malta and Stillwater were starting to consider whether zoning changes were needed to make the technology park more attractive. Both towns set aside money for a comprehensive tech park use and zoning study, but Dunn said those plans are now on hold until Scannell makes its application.

“Any study would obviously have to take what Scannell does into consideration,” Dunn said.

The technology campus was created as a custom-zoned planned development district in 2004, in what was then undeveloped forest. State and local officials scored a victory in 2006 with the announcement that the chip plant that would become GlobalFoundries would locate there, in return for nearly $1.4 billion in state incentives.

Ground was broken on Fab 8 in 2009 and the plant went into full production in 2012. Today it has about 3,000 employees.

But the supply and service companies that customarily cluster around a chip plant have so far located outside the tech campus, leading some economic developers to speculate that the tech campus’ tight zoning restrictions are a factor.

Scannell’s plans would require changes to the PDD, but any changes wouldn’t be drastic, Malta Town Supervisor Darren O’Connor said.

“I don’t see massive structural changes,” O’Connor said. “The basic vision of the PDD isn’t going to be changed.”

Malta, meanwhile, has stepped up its own economic development efforts, called Malta Works. Even before the Scannell proposal came forward, the plan was to try to focus on more marketing effort on the Luther Forest property, Dunn said.

Even if Scannell’s project moves forward, there would still be at least 200 acres of developable land in Luther Forest.

Earlier this year, GlobalFoundries took an option on 66 acres adjoining its property, raising new speculation about the prospect of the company building a second computer chip plant at the site, at an estimated cost of $16 billion. The company said it will decide whether to proceed based on market conditions.

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