Warehouse upgrade proposed on Edison Avenue in Schenectady

133 Edison Ave. in Schenectady is shown Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

133 Edison Ave. in Schenectady is shown Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

SCHENECTADY — An unused and deteriorating warehouse on Edison Avenue would be demolished and replaced by a modern warehouse under a proposal coming before the Schenectady Planning Commission.

The developer submitting the plan said this type of building is in short supply but the current structure on-site is obsolete and in poor condition.

“We’re going to take that down and we have a new 10,000-square-foot high-bay warehouse facility with loading docks,” said John Roth, CEO of Highbridge Development.

“That type of building is in high demand right now. We’re going to build it on spec with hopes of having a tenant before we finish it.”

The owner of the site is 133 Edison Ave. LLC, an entity of Highbridge Development. The Planning Commission on Wednesday will consider granting site plan approval for the new warehouse.

The existing structure was eligible for foreclosure but the city did not take that step out of concern that it would then be liable for the cost of demolition and any environmental cleanup necessary.

Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen called it the commercial equivalent of a zombie home, the properties that sit vacant and deteriorating when financially struggling owners abandon them and lenders neither foreclose on nor maintain the property.

Metroplex paid for a Phase I environmental survey and then the Capital Region Land Bank (which is staffed and managed by Metroplex) secured an option to continue the environmental review and pay the city $1 to take title to the site. State law gives some liability protection to land banks, reducing the financial risk of taking it over.

The property is assessed at $188,000. The Land Bank gave it to the LLC in return for the LLC completing the environmental study, including drilling; paying for cleanup, asbestos removal and demolition; and committing to construct a replacement structure within 24 months.

The new building would be about half the size of the existing building. The loading bays would be in front of the building, which sits on a deep but very narrow lot between a railroad embankment and a creek.

It’s a good fit for the site, Gillen said.

“The industrial warehouse market in the Capital Region, according to the last survey by CBRE, the vacancy rate is 2%,” he said. It’s an ideal location almost at the foot of the Interstate 890 ramp, Gillen said, adding: “He’s got a track record of filling space.”

Highbridge has several other commercial spaces in the immediate vicinity, including two warehouses right on Edison. The development company’s headquarters is right around the corner on Broadway.

Roth said Highbridge alone or in partnership has several other projects underway or in the works, including a 24-unit Phase II addition to the Electric City Apartments on Lower State Street in Schenectady.

These include sites near Saratoga Springs, Binghamton and Nashville, as well as two right in downtown Schenectady: The block of buildings on State Street that previously housed Rudnick’s, the Chamber of Commerce and New Choices, and the stretch of vacant lots along Erie Boulevard that once included the Sears Roebuck store and Paragon restaurant.

Some are in the active planning stages while others, including the two downtown, are only in the discussion phase.

Between its restrictions on commerce, supply price hikes, material shortages and workforce limitations, the pandemic put a delay on everything that was in motion, Roth said.

“The projects that we’re working on right now, those were all projects we started working on pre-COVID. When COVID hit, it slowed that all down,” he said.

“It seems like we’re over the hump now. Hopefully everything keeps going in that direction.”

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