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City seeking state funds to redevelop former Alco site

City seeking state funds to redevelop former Alco site

The city of Schenectady is seeking a grant from the state to kick-start the comprehensive rehabilita

The city of Schenectady is seeking a grant from the state to kick-start the comprehensive rehabilitation of the former Alco site on Erie Boulevard.

The Metroplex Development Authority is helping the city prepare the application to the Empire State Development Corp. The deadline is May 4. The state is awarding $150 million in round three of the program.

If the city is successful, the state could provide millions of dollars to demolish and rehabilitate buildings on the 60-acre site, said Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen.

Gillen said the project involves substantial private investment as well. “We have a mix of developers in here. It will be an extremely competitive application and it will reflect a major commitment of private investment in the site,” he said.

The plan is to demolish several buildings that are beyond salvaging and rehabilitate and reconstruct two and a half others. Several of the buildings represent the core of the former American Locomotive company.

“We want to save some of Alco’s history and preserve jobs on site. STS Steel would stay and we would bring in another tenant,” Gillen said.

The northern portion of the site would remain industrial while the southern portion, that closest to the Stockade, would contain residential, office and light industrial buildings.

“We are still looking at condos at far south of the site and at a mix of greenspace and new tech and industrial space,” Gillen said.

The city is proposing to construct two 30,000-square-foot structures for high-tech companies in this area and to connect the site to the state’s bike-hike trail.

Several of the buildings to be demolished are along the Mohawk River. They comprise more than 200,000 square feet and are vacant. Their removal would open up a 1.5-mile stretch of the site to the waterfront.

Slated for demolition are buildings 342, 324, 322, 320 and 308. Half of Building 332, the long structure that is visible from Erie Boulevard, would be demolished and the other half restored. The half to be restored includes the tower building, which still retains the Alco name. Buildings 346 and 316 would be restored as well.

“Building 316 has some distinct architecture we want to preserve,” Gillen said.

The new tenant, whom Gillen would not identify, would move into Building 346.

Metroplex is working with several unidentified developers who would invest in the site, and is close to completing a state environmental quality review statement, which would enhance the city’s grant application, Gillen said.

He said the Alco site is a perfect candidate for Restore New York funding, which helps communities revitalize distressed areas, such as old mills, and helps create new tax base and jobs.

“This site has the same conditions as two other former Alco sites across the street,” Gillen said. He was referring to the site where Golub Corp. is building a $30 million headquarters on Maxon Road and the site of the former Ramada Inn, which Union College converted into student housing, on Nott Street.

The Alco site used to build locomotives, then tanks during World War II. Many of the sprawling structures of brick, iron and glass are in poor condition with crumbling facades and interiors, unheated bays and rusted equipment. Alco closed in 1969. General Electric leased most of the site between 1972 and the late 1990s. The for-profit Schenectady Industrial Corp. currently owns the site. Gillen said Metroplex would purchase the property, using a so-called “friendly condemnation process.”

If Schenectady lands the grant in the third round, it will have scored a hat trick. It obtained $1.4 million in the first round and $2 million in the second round, Gillen said.

“We are two for two, 100 percent. This is the richest round yet and we are going for three,” he said. The state will announce awards in late spring.

The city used the first grant to demolish buildings along State Street and the second grant to help rehabilitate Center City.

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