One of Schenectady’s more notorious landmarks, Building 332, a sprawling, graffiti-tagged industrial shell along Erie Boulevard, will soon be nothing but dust and memories.
Over the next six months, the building and its derelict brethren on the 60-acre site, all remnants of the former American Locomotive Co., will be demolished to make way for a proposed $200 million, multi-year redevelopment project.
As envisioned by the property owner, The Galesi Group, the project will feature condominiums and a marina along 1.5 miles of Mohawk River waterfront, retail shops, commercial offices and possibly a hotel.
“This project is a game changer for Schenectady,” said David Buicko, chief operating officer for The Galesi Group. “That means we will create an upscale riverfront residential and lifestyle center that really isn’t around in this area.”
Galesi is demolishing Building 332 and more than a dozen others it owns on the site using state Brownfield Program credits. Testa Corp. of Boston will do the work. Buildings 306 and 304, owned by two private businesses, will remain, as will a small nuclear power testing facility operated by RPI.
One of the businesses is STS Steel, which has operated at the site for more than 20 years. The project has company owners worried about their future. Once the project is completed, STS Steel will be surrounded by zoned mixed-used development with no ability to expand beyond its present footprint in Building 304, which the company owns. The company had been leasing Building 322 to handle an overflow of work. Galesi did not renew the lease when it bought the property earlier this year for $500,000 from the Schenectady Industrial Corp.
The most visible display of Testa’s demolition work is its removal of an outdoor steel craneway that runs adjacent to Building 332 and Erie Boulevard. Buicko said Testa will take down the buildings with equipment, not explosives, with the goal of recycling and selling as much material as possible. Many of the buildings are solid constructions of brick, glass and steel, containing high bays that are long and narrow and multiple heavy cranes, legacies of the city’s industrial past.
Buicko said he hopes to reuse as many of the bricks as possible in new development at the site. “This is a brownfield project and we will integrate as many green features as possible, including LEED criteria in the residential, commercial and hospitality components of the project,” he said.
Buicko said the build-out of the site will depend on demand. “We are doing a market analysis as we speak. What we do there will complement, not compete, with what is going on downtown,” he said.
The first projects could be built either near the Stockade or near Freemans Bridge, Buicko said. “It is a unique property with close to 60 acres on the river, with great view sheds, and it is an extension to the Stockade area.”
Galesi has been preparing the site for demolition for the last month, working with the city and utility companies to locate sewer and water lines and to disconnect natural gas and electricity lines to the buildings.
At its height, Alco, as American Locomotive Company was known, built thousands of locomotives — steam, diesel and electric — in Building 332 and others at the site, beginning in the mid-1800s. It built so many that Schenectady was once known as the “City that Lights and Hauls the World.” General Electric did the lighting.
Alco also built tanks and other vehicles used in World War II, employing thousands of people in approximately 157 buildings on 112 acres, spread between the Mohawk River and up to Seward Place.
Alco closed the Schenectady operations in 1969. Schenectady Industrial Corporation then bought the property, renaming it the Nott Street Industrial Park, and it rented some of the buildings to GE through the 1990s. After that, SIC rented them out for sporadic purposes, including at one point for storage of hazardous waste. Galesi purchased the property this year.
Most of the buildings have remained vacant and unheated in their final years, and many have been swallowed by weeds, rust and neglect. Buicko said Building 332’s roof leaks and parts are open to the sky. “They are structurally dangerous,” he said.
Building 332 was one of the longest structures in the world at nearly 1,000 feet when it was completed in 1905, according to Dick Steinbrenner, chairman of a group that is seeking to preserve Alco’s legacy in a museum.
Building 332 also contained the boiler works, a structure that rises several stories on the end and bears the Alco name in large lettering, still visible.
The 60-acre site is the last chunk of Alco in Schenectady County. Galesi redeveloped former Alco property along Maxon Road, former site of the Big N department store, to house the Golub Corp. headquarters. Across the street, also part of the former Alco site, Union College converted a Ramada Inn into a college dorm; the site still contains a car wash.