For nearly a decade, 25 Mohawk Ave. has been an eyesore, or as one likely buyer put it — “It looks like a tooth out of a smile.”
When McDonald’s closed its village of Scotia operation in 2005, it left a vacant restaurant standing for five years, attracting vandalism and blight to a prime spot along the village gateway. And when it agreed to tear the thing down, it couldn’t find any buyers for the piece of property that had once been contaminated by a car dealership.
So the property sat for three years, empty and contaminated.
But on Wednesday, county and village officials breathed new life into 25 Mohawk Ave. The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority board approved a deal that allowed the economic development arm to purchase the property from McDonald’s Corp. for $1. In turn, Metroplex will clean up environmental contamination at the site and sell it to someone who has had his eye on the site for eight long years.
Mazzone Management Group will buy the 1.1-acre plot for $250,000 or less, depending on the cost of the cleanup. President Angelo Mazzone hopes to eventually house a retail bakery operation at the site, perhaps situating it amid other retail offerings in a strip mall-type arrangement.
“I’ve been trying to buy and develop this land since McDonald’s closed,” said Mazzone. “I’ve wanted to move our warehouses there, or put a retail strip mall in or some kind of bakery. I’ve had interest in the site forever.”
The reason Mazzone couldn’t swoop in and buy the land after the fast-food restaurant left had to do with a fairly common, but strict, deed restriction on the property.
The restriction is an anti-competition one, limiting future owners from using the property for specific uses. And for McDonald’s Corp., those uses include not just fast food, but any kind of food service operation.
Years before, it was home to a car dealership that also sold gas. Extensive testing uncovered petroleum in the soil about eight to 10 feet in the ground on the front end of the property, facing Mohawk Avenue. The land was labeled a brownfield site, and since Metroplex has a successful history in brownfield remediation, including cleanup of Schenectady’s former American Locomotive Company site, they had suddenly become an attractive buyer.
“We got them to make a compromise,” Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said of McDonald’s. “They’ve been very cooperative. They limited the deed restriction to 20 years and carved out a release for the retail/baking component that Angelo is looking at for that site.”
Metroplex, in cooperation with the village of Scotia and the county’s economic development team, negotiated a sale agreement with Pat Mullowney Real Estate Inc. of Wellesley, Mass.
Scotia Mayor Kris Kastberg described the move forward as a “huge relief.”
“This site has been a priority in the village for many years,” he said. “Metroplex and the county did a great job in securing the site, and with the reputation for quality associated with Mazzone Management Group, this project will be another step forward in energizing Scotia’s business district.”
Once the contaminated soil has been removed and replaced, with the oversight of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the property will be transferred to Mazzone Management Group for temporary use as an overflow parking lot for any Glen Sanders Mansion events.
“We’re going to beautify it,” said Mazzone. “It’s going to look like a park, we hope. It’s going to have trees, maybe a fountain or garden. The site now just looks terrible. It looks like a tooth out of a smile.”
Mazzone already owns restaurants in Albany, Clifton Park, Schenectady, Scotia, Saratoga Springs and soon Latham, as well as Mazzone Hospitality, a catering company that recently merged with Colonie-based Classé Catering.
Mazzone Hospitality currently handles all of its bakery operations out of a “very small spot” inside Glen Sanders, Mazzone said.
“We produce all the baked goods for all of our units, so we’re actually probably the biggest non-bakery bakery in the Capital Region,” he added. “We make like 250 to 300 wedding cakes a year. We make all our own breads for all our restaurants. We make all our own rolls, all our pastries and cookies. And those go out to all of our locations.”
His hope is to move those operations to 25 Mohawk Ave. He wants it to be attractive and to the village’s liking, he said. So he’s contemplating putting in a building and leasing space out to other retail outfits, with one of them entirely for Mazzone bakery items.
“People can walk in and buy stuff,” he said. “The bakery we’re in now, you can’t walk in and buy anything. It’s just for our catering staff.”
As of right now, he confirmed, there are no definite plans aside from cleaning and beautifying the site.
“We want to make sure everybody is happy with it first,” he said. “We don’t want to put something there that the village isn’t going to be happy with.”
County officials appear happy with where plans are headed, and emphasized how important it was that McDonald’s responded to the area’s wishes for the long-vacant space.
“We thank McDonald’s for working with the county’s unified economic development team and donating to Metroplex this 1.1 acre site at the entryway to the village of Scotia,” said Marty Finn, chairman of the county Legislature’s economic development committee.