Schenectady County legislators signed off Tuesday on $12.8 million in bonds to fund a number of visible redevelopment projects spearheaded by the Metroplex Development Authority, including the demolition of a derelict shopping center in Rotterdam and a face-lift for lower State Street in Schenectady.
The bonds will help cover the cost of razing the dilapidated Curry Road Shopping Center so that the long-dormant plaza can be redeveloped into a mix of commercial buildings and 180 units of affordable senior housing. The cost of demolition is estimated at $500,000, half of which will be funded through a state grant.
The town and the Golub Corp. both own parts of the site and are expected to close on a sale with Forum Industries before the end of the year. Once the two parcels are sold, construction on a new location for the Trustco Bank — the only functioning business in the plaza — will begin in what is now the sprawling parking lot of the property.
Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said demolition of the old structure will begin once the new bank is built. He said the town has already approved the construction of the new bank.
“It’s a very important project,” he said of the demolition on Tuesday, after the bonds were approved.
The bonds also will help transform a swath of State Street extending from Erie Boulevard to North Church Street in the city’s downtown. The funding will help the implementation of a street enhancement and infrastructure improvement program that will help improve the appearance of the streetscape.
Work has already begun on some improvements for the lackluster section of downtown, including the installation of new utilities, new pavement, new sidewalks and lighting matching the rest of State Street. Additional work is expected during the spring.
The bonds will pay for Metroplex to purchase the YMCA building on lower State Street so that it can be renovated once the organization’s housing program is moved to Broadway next to the Schenectady County Department of Social Services building. Metroplex and city leaders envision the old building as office, technology or lab space.
Also included in the bonds is a new, permanent median between Schenectady County Community College and downtown. The raised masonry barrier with a decorative fence atop it is expected to improve pedestrian safety and vehicle movement around the college.
Proceeds from the bonds will help fund a 1.3-mile extension of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Hike Trail from the north side of Maxon Road through the former American Locomotive Co. site off of Erie Boulevard to the city’s Stockade neighborhood. The 60-acre riverfront site will eventually offer a hotel, office and retail space, marina and perhaps even a film studio.
Gillen said each project will still need to be approved by the Metroplex board. He said the projects included in the bonds are investments for the future.
“You invest in projects that create more jobs,” he said. “You’re borrowing against future revenues.”
The work covered by the bonds was lauded by Charles Steiner, president of the Chamber of Schenectady County. Addressing legislators Tuesday, he praised Metroplex leaders for using the borrowed money to leverage state funding for job-creating projects.
“The Metroplex board plans for a series of projects, which include improving the infrastructure and acquiring sites to make them shovel-ready, are directly in line with the Metroplex statute,” he said. “We have every confidence that the funds will enable them to have … a positive impact on countywide smart growth, expansion of the tax base and, most importantly, job creation.”
The bonding did garner one critic. Republican Brian McGarry, who beat Democrat Matt Martin for a seat last month and was attending his first meeting as part of the Legislature, was wary about borrowing the money given the county’s debt level.
“I don’t know why we can’t pay as we go,” he said.