Louise Giuliano hopes someone takes a chance on Sheridan Plaza.
As a representative for Brokers Network, a Niskayuna real estate company, Giuliano has been trying to rent the former Price Chopper supermarket in the small Schenectady shopping area off Gerling Street, on Schenectady’s north side.
Price Chopper left the 20,000-square-foot building, the plaza’s anchor store, in 2006. Neighborhood residents have missed the outlet for fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods and have periodically complained about their loss.
And while eight years is a long dormancy, other properties have stood vacant for longer periods before construction and business renaissances. Earlier this week, developers announced the former Grand Union supermarket on Hamburg Street in Rotterdam — vacant the past 15 years — will receive a $2 million restoration and a new tenant.
There may be new hope at Sheridan Plaza because there’s new life inside the old market. While aisles and coolers vanished long ago, workers have been renovating floors and have erected a steel framework and rows of construction lights. A new tenant is expected — the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, moving from another section of the plaza.
Giuliano said the VA won’t use the entire building, though she’s not sure how much space it will use. Peter Potter, director of public affairs for the Stratton VA Hospital in Albany, said the agency is just looking for more room.
“We wanted to be able to improve the access to our veterans,” Potter said. “We wanted to be able to introduce our tele-medicine, which provides the opportunity for veterans to receive some of their care, including some speciality care, right from the community, as opposed to making a trip to the Albany medical center.”
Giuliano is still trying to sell the remaining space. A small market has always been the goal.
“It’s a great location for a food type of business,” she said. “You’ve got the population here, you have the demand here. It could be a number of things.”
The asking price for the store is $10 per square foot for a five- or 10-year lease, but negotiations are possible.
“In this market, better getting $7 a square foot a month than getting nothing at all,” Giuliano said. “All real estate prices today are quite negotiable.”
Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, had no comment on the market vacancy.
Giuliano knows some problems come with Sheridan Plaza, which was built in 1954 and was home to Loblaw’s and P&C before Price Chopper moved in. There are other vacancies in the plaza: the old Big Boy’s Slow Food and Catering (a pizzeria before that) and a dry cleaning store. The parking lot also needs repairs.
“We have good tenants, like CVS and Trustco,” Giuliano said. “It’s utilized, but perhaps the markets are not wanting to invest that much because it’s an older property. It needs quite a bit of work. Obviously, the landlord — she’s in New Jersey — she’s putting some money in now.”
Real estate agents know updated properties have better chances to attract potential buyers or tenants.
“We can encourage them to do so, but most of the time, they’re not willing to put any money in until they have a tenant whose interested,” Giuliano said. “Then they go to work on that.”
The recent addition of a farmers market — fresh produce is sold every Friday — has helped raise the plaza’s profile.
“That will help a little bit, but it’s only once a week and they really need something full time,” Giuliano said. “CVS sells milk, juice, the staples, but as far as fresh fruits and vegetables and so forth ...”
Barbara Saglimbeni has long been advocating for a new market presence at Sheridan Plaza. She’s lived on nearby Rosa Road since 1967.
“You wouldn’t believe the stores that were down there,” she said. “We had a restaurant, the Manor House, we had a dress shop, we had a card store, we had a dime store. We always had a market.”
She’s encouraged by the farmers market and has liked the selection available during recent visits.
“It reminded me of the old days, when Price Chopper was there and everybody seemed to be happy,” Saglimbeni said. “It was wonderful to have something there.”
She added that a shopping plaza can play an important role when people decide to move into a neighborhood. People want to be close to a food market, bank and drug store.
If Brokers Network can’t interest a market, Saglimbeni will settle for a smaller business.
“Even a deli would be nice,” she said.
Patel Chirag, manager of the 2,000-bottle Grapevine liquor store in the plaza, would also appreciate a deli.
“Anything,” he said. “A dollar store, a convenience store. More customers come into the plaza, we’d get more business.”
Chirag said he has busy mornings and evenings, but lulls in the afternoon. Some customers walk over from Sheridan Village Apartments, just across Gerling Street. Chirag will take the pedestrian traffic, but he’s hoping people find a reason to drive into the plaza.
“More cars would mean more people would come in here,” he said.
Melissa Mango, a waitress at the Town House restaurant, which sits above the plaza on Rosa Road, said the restaurant would also benefit.
“That little plaza used to be hopping all the time,” she said. “It was easier for the older folks across the street. I used to use that Price Chopper all the time, for little shopping trips. It was convenient.”
The Town House still attracts staff from nearby Ellis Hospital, but Mango believes more diners would visit after a Sheridan Plaza shopping trip.
“We used to get a lot of that,” she said. “‘We’re going to the diner, and then we’re going to Price Chopper.’”
Many customers would also come from Sheridan Village Apartments.
“A lot of seniors, who maybe don’t want to drive their cars, they want to walk with their carts, pick up a few things, go home,” Giuliano said. “That’s really what I’ve been doing, contacting a lot of discount grocers around the country and state to see if one of them might be interested.”
A large national market might not be interested, as many grocery concerns now build larger stores with food courts that resemble small restaurants or cafés.
“Some places are doing very well with a small profile, like Stewart’s and Cumberland Farms, where people can buy a few things and move out,” Giuliano said. “It seems to be either that or the mega store. There’s not too much in between. I think what would go very well here would be a discount type of supermarket.”
A thrift store could also work, Giuliano added, especially when people from both Schenectady and nearby Niskayuna could offer a large pool of potential donors.
Some places won’t work.
“We’ve had some people ask about a nightclub,” Giuliano said. “The problem is, the owner is a little afraid about bringing in a late-night crowd, drinking, maybe some liability issues. So she’s hesitant.”