A Courtyard by Marriott is coming to Schenectady, paving the way for development at the former Alco site — now called Mohawk Harbor — where a second hotel is also on tap.
Rotterdam developer Galesi Group is partnering with BBL Hospitality of Albany and Kansas City-based Rockgate Hospitality Group to build and operate a 124-room Courtyard by Marriott with a $15 million price tag.
“With this project, we open up 60 acres of waterfront property for new development,” said David Buicko, chief operating officer of the Galesi Group. “The new Marriott is just the beginning of many exciting projects we have planned for this great site.”
Construction could start by the end of this year, Buicko said. The hotel is projected to be up and running within a year of that.
The hotel marks Marriott’s first in downtown Schenectady. It will come complete with standard amenities such as an indoor pool, fitness center and courtyard area.
Schenectady has a handful of hotels, including a Days Inn, Hampton Inn and the Stockade Inn, but Mayor Gary McCarthy said that’s not enough. Visitors are sometimes forced to stay at hotels on Wolf Road in Colonie or in Saratoga Springs, he said. The addition of the Marriott would help to keep people in Schenectady.
“The market studies show there is a need for more rooms,” McCarthy said. “The business community needs it, and people also have family and friends that come to town who need a place to stay. We want them staying here.”
More people are traveling to Schenectady with new tech companies, like Quirky, and big employers, like General Electric, in the city. Students at Union College and Schenectady County Community College also have family and friends who need a place to stay when they visit.
Union College brings about 1,600 people to the area for big events such as reunions, homecoming and commencement. Union spokesman Phillip Wajda said the college always sends some of those people out of town for a place to stay overnight.
“We are constantly forced to send people to Latham and other places,” Wajda said. “It has always been an issue for us. There simply aren’t enough hotel rooms in Schenectady. We want these people to be as close to campus as possible, and it’s always unfortunate that can’t happen."
Wajda said with the Holiday Inn on Nott Terrace shut down during its transformation into a Doubletree by Hilton, Union has been heavily relying on hotels outside Schenectady. The Doubletree is expected to open this fall.
“It has been significantly more difficult lately,” he said, “so this is really fantastic news. Plus Marriott is a well-known, reputable brand.”
Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, said the proximity to the colleges and businesses makes the site a great location for a new hotel.
“There are more and more business travelers coming to Schenectady, so this is a very positive development for the area,” Gillen said. “There’s certainly a need for more product and more rooms.”
BBL currently manages a 146-room Courtyard by Marriott on Excelsior Avenue in Saratoga Springs. Carrie Hillenbrandt, director of sales and marketing for BBL, said the Schenectady hotel would be very similar.
“We just completed a lobby renovation in Saratoga and put in a bistro there,” Hillenbrandt said. “It’s really designed for the business traveler, and we believe it would complement other plans on the site in Schenectady.”
A bistro is also planned for the Schenectady hotel, she said. It would serve breakfast in the morning, some food for lunch and alcoholic beverages at night. The lobby would be an open area for people to gather for business meetings.
The Courtyard by Marriott is part of Galesi’s ambitious plans to transform the blighted 60-acre property off Erie Boulevard along the Mohawk River. The $150 million project also includes housing — 304 apartment units, 70 condominiums and 10 townhouses — along with office and retail space, plus space for technology companies.
As part of that redevelopment, Galesi is looking to dig deeper into the river and widen it to create a marina with up to 50 boat docks and public access to the waterfront, including paths for biking and walking.
Galesi is also pursuing a $300 million casino and hotel with Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming. Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor would come with its own 150-room hotel. The casino hotel would be a Starwood Hotels’ Aloft or Four Points by Sheraton, according to the developer’s casino application submitted to the state Gaming Commission.
Hillenbrandt said BBL believes there would be enough demand to fill both hotels on the site.
“Not every traveler can stay within a casino hotel,” she said. “If you’re traveling on business, the casino hotel might not be a good fit. The Courtyard would be a great alternative.”
Officials with the Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming will present plans for the casino and hotel at Mohawk Harbor during the state Gaming Commission’s public presentations Monday in Albany.
“We’re really excited about the project and we think Schenectady is a great location,” Hillenbrandt said. “The city has so much to offer, and I just think it’s a great place to be and a great place for a Marriott.”