About 30 people watched as an excavator began tugging and smashing the metal and concrete of what remained of the Curry Road Plaza.
After about five minutes, the long-vacant shopping plaza finally started to give way, as a large chunk of concrete came tumbling to the ground.
“Bye-bye,” a young girl said, waving to the demolished building as she watched with her mother.
Thursday marked a time for celebration and transformation at the site of the old Curry Road Plaza in Rotterdam. The lot formerly housed K-Mart and other retailers, but has been vacant for nearly 25 years. On Thursday afternoon, local politicians and community leaders gathered for the first step toward returning the site to useful life.
“We’re taking 30 years of blight and decay, and turning it into a vibrant residential community,” said Bill Hoblock, executive vice president at Richbell Capital.
Demolition began just before noon, as excavators knocked down what was left of the crumbling, graffiti-covered building. The 85,000-square-foot shopping plaza will be replaced by the Residences at Vista Square, which will include 208 apartment units and a clubhouse.
Richbell Capital is the developer for the $20 million project. The Saratoga Springs-based company has managed similar developments across the Capital Region, including the Paddocks of Saratoga and The Residences at Lexington Hills in Colonie.
After a single excavator wasn’t enough to take down what remained of the building, a second wheeled over to the site, mechanical claws at the ready. A short time later, an entire wall of the building fell to the ground, kicking up a wave of dust onto the onlookers.
Hoblock said demolition on the site should be completed by the end of the month. After that, construction will begin, and he said the goal is to have the clubhouse and half of the apartments completed by next fall. Depending on demand for the first 104 apartments, the company will likely go straight into building the second half of the apartments after that, Hoblock said.
The apartments will be spread across eight separate buildings. Each building will be three stories tall and will include elevator service and in-building garages, Hoblock said.
The project received some funding from the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, which contributed $350,000 for site preparation and demolition, said Ray Gillen, Metroplex chairman.
The space once housed a dry cleaner, among other retailers, and as a result was labeled a brownfield site, meaning cleanup was required before it could be repurposed.
State Sen. George Amedore said the new housing development will be accessible, efficient and built with the environment in mind. The new space will also provide a boost to surrounding businesses, he added.
Speakers at Thursday’s demolition, which was followed by a ceremonial groundbreaking on the project, included Amedore, Rotterdam Town Supervisor Steve Tommasone, Schenectady County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.
The mood of the event was celebratory, with many of the speakers sharing stories of growing up in Rotterdam and wondering what would happen to the long-vacant property. Presenters called the shopping plaza an eyesore, but spoke highly of the collaboration among the town of Rotterdam, Schenectady County and Richbell Capital in finally turning the site around.
“It’s something to celebrate and something to be proud of,” Santabarbara said.
Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels at 395-3113, [email protected] or @Brett_Samuels27 on Twitter.