SCHENECTADY — A Massachusetts petroleum company is planning to demolish the old Erie Boulevard rail freight depot to make way for its newest gas station/convenience store.
Global Partners LP, operator of hundreds of stores, announced its plans Monday; the proposal will go before the city Planning Commission on April 18.
The long, low brick building at 1410 Erie Blvd. is at least 130 years old and is showing its age. Its most recent occupant was Grossman’s Bargain Outlet, which announced in 2009 that it would move to Crosstown Plaza. Legere Properties, which is headquartered next door, purchased the building in 2010.
Ray Legere and Jeff Legere had sought from the start to redevelop the old freight depot, but its odd layout — 365 feet long but as narrow as 35 feet wide — and its steadily deteriorating condition made it a hard sell. The Legeres went so far as to commission architectural renderings showing an attractive, heavily modified update of the building but couldn’t get anyone to commit to it.
Global Partners wants to level it and build the first of its Alltown markets in New York state.
The plan calls for six fuel pumps on the Jefferson Street side of the property and a 4,800-square-foot building with indoor-outdoor seating. It would feature the expanded menu of fresh-made food that many convenience stores are offering, in an effort to capture more of the billions of dollars Americans spend on grab-and-go dining.
It would stand along a main route to Rivers Casino. It also would stand within 300 feet of the Country Farms convenience store, which has gas pumps, and within 600 feet of a Stewart’s Shop that does not sell gas.
Global Partners LP is based in Waltham, Massachusetts, and has a significant footprint in the petroleum distribution/sale market: 25 bulk terminals, 12.2 million barrels of storage capacity, daily sales totaling 319,000 barrels and more than 1,500 gas stations owned, leased or supplied. It owns and operates more than 230 convenience stores, including many Xtra Marts in New York, and more than 70 Alltown stores in New England.
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The company is ranked 334th on the Fortune 500, with 2017 revenue of $8.92 billion, gross profit of $583.1 million and net income of $58.8 million.
The company is getting no incentives or tax breaks for the Erie Boulevard project, according to Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen, who was long involved in efforts to redevelop the freight depot. There was “not even a glimmer” of interest in the property, he said, and the noise from elevated train tracks right behind the building effectively eliminated many options for its reuse.
“It’s a major eyesore on Erie Boulevard right now,” Gillen said.
Steve Cronin, of Cronin Real Estate NY, indicated he’d continually marketed the building since 2012, first for another firm and then for his own company, but he never has been able to secure an offer or even significant interest in it because of its layout and condition.
The building at 1410 Erie Blvd. is believed to have been built as a freight depot by the Delaware & Hudson Railway. Records maintained by the Schenectady County Historical Society show its existence as early as 1889. The structure harks back to the era when rail freight was stockpiled near the tracks for shipment or delivery and was loaded and unloaded mainly by hand.
The building would have sat at the same level as the original Erie Canal when it ran nearby on what is now Erie Boulevard. It would also have been at the same level as the train tracks behind it, though those tracks were elevated from 1905 through 1907 to reduce accidents. The old canal was filled after the modern canal opened in 1918.
Schenectady Heritage Foundation Chairwoman Gloria Kishton said it would be ideal if more of the old buildings were saved and incorporated into the revitalized landscape of the city, because a diversity of architectural styles and eras is ideal.
She said she is familiar with the old freight depot only from the exterior but doesn’t doubt reports of advanced structural decay that would make it difficult to save.
Global Partners specified the cost of its plans only as “several million dollars.”
The property is under contract for lease. The lease and a timeline for demolition and construction will be finalized once the proposal receives city approval.