SCHENECTADY — Ground may finally be broken this year on a housing project decades in the making at the northernmost point in the city.
The Reserve at Towpath Trail will go before the Planning Commission on May 15 for what is essentially re-approval of a project approved in March 2017. That earler approval expired before construction could begin.
The latest iteration of the project on North End Drive calls for 88 apartments and eight single-family houses or townhouse units. While the developer, Schenectady-based Maddalone & Associates, has modified some details of its 2017 plan, the scope and basic character of the project remain the same.
The site has been eyed for housing development since at least the early 2000s. Seth Meltzer, principal of Hudson Partners Development, the arm of Maddalone & Associates that will lead the project, said comments received on the project suggest that proposals were floated for the site in the 1990s or even earlier, although he hasn’t been able to verify that.
“Different developers have tried different things over the years,” he said. “It’ll be good to breathe some life into the area.”
An abortive attempt at a townhouse development in the early 2000s left two unfinished dead-end streets off North End Drive between Van Vranken Avenue and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail. While enough land was cleared to build three townhouses totaling five units on North End Drive, the rest of the site is a thicket of trees and weeds.
Maddalone acquired the land out of foreclosure several years ago from Community Preservation Corporation and set about creating a plan for it as the new Rivers Casino & Resort and its thousand employees less than a mile away generated speculation that rental housing in that part of the city would be in demand.
Approval for Towpath Trail was granted in March 2017, and Meltzer at the time predicted a groundbreaking later that year.
Financing proved more complicated than expected, he said Tuesday. There was also tangled history to sort out, which led to the discovery that owners of the five existing townhouse units didn’t own their lots or even their driveways — those were still part of the defunct homeowners association. (As part of the project, Maddalone will deed their lots to them.)
Maddalone has pressed on with the project because it expects strong demand for its apartments. The company has a vacancy rate hovering around 1 percent on the 600 rental units it owns or manages in Albany and Schenectady counties.
“I think the Albany region in general is benefiting significantly from becoming a global hotspot for nanoengineering,” Meltzer said. That, coupled with a resurgent interest in downtown urban life, makes the North End Drive project a good bet, he said. While it’s not downtown, it’s a quick Uber ride or a quick bike ride to get downtown.
(The project name, Towpath Trail, is a nod to the heritage of the adjacent bike path, which in places sits atop the original Erie Canal, where boats were drawn by mules on a towpath.)
The 88 apartments will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units in four buildings, one on each side of Sara Court and St. Jean Place, the roped-off dead-end streets that were graded and paved before the earlier townhouse project was suspended. While monthly apartment rents are projected to be in the $800 to $1,100 range, they have not yet been finalized.
The eight other units will be built along North End Drive; whether they’ll be single-family houses or townhouses has not been decided, Meltzer said.
A clubhouse has been added to the plans since 2017, to give residents a place to hold events and gatherings.
If the Planning Commission again grants approval, the company hopes to break ground later this year, Meltzer said.