SCHENECTADY — What started with the purchase of an U.S. Army supply depot in Guilderland has morphed into an economic powerhouse playing a leading role in driving the city’s revitalization.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Galesi Group’s presence in the Capital Region.
While Francesco Galesi’s ventures now span the nation, Schenectady continues to serve as the epicenter for his properties.
Prominent Galesi Group projects include the Mohawk Harbor, Golub Headquarters and the MVP Health Care Building in downtown Schenectady.
“I’m very happy about it because it has turned out very well for us and for the community,” Galesi said.
Galesi was present on Wednesday for the unveiling of a plaque at Rivers Casino & Resort to commemorate long-term Galesi employee Tony “The Duke” DeLorenzo, who was widely seen as the public face of the company.
“It was a unique area,” said Galesi on what attracted him to the Capital Region from downstate five decades ago.
“The Capital Region was just that — it was the Capital Region. We stepped into this area and made it happen, and became proud of it.”
The Schenectady Army Depot was the developer’s first local acquisition.
For a time, Galesi lived at the depot, which was located in Guilderland, when he was first starting out.
The former bases were huge complexes, containing all the infrastructure found in cities.
Galesi recalled a fondness for sliding down the fire pole at what is now the Northeastern Industrial Park.
He was modest on confronting the early challenges.
“It was a place that was empty,” Galesi said. “Somehow I was very happy to see this empty space filled.”
Now each of the former military depots are thriving and have a 100 percent occupancy rate, Buicko said.
Afterward, the Galesi Group pivoted to downtown Schenectady, which Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, likened to a ghost town.
Gillen said their role in shaping the city’s economy cannot be understated.
“They invested in the Capital Region when no one was investing in the Capital Region,” Gillen said.
“It was really a desolate situation and risky on their part to take the next step and make those investments.”
For their biggest undertaking, Galesi Group demolished the former American Locomotive Co. factory, which had sat crumbling along Erie Boulevard for a generation, and built Mohawk Harbor on the site, a $500 million project that includes retail space, apartments and, of course, Rivers Casino & Resort.
“The casino,” Galesi said, “was the cherry on top.”
The developer, which is now headquartered at Mohawk Harbor, has 11 million square feet of real estate.
Outside out of the city, projects include Rotterdam Industrial Park, Glenville Business and Tech Park, Island Park in Green Island, Market Center in Saratoga and Goldman Sachs/Ayco in Latham.
Galesi cited team members like DeLorenzo, Buicko and the late Steven Porter, who served as general counsel and senior vice president, as key elements in their success.
“A small group made it happen,” Galesi said.
Buicko said, “We were not overstaffed — we were very lean. There were times we didn’t know where payroll was coming from.”
“It was always great,” Galesi laughed.
Buicko called him “an eternal optimist.”
Galesi now operates in three main sectors: Oil and gas, logistics and real estate, which remains its core component.
“He always looked forward to the next opportunity,” Buicko said, citing Galesi’s knack for flagging projects others had dismissed as unfeasible, including converting a former rail yard into a 110-acre warehouse and distribution campus along the Harlem River in the South Bronx.
“He takes a lot of projects no one wants and makes them work,” Buicko said.
“That’s true,” Galesi said.