Developer Plans Mixed-Use Project on Former N.Y. Industrial Site

Schenectady project would feature office space, restaurants, townhomes on polluted land


SCHENECTADY - After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the city is expected to announce today a $50 million project to build offices, restaurants and town houses on 60 acres of polluted waterfront land that was once home to the American Locomotive Co., according to sources familiar with the plan.

This morning, a developer whom the Metroplex Development Authority has courted for months is scheduled to unveil designs for an overhaul of the site, long believed to be polluted with petroleum and other chemicals, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not given permission to discuss the project. The developer's identity was not revealed.

The company will propose the construction of office space, retail businesses and homes on property that was once part of the complex where ALCO spent more than a century assembling locomotives.

ALCO ended train manufacturing in Schenectady in 1969 and in the ensuing years efforts to convert the land into a thriving industrial park have met mixed results. A handful of businesses currently occupy the park, which is owned by the Schenectady Industrial Corp.

For months, Metroplex officials have tried to convince different companies to redevelop the land.

"We're working very closely with the owners of the site to market the site. We have multiple developers interested in the site," Metroplex Development Authority Board Chairman Ray Gillen said earlier this month. "We're very confident we'll be able to develop the site."

Gillen did not return telephone calls on Sunday.

In anticipation of the redevelopment of the land, Metroplex and the city in late 2005 blocked a California-based tire recycling firm, Crumb Rubber Manufacturers, from renting space in the complex.

The Metroplex board of directors is expected to vote this morning to be the agency that oversees the state environmental inspection and cleanup of the property. In the future, the authority is also expected to ask Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to remove a small nuclear reactor from the property.

The land, located between Erie Boulevard and the Mohawk River, the land would be prime real estate for development if clean. But concerns about pollution on the property prevented previous city administrations from trying to redevelop the land. The land currently is known as the Nott Street Industrial Park. The Schenectady Industrial Corp. leases space for manufacturing and storage, but major development on the site has not occurred.

The plan for how to pay for cleanup and construction on the site could not be determined Sunday, but the land is eligible for both federal tax credits for development and state funds for brownfield cleanup.

Sen. Charles Schumer, who will attend today's announcement, is expected to steer federal highway funds toward the project.

ALCO, the first major manufacturer to locate in the city, began assembling trains in Schenectady decades before General Electric moved its base of operations here in the late 1800s.

Since the company left, redevelopment of the land, located on the northeast corner of the city, has vexed city fathers. However, in recent years other parcels of the ALCO complex have been redeveloped or slated for reuse.

Earlier this decade, Union College purchased a nearby Ramada Inn on Nott Street and converted the hotel into a dormitory. The college also installed a soccer field on land thought to have been polluted with petroleum and other chemicals spilled by ALCO.

In the spring, the YMCA is expected to begin construction of a gymnasium and athletic center on another patch of former ALCO property on Nott Street. That site's builder, the Galesi Group, also expects to construct an office building for doctors and other health care businesses as well as a building that will house Union Graduate College.