|By Larry Rulison, Times Union, Albany,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 20, 2012--SCHENECTADY -- The Galesi Group says a hotel and apartment complex will be the first projects it undertakes at its waterfront development planned at a former American Locomotive site on Erie Boulevard.
Local officials have been working for years to have the 60-acre site turned into a mixed-use development that would not only include the hotel and apartments, but also retail establishments such as restaurants and 450,000 square feet of office and high-tech lab space.
Two years ago, Galesi purchased several parcels that make up the site and has subsequently been awarded state grants totaling nearly $4.5 million to clean it up and build a bike trail.
David Buicko, chief operating officer of Rotterdam-based Galesi, told the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority board Wednesday that the hotel and housing, along with the bike trail and a small marina on the Mohawk River, would be the first phase of the development because focus groups and market studies have shown demand for them is greatest.
Buicko said there is a lot of interest by companies located downtown like General Electric Co., Golub Corp., MVP and others for more hotel rooms for out-of-town business visitors, as well as by Union College for big events like graduation. The success of the Hampton Inn on State Street has also bolstered confidence that downtown could easily support another hotel.
Buicko said he's not ready to reveal which brand of hotel he's lined up and that construction wouldn't likely begin until next year after the site, which is polluted, is cleaned up.
He said that changes in the housing market have made renting apartments more popular than buying a home since many people believe that homeownership is no longer a good investment after the housing crash.
"You're finding people that are starting to say 'I could lose money on a home,'" he said.
Buicko said that although retail stores and restaurants aren't planned until a second phase, there will likely be some sort of "amenities" for hotel guests and apartment residents for food and shopping options.
Documents filed with the state put the total construction costs of developing the 60-acre site at $152 million, although the initial phase of housing is expected to cost much less.
Buicko says he has already had informal talks with Proctors about being involved with the creation of a public space on the site in the future.
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