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Alco review to get update

Casino, movie studio weren’t in original plans

Friday, May 9, 2014
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The site of the former Alco plant on Erie Boulevard could become home to a casino or a movie studio.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
The site of the former Alco plant on Erie Boulevard could become home to a casino or a movie studio.

— Plans to redevelop the old American Locomotive Co. site in Schenectady have evolved so much that local officials believe the final product could have a significant effect on the environment.

Early redevelopment plans for the site were for a fairly standard, mixed-use project aimed at revitalizing the city’s waterfront with a mix of housing, commercial and office space.

Since then, plans have grown to include much more — 70 condominiums, 304 apartment units, at least one and possibly two multi-story hotels, a harbor, supermarket, restaurant, and in just the last nine months, a 203,800-square-foot film studio and a 200,000-square-foot casino.

These recent additions weren’t accounted for in a state environmental quality review of the site that was completed in 2010.

The SEQR looked at traffic, noise, zoning and other issues that mixed-use redevelopment might impose on the surrounding areas.

The 60-acre site where locomotives and tanks were once built is bounded by the Mohawk River, Erie Boulevard, and the city’s Front Street and historic Stockade neighborhoods.

The Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, which serves as lead agency for the SEQR process, has decided to prepare an updated Environmental Impact Statement that takes into account these new elements.

“The SEQR for the site was really a very expansive review,” said Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen. “But it’s just the right thing to come back now and do this update.”

The expanded review will assess the slightly different “suite of land uses,” the revision of site access locations from Erie Boulevard, excavation work on the banks of the Mohawk River, harbor construction, development of a movie studio and development of a casino.

Gillen said the driving impetus for an environmental update was not the casino or the film studio (both of which may or may not happen). It was the harbor.

The harbor will be carved into the bank of the Mohawk River and encompass three acres.

It will be surrounded by condos and apartments, with retail on the first floor and condo balconies overlooking the river. It’s being designed to reduce the chance of flooding, architects said last month.

Galesi Group, the Rotterdam developer undertaking the whole project, has applied for permits for a river-widening harbor project that will create more space for water to go during storms, snow melt and other flooding conditions.

Updating the Environmental Impact Statement should take a few months, Gillen said.

The timeline is expected to line up with other moving parts of the project, including the casino siting process happening across the state, several DEC permits still needed and Planning Commission approval. Construction could begin this fall.

 
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