For a generation of Schenectady residents, the 60-acre site along Erie Boulevard was nothing more than a rusting reminder of the municipality’s legacy as “The city that lights and hauls the world.”
The American Locomotive Company, or Alco, manufactured railway and military equipment from 1849 until it closed in 1969. For the next 40 years, the site was repurposed for other industrial uses.
“Anyone who’s 55 or younger can’t remember when Alco was open,” said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority. “We thought it was very important for our economic development team that, as much as we tackled downtown, we wanted to fix the Alco site.”
The plot of land where factories once churned out train engines and military tanks is about to hit a milestone in its transformation when the Rivers Casino and Resort opens on Wednesday at noon.
The $330 million project from Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming is the result of partnerships among city and county leaders in Schenectady, a competitive drive to beat out other potential Capital Region sites and a handshake between executives.
The Galesi Group purchased the old Alco site in 2010 when it was a blank piece of paper, Galesi Group CEO David Buicko said. The property was labeled a Brownfield site, meaning Galesi would receive tax breaks to perform extensive — and expensive — cleanup on the land.
There were buildings to be demolished and thousands of tons of chemicals to be removed, but Buicko saw potential in the riverfront setting.
The casino itself was never envisioned when developers initially drew up plans to revitalize the Mohawk Harbor. Instead, the Galesi Group’s master plan consisted of housing, retail and possibly hotels.
“It wasn’t even a thought because it wasn’t legal at the time,” Buicko said.
Voters approved legislation in 2013 that allowed for the construction of four commercial casinos across New York state, including one to be built in the Capital Region. That opened the door for an alteration to the Mohawk Harbor master plan.
This project was happening with or without the casino, but the casino helped us step it up a little bit and make it more attractive,” Buicko said
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Story Credit: Samuels, Brett. “How Mohawk Harbor Went from Industrial Site to Casino.” The Daily Gazette. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017. <https://dailygazette.com/article/2017/02/05/how-mohawk-harbor-went-from-industrial-site-to-casino>.
Photo Credit: Chris Milian, Professional Aerial Photographer, www.photosfromhigh.com