Build success on brownfield

05-04-2015

Two Sundays ago, the Times Union raised questions about the cleanup of the former ALCO site in Schenectady and followed up with an editorial the next day suggesting redevelopment of the ALCO site should not move forward.

The ALCO redevelopment project is already well under way. We built a new $50 million green office building on former Alco property. Union College invested $15 million to build a conference center, student housing and sports fields on former ALCO land.

Along the Mohawk riverfront, permits are in place from the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a new harbor which will link to green space and a new bike/hike trail that will tie into one of the Capital Region’s best assets — the Mohawk/Hudson bike trail. A new hotel was approved by city planners. Site plans have been approved for a casino, a second hotel, apartments, condos, retail space and office space for tech firms. The casino will be a green building and the $480 million development will create one of the largest waterfront attractions in upstate New York. This is exactly the type of smart growth investment upstate needs.

This adaptive reuse of a brownfield is how the rest of the country is doing smart development. We think developers and community leaders should do more projects like this, not fewer. It’s complex and challenging, but we can’t turn our backs on these urban properties. Check out the former ALCO plant in Richmond — it is now home to a major entertainment center and movie theater. The former ALCO site in Providence now hosts offices and restaurants. Locomotive Lofts, built at the site of a former locomotive plant in Pennsylvania, features residential units. Another former locomotive plant in England is being developed for 1,700 new homes.

As for development of casinos on brownfields, take a look at Columbus, Ohio, where a casino was built at a former automotive parts factory site. In Baltimore, the casino is located on the site of a former chemical factory. Outside Boston, another former chemical plant site will be the home of a $1 billion casino. The former Bethlehem Steel is host to the Sands Casino, located at one of the largest brownfield sites in the country. Rush Street Gaming’s Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh is located on a former industrial waterfront site. In fact, the similarity to Pittsburgh was an important factor in selecting the Schenectady site.

New York has the most stringent requirements for redeveloping industrial property. Our ALCO project is under the oversight of the Department of Environmental Conservation and affiliated agencies including the Department of Health.

The cleanup is well under way. Strict protocols are in place. The process has been 100 percent open and transparent. The cleanup reports and records are all available at many places including the Central Library in Schenectady.

Last March, DEC issued fact sheets on the cleanup and invited public comment.

The site is being cleaned up with well-established technologies repeatedly proven effective across the nation. All planned commercial, residential and retail uses are approved for the site.

We are proud of this smart growth project. In fact, the reuse and revitalization of the ALCO property was a central theme of our application to the Gaming Commission. The proposal was selected in part because the development “supports the revitalization of the city of Schenectady by replacing one of the County’s oldest brownfield sites.”

The future of development upstate is dependent on reusing brownfields. The ALCO project is just one of many examples. Across the state, former industrial waterfronts are being redeveloped.

Bringing new investment to urban areas and waterfronts is the wave of the future.

We should celebrate and encourage successful efforts to bring job creating investments to areas that need the jobs most.

David M. Buicko is chief operating officer of Galesi Group.

Buicko, David. “Build Success on Brownfield.” Editorial. Times Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2015.