Major development envisioned for Troy

TROY — A Latham developer intends to dramatically remake a section of the city’s waterfront, with plans for new office and condominium buildings, a seven-story hotel and a riverside promenade.

First Columbia has even taken the unusual step of commissioning a master plan for roughly 25 city blocks in an area bordered by Federal Street to the south and Jay Street to the north. The plan, which dubs the area “The Hedley District,” calls for the eventual construction of dozens of buildings in the area just north of downtown and the Green Island Bridge. But Mark Bette, vice president of First Columbia, said his company will concentrate its efforts along the water, and hopes other developers will follow the rest of the master plan. In coming months, Bette said, First Columbia will redevelop Hedley Park Place and Flanigan Square, office buildings on the waterfront. The company wants to build a second office building on the Flanigan Square site.

In late 2007 or 2008, Bette said, First Columbia will turn attention to constructing a hotel on the site of the former Hedley Cadillac dealership on River Street, as well as an office and residential building on the parking lot just south of Hedley Park Place that is now home to the Troy Farmers Market. A parking garage would be built on a parking lot across River Street from Hedley Park Place.

“We’re very bullish on the city of Troy,” Bette said. “The city of Albany has been revitalized in a lot of areas. It’s our feeling that Troy is poised to do the same.”

Bette said negotiations with city officials are under way, and left open the possibility the company will request financial assistance from the city. He said he had no estimate of the project’s overall development costs. Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian said no request for assistance has been made, but said the city is committed to the development “and will search many different avenues of funding to make the city’s part of the project happen.” Tutunjian, calling this a special time in Troy’s history, said the developer “plans to transform the entire neighborhood.” He also said city officials are committed to maintaining and increasing public access to the waterfront.

The area is a mix of apartments, parking lots, office buildings and businesses like Brown’s Brewing Co. Some of its buildings have been recently renovated, while others stand empty and boarded up. Last year, First Columbia bought several properties — including Flanigan Square and Hedley Park Place — along the waterfront from car dealer and developer John Hedley. On Monday, Hedley said First Columbia told him of its plans for the area, and the magnitude of the project helped persuade him to sell. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. The site, Hedley said, “needed somebody else who had the wherewithal and the equipment to do a project of that size. I couldn’t have done anything that big.”

First Columbia has created a Web site for the project — http://www.hedleyparkplace.com — though on Monday, Bette said the company was not yet ready to take its plans public. The Web site describes the plan as “a vision for a vibrant waterfront district in downtown Troy” and calls the area “Troy’s riverfront of tomorrow.” It includes detailed renderings, prepared by Saratoga Associates of Saratoga Springs, that show new buildings, the waterfront promenade, dramatically remade streetscapes and even a pedestrian skyway over River Street.

Some of the renderings indicate the hotel would be a Marriott. Bette, however, said that hotel chain is just one of several with which First Columbia is talking. Tutunjian said he has been in discussion with the developers for several months. On Monday, he and other city officials said they are bullish on the development plans.

“First Columbia is a very well-financed and successful organization,” the mayor said. “From everything they’ve expressed to us, they’re ready to go forward with the plan.”

First Columbia built Century Hill Plaza off Route 9 in Latham, a 22-acre office park that is home to Blue Shield of Northeastern New York and the New York State School Boards Association; Riverhill Center, the former CHP/Kaiser Permanente medical complex on Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham, which it is redeveloping as a tech-company campus; and New York International Plaza, 260 acres adjacent to Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, which is being developed into commercial office and industrial space.

The company also has built residential, retail and medical office projects. Last month, First Columbia put its portfolio of nine medical buildings in and around the Capital Region on the market, a sale that observers say could bring in more than $84 million.

City Council member Mark McGrath, a Republican whose district includes part of the development zone, said he first viewed the project plans in the mayor’s office. He said the building formerly occupied by Mooradian’s Furniture, just north of Flanigan Square, also is set for redevelopment, as are several other sites across the city.

“There’s one thing after another right now,” he said. Bette, noting the master plan shows construction on sites occupied by homes and buildings, stressed the plan is only a blueprint. But he said it’s a plan that would stitch together parts of the city, create pedestrian corridors and call for the creation of a lively residential, retail and office district.

“We as a company feel very confident with our investment in Troy, and very confident in the city itself,” Bette said.

Chris Churchill can be reached at 454-5442 or by e-mail at cchurchill@timesunion.com.