COLONIE – Ayco, a financial company with two offices in town and one in Saratoga, wants to consolidate all three locations in a new building on property that used to house the old Starlite Theater between Route 9 and 9R.
The new 150,000-square-foot office building, which Ayco will lease, was pitched to the town Planning Board on Tuesday, Oct. 17, by the Galesi Group – a Schenectady based company that purchased the 57-plus acres seven years ago.
“These jobs could have gone anywhere in the country,” Galesi Group President and CEO David Buicko told the Planning Board. “We were very fortunate to convince them this was the location for their corporate headquarters. It’s not a great win for Saratoga but it is a win for the Town of Colonie.”
In addition to the more than 800 existing jobs Ayco, a Goldman Sachs company, is expected to create 160 new jobs by 2021. The company currently has workers in an office in Saratoga, on Wall Street off Route 155 and on British American Boulevard off Route 7.
“We’re excited to progress our plan to consolidate our people in the Capital Region,” Ayco President and CEO Tim O’Hara said in a statement. “We believe this will allow us to better serve our clients and increase opportunities for our associates to collaborate and connect.”
A major component of the project is what’s referred to as a
“connector road,” which will roughly cut the property in half and run from Route 9 to Route 9R, or Columbia Turnpike. The road will not only grant access to the site but also alleviate traffic at the busy 9 and 9R intersection.
The Galesi Group, which is operating under the limited liability company Starlite Associates for this project, will build the road, Buicko said, and has applied for state funding to cover the cost, or at least part of the cost. One way or another, Buicko said, the road will be constructed.
A connector road is a recommendation in the recently completed Bought Road Generic Environmental Impact Study, said Joe Grasso, the town’s designated engineer for the project. Without the road, he said, there could not possibly be a project of this size because the Route 9/9R intersection is built out to the practical maximum and it can’t handle any more traffic.
“By building the road it increases the capacity and provides an overall improvement to traffic flow throughout the whole corridor,” he said.
Ayco has also applied to the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which can grant tax incentives, according to a statement.
Dan Hershberg, who, on behalf of the Galesi Group, presented the nuts and bolts of the proposal to the Planning Board, said Phase I features the three-story Ayco building, plus a basement, with a 34,280-square-foot footprint.
Galesi is asking for a variance to build a structure larger than the 30,000-square-foot currently allowed in a Commercial/Office/Residential zone, to build more than 25 foot from the road and is asking to have more parking spaces than what is allowed under the current zoning.
The currently proposal constitutes Phase I and will be built on about 20 acres of the 57-plus-acre site. If Phase II does come to fruition, he said, the plan is to ask for a parking garage or similar structure to satisfy parking requirements. In all, there could be up to 400,000-square-foot of office space and residential buildings as well.
The Planning Board unanimously granted a concept approval and the planning process is officially underway. The next step is for Galesi to come back before the board for sketch plan approval and more details of what the plan entails.
Buicko said the last event at the Starlite was the 1978 Shaker High School graduation and has played host to such legends as Bob Hope and former boxing great Mike Tyson. His company purchased the site about seven years ago and leveled the Starlite in 2012. He’s been shopping for a suitable tenant ever since.
“It’s in the middle of everything. It’s centrally located between Albany, Schenectady, Troy and Saratoga. I think if you go back a ways it was one of the sites considered for the Times Union Center,” he said.
Galesi is one of the largest developers in the Capital Distirct and is currently working to complete the massive casino and ancillary buildings along the Mohawk River in Schenectady.
Town Supervisor Paula Mahan said “out of all the areas they could have gone and to choose the Town of Colonie as their headquarters is “quite impressive.”
“The land has been vacant since 1998 and I think this is a great use for the property,” she said. “This is the type of building we are looking for, it’s the type called for in the comprehensive plan and it’s the type of high paying jobs we are looking for in Colonie.”