#RichbellCapital #TobinPackingPlant #JimFranco #SpotlightNews
COLONIE — Richbell Capital, a Saratoga-based development company, has formally acquired the 32-acre Tobin’s First Prize site that straddles the Albany and Colonie line on Exchange Street along I-90.
It signifies the next step in converting what is now home to the massive, long-vacant former meat-packing plant into a “mixed use community” that will feature housing, retail, restaurants, hospitality and entertainment.
“As this redevelopment continues to march forward, I continue to emphasize that this is a prime example of regionalism and inter-municipal cooperation at its best resulting in the elimination of one of the biggest eyesores in the Capital Region,” said Bill Hoblock, developer and principal of the project. “In addition to the substantial employment opportunities, the redevelopment will generate significant tax revenue that certainly is not being produced by the property as it wallows in its current state of disrepair.”
Financing for the purchase – which the Albany Business Review is reporting to be for $4 million — was provided by Pioneer Bank.
“As a bank with deep local roots, Pioneer Bank is proud to provide the financing for the long overdue renovation of the First Prize site, which will have a tremendous positive impact on the region by returning this landmark to productive use,” said Pioneer Bank President and CEO Tom Amell. “We are also pleased to once again work hand in hand with a visionary company like Richbell Capital, whose people share our willingness to take on difficult challenges and worthwhile projects.”
The Town of Colonie and the City of Albany have joined forces to create the First Prize Center Redevelopment Overlay Zoning District. It will ultimately lead to what is essentially a planning board, with appointments from both municipalities, with the sole purpose of shepherding the project through the planning process.
The next step is demolishing one of the ugliest, most dilapidated, largest vacant buildings in the Capital District. The wrecking ball could swing by the end of the year. In March, the town got $1 million from the state in Restore NY money earmarked to help pay for the demolition.
“The structure itself was built with four-foot thick reinforced concrete walls,” said Toby Milde, developer and principal in the project. “Needless to say, this is not your average demolition project.”
But, before First Prize shuttered its doors in the early 1980s, it was the lifeblood of that section of Albany/Colonie with hundreds of people earning a decent living at the plant and thousands purchasing First Prize products.
With the redevelopment of land that is within minutes of the area’s most travelled highways and transportation hubs like the Amtrack station in Rensselaer and the Albany International Airport in Colonie, Richbell hopes to again make the First Prize Center an epicenter.
“We have been working diligently on a clever design for The First Prize Center, we have visited dozens of large scale mixed-use projects throughout the United States, adding in what we see working and eliminating what does not,” Milde said. “Our focus is on the human experience for those who will choose to live, work, shop and dine in our walkable community.”
The project will “incorporate the principles of new urbanism to develop a sustainable smart growth community.” It will include residential housing built over restaurants, shops and entertainment “to make a pedestrian friendly walkable community that incorporates all elements of a live/work/play atmosphere.” It may also include outdoor entertainment venues.