COLONIE —Developers have plans to build an a 200-unit senior housing apartment building and upscale retail shops and restaurants at the former Hoffman’s Playland on Route 9.
A letter sent by attorney Donald Zee, who represents the team of The Burke Companies and SageLife, requested the town consider a Planned Development District for 108 independent senior apartments, 92 assisted living units and 30,000-square-foot of retail/restaurant space at 606 and 608 Loudon Road.
The Town Board, on Thursday, Nov. 29, unanimously approved sending the request — which would permit more density than current zoning allows — to the Planning Board for review and consideration. The Planning Board will then send their recommendation to approve or not approve the PDD back to the Town Board for a final determination.
The commercial businesses would be located towards the front of the site nearest Route 9 and the housing component will consist of a single building set behind the retail with parking below the building, according to the letter.
Between the two buildings, according to the letter, the plan is to have a “large open piazza to be used for outdoor dining, recreation, light entertainment, cultural events and community space.”
“Current zoning allows for uses such as gas stations and fast food restaurants which may not be the optimal uses for the property as envisioned by the Town Board,” according to the letter. “The PDD process ensures that the Town Board plays a direct role in determining the highest and best use for the property while also making sure that the project’s design achieves the town’s vision for this property and the Route 9 corridor.”
It says the project, despite the increased density, would generate less traffic on the already congested Route 9 corridor than straight retail and would generate significantly less than Hoffman’s did in its heyday.
While still in its infancy, the project will be similar to the Village at New Loudon, where there was once a driving range and a mini golf course just to the south of Hoffman’s. Along that stretch, there are high end retail shops, law offices, banks and other retail establishments fronting Route 9 with Liberty Pointe, an apartment building with one-bedrooms starting at $1,450 a month, sitting behind. In between those two, though, is a parking lot.
“We are looking forward to seeing the plan and seeing what fits and what does not,” said Supervisor Paula Mahan, stressing the fact the project is still early in the planning process. “I do know they would like it to compliment the other new buildings that are there now, and that is our wish too. We will see how it proceeds, and the Hoffmans have been waiting a long time for someone to move on the site.”
Hoffman’s opened in 1952 and provided amusement rides and other entertainment to families until it closed at the end of the 2014 season. The 8.1 acres of land is now considered prime real estate in the center of the Capital District on a busy thoroughfare surrounded by thriving retail businesses.
The amusement park has since moved to the Huck Finn’s Warehouse parking lot in Albany.
The town’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan outlined the “village” concept for Route 9, and the basics of the plan being formulated by the developers fits in with that model.
“That whole village concept, so far, has turned out to be beautiful and the people interested in developing Hoffman’s know we want to keep it along those same lines,” Mahan said. “It looks nice the way it is now. What’s there has brought Route 9 back to life, and places along Route 9 have bene redeveloped and cleaned up and it really does look so much better than just a few years ago.”
Tom Burke, of the Burke Cos, which owns several Dunkin’ Donut franchises and other developments in the Capital District, initially was under contract to purchase the land in early 2017, according to the Albany Business Review.
Under the most recent plan, according to the letter, Burke would develop the retail portion of the project. There is a Dunkin’ Donuts in the retail building directly south of the Hoffman’s land.
SageLife, based in Springfield, Pennsylvania, has nine independent, supportive and memory care senior housing facilities in its home state, New Jersey and Maryland. If the project moves forward, it will be the company’s first foray into New York state.
Contingent upon approving the PDD, the town as a whole must get some sort of benefit from the developers. For example, when the PDD for the King Theil Senior Community on Elks Lane was granted in 2015, the developer, Colonie Senior Services Inc., agreed to upgrade handicapped accessibility at Town Hall.
Mahan said it is too early in the process to determine what kind of benefit the town would request, but did say just building senior housing would not be enough. She also said the developers gave no indication they would be seeking any incentives or tax breaks from the town’s Industrial Development Agency.
While King Theil is geared for and marketed as “affordable” senior housing, the project at Hoffman’s will target a wealthier clientele. Also, while King Theil considers a senior anyone older than 55, the new project, Mahan said, would only cater to those 62 and older.
Having independent living and assisted living in the same facility is a philosophy of elder care that is gaining traction. As people age, it becomes harder to maintain a home and easier to live independently in an apartment where things like snow removal and lawn care are no longer a worry. And, as they get older still, they may need more help with day-to-day activities but still not the degree of assistance provided in a nursing home setting. Staying in the same facility while making that transition is desirable to some.
It is unclear with the Planning Board will address the PDD request. But if the Town Board does ultimately grant the PDD, and the developers continue with the project, it will first be subjected to a sketch plan review by the Planning Board.
After considering comments and observations from the board, developers will then need what is called concept acceptance. After that, typically more modifications are made before a final site plan is approved and construction starts.