Rensselaer Is On A Roll
The city of Rensselaer missed out in the casino sweepstakes and the chance to revitalize its waterfront. Then, a second chance to build a SUNY Poly tech hub apparently ran aground. Could the third time be a charm?
In June 2014, Hard Rock Cafe dropped into the competition for a regional casino on a 24-acre site along the banks of the Hudson River just across from downtown Albany. The announcement put De Laet's Landing in the city of Rensselaer "on the map" as Hard Rock International unveiled plans to site a $150 to $200 million gambling resort there. The city council backed the project, and Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer said, "That name is going to draw a lot of people."
Despite their aggressive marketing and dazzling promotional materials, Hard Rock lost out to the Rivers Casino, now under construction in Schenectady.
Undaunted, Mayor Dwyer kept looking for something to fill the void at the former Rensselaer High School site on Broadway. That something came in May 2015: Dwyer and SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros announced a partnership to encourage two prospective corporations from outside of New York (which never were named) to commit to a $12.5 million investment in De Laet's. "In a nutshell I would call it an innovation and commercialization hub," Kaloyeros said. "Much like all the other hubs we are building across the state, it would have a combination of high-tech corporations coming here when they move from outside New York..."
Kaloyeros credited New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had a hand in the partnership, with the launch the initiative. No money was promised from the state for the project, which eventually grew stale, and has withered now that Kaloyeros is facing bid-rigging charges and resigned from his SUNY Poly presidency. Dwyer says "We've been trying to contact them to see what's going on but with the problems going on over there, we haven't had any contact for about a year and a half."
Tuesday, Mayor Dwyer celebrated the groundbreaking of a new $3 million Hudson River walkway at De Laet's... and that's just for starters: "Right now we've started what they call the esplanade there, right along the river. And it's a great meeting place for people to relax and enjoy the scene of Albany in the background, the river. And then off of that there's gonna be approximately a thousand foot of walkway going up to the north end of the city, and hopefully we'll get another grant to extend it all the way up to what we call Forbes Avenue, which is the boat launch."
And the good news doesn't stop there. Dwyer exclaimed "On November 2nd or 3rd, they haven't established which date, we'll have the groundbreaking for U.W. Marx putting up the first apartment building there, 96 units, very nice beautiful structure, beautiful apartments in there. So that's the start of it. Hopefully we're going to get a combination of both commercial and apartments in there, and I'm hoping for a hotel."
The project ties right in with the rise across the river of Albany's Capital Center, expected to attract conventions, major sporting events and national shows to the area. Dwyer sees the burst of progress as a good omen for his city. "Eventually I'd like to see this whole waterfront, right up to what we call Forbes Avenue, developed. I'd like to get some restaurants in there, right on the river, it'd be great."
Dwyer, in office for a decade, says he expects the new construction will attract more development, but isn't ready to tip his hand other than to say he's been in communication with "several interested parties."