There's new life in the cards for the long dormant Tobin Packing Company grounds in West Albany.
Under the auspices of the city of Albany and the town of Colonie, the old First Prize Center on West Albany’s Exchange Street is coming closer to development as a mixed-use facility with residential and commercial activity.
Over the last four decades there have, from time to time, been interests in the land. In 2014 the Tobin site was scouted by a developer as a prime place for a gambling casino, which eventually ended up in Schenectady.
Former Albany Common Councilor Ron Bailey said he believed the site's past as an economic driver for his Third Ward neighborhood could be resurrected.
"I remember as a young man growin' up, a lot of people from my community used to work at Tobin First Prize. And when I looked at the drawings of what they wanna put there, the first thing I looked at is jobs for the people in my community. "
In 2018, Saratoga Springs-based developer Richbell Capital bought the property for $4 million.
Sean Maguire is the Town of Colonie's Planning and Economic Development Department director.
"What we're working on right now, with the project owner, is the initial phases to getting that property redeveloped. They've applied for their initial demolition permits for the first couple of buildings on the site, and expect by the end of 2022, to have all the buildings down and ready for, you know, a full scale redevelopment there on the site. This is a pretty unique project here in the Capital Region, because it does involve both the town of Colonie and the city of Albany, in our cooperation to get the site redeveloped. The city line and the town line runs, you know, through the site, not exactly straight through. It twists and turns along the way. But it does sit in both municipalities. So in order for us to create a streamlined approach to the site's redevelopment, the city and the town did make some changes to their respective codes to create a redevelopment district here on Exchange Street."
Maguire points out that Albany and Colonie signed municipal agreements to cooperate on the project.
"Our expectation is that the, you know, the first buildings will be up in, you know, matter of a couple of years. We're looking at having the site fully clean cleared of the existing, existing building by the end of 2022. And so, you know, our, I think everybody's hope here is that the site plan will be in place at the time that the site is ready for development. So that way, we have a seamless transition from a demolition phase into the construction phase. You know, as for overall timing, in some ways, I think the market and what the market demands are first phase is going to dictate some of that, you know, certainly that mixed use, development is a key part, you know, key catalyst part to getting this project up and running. But as for the rest of it, it may take, you know, a few years to fully realize, you know, what a master plan will look like at the end of the day.
Maguire says possible snags involving cleanup of an older building like possible lead issues or ground contamination are being looked into and will be dealt with as part of a comprehensive development plan, and in the end, the finished project will add to the tax rolls of the two municipalities.
"I think more important, certainly for me is the, you know, and my, my role here in planning and economic development for the town, is the impact on the neighborhood too that, you know, really, for 40 years has had, you know, this, this building looming over it. So, I think the, you know, I'm really excited for, you know, what the residents of West Albany are going to see, especially along Exchange Street with the removal of Tobin's and, you know, its redevelopment and rebirth as a brand new site."
Some activity at the site is already taking place. Nearly 400,000 square feet of existing building space has to be demolished before the initial construction phase of 150,000 square feet of mixed use space can begin.