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Plan to revitalize downtown at the gate

April 17, 2015

by Justin Porreca

Plans to convert a blighted and vacant 21,032 square-foot structure—into a building that will accommodate 16 one-bedroom apartments, a ground-level restaurant and three retail spaces was approved 6-0 Thursday by the city Planning Board.

Chris Maddalone and Seth Meltzer discussing their South Pearl Street project after it was approved 6-0 at Thursday’s Planning Board Meeting/Justin Porreca

Chris Maddalone and Seth Meltzer discussing their South Pearl Street project after it was approved 6-0 at Thursday’s Planning Board Meeting/Justin Porreca

The barren and dust covered structure at 40-48 South Pearl Street is across the street from the Times Union Center and is expected to be a step in the right direction in the city’s revitalization process.“There has been significant demand for residential and commercial properties in downtown Albany,” said Seth Meltzer, vice president of sales and marketing at Maddalone & Associates.

The Planning Board brought up minor adjustments Maddalone & Associates needed to make in order to be in compliance with city codes and to not disturb the flow of traffic. These adjustments included updating a parking area for tenants and creating access areas for trucks and deliveries related to the commercial uses planned for the building.

Maddalone & Associates, of Schenectady, have the high-profile vacancy in front of the Times Union Center under contract. They have yet to buy the property, but the sale of the structure is expected to be complete by next week. The list price of the building is $699,000 and the final price will not be disclosed to the public until the closing. Maddalone & Associates will be receiving their first mortgage on the property structure through Kinderhook Bank.

At the time of completion, the expected cost of renovations is projected to be $2.5 million, but when engineers start work on the building the cost could increase. As soon as the deal is closed, Maddalone & Associates will start interior demolition of the building.

“It was a great location because of the path of progress,” said Chris Maddalone, founder of Maddalone & Associates. “It will drive more people in and more revenue for downtown with the restaurant.”

The previous owner of the vacant building was Larry DeThomasis. He housed and ran the restaurant, Pagliacci Ristorante, on the first floor. The restaurant closed and the interior began to deteriorate after the death of DeThomasis in 2011. A national, family-orientated chain restaurant may fill the vacancy Pagliacci’s left behind.

“I remember when Pagliacci’s was packed full of people at their peak, they brought in a lot of business and I think that’s what this new restaurant is going to do,” said Bob Belber, general manager of the Times Union Center. “People want to come and have somewhere to eat when they go to events.”

The site of the new restaurant coming in across the street from the Times Union Center at 44 South Pearl Street/Justin Porreca

The site of the new restaurant coming in across the street from the Times Union Center at 44 South Pearl Street/Justin Porreca

The major impact of this structural project is the apartment units being constructed above the commercial space. 16 one-bedroom apartments will occupy the second and third floors of the building. The rooftop deck of the structure will only be accessible to the tenants. Interior features of the apartments include: roman showers, granite countertops and hardwood floors. The monthly rent for the tenants has yet to be confirmed.

“There is close to 200 units in construction right now, so I think the City of Albany and Capitalize Albany are doing a number of things to generate interest in downtown Albany,” said Maddalone.

Revitalizing Albany to its vibrant and prosperous heyday from the 1960s to 1980s starts with driving residents into vacant apartments in the downtown area. There are four newly completed projects similar to the Maddalone project, and one nearing completion. The Arcade on 488 Broadway was one of the projects recently completed.

“I think it’s a small peg in a larger project. It’s not as big or substantial as other projects, but it’s another project that shows that these older buildings can be repurposed on their second, third and fourth floors for residential use,” said Albert DeSalvo, chair of the Planning Board. “The goal is to make downtown once again where there will be more life, but there needs to be more small businesses and apartments.”

The old Pagliacci Ristorante sign still hangs in front of 44 South Pearl Street despite the restaurant being closed since 2011/Justin Porreca

The old Pagliacci Ristorante sign still hangs in front of 44 South Pearl Street despite the restaurant being closed since 2011/Justin Porreca

Senior planner for the Department of Development and Planning, Bradley Glass, added his insight into the steps of bringing life and vibrancy back to downtown Albany.

“When a national retailer looks at a downtown they look at the spending power in the surrounding areas and nobody lives down there so it’s a tough sell. We have to have that active atmosphere to bring businesses in,” said Glass.

With downtown Albany getting a facelift with the Times Union Center going under renovations, the new convention center under construction and various residential units being constructed, the Planning Board is attempting to shift downtown from being a 9-5 to a 24-hour, quasi-nightlife.

“I think it will be a small impact in the sense that it’s not a big project, but it brings more life into downtown Albany,” DeSalvo said.-30-

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