Decision near on North Hudson Avenue apartment/retail complex

A long-awaited decision could come in less than two weeks on Camelot Associates’ proposal to build a residential/commercial complex on North Hudson Avenue at the site of the old American Linen’s plant.

Mayor Rick Nelson told the Board of Trustees at their meeting in August to be ready to vote on the fate of the project following a special meeting and public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, September 8, 6 p.m., in the board meeting room.

Developers of the proposal, which has gone through several changes and alterations since it was first brought to the board 13 months ago, are in the process of submitting their final amended land development application for a special use permit to build on the site.

The project requires a 3-2 yes vote from the Village Board to move forward. At the heart of the decision is the size of the development.

First proposed in July, 2014 as 40 luxury one- and two-bedroom apartments, the number of residential units has been scaled back to 35 so 6,000 square feet of retail space could be added at the request of village residents and board members. The amended application now calls for constructing three buildings, each containing 10 apartments on the site, and a fourth building with five apartments on the second floor and potential retail space on the bottom level. If the developers cannot secure leases for the retail space they are seeking permission to convert that first floor space into five more apartments, bringing the project back to its original 40-unit setup.

Whether Trustees will approve the project in that configuration is in doubt. Following a first public hearing back in April in which several residents complained about the impact 40 apartment units would have on traffic, the school system and the neighborhood, some Trustees have asked that the project be scaled back to 24 apartments and the retail space. Camelot President Dennis DeGennaro said the project would not be economically viable at that size.

“Twenty-four units would kill this development,” DeGennaro told the board. “There’s no way the numbers would work. We’ve added the retail space you wanted and invested a lot of money to meet your requirements. I think this is nothing but a plus plus plus for the village.”

“Yes we want the commercial space but density has always been the (main) issue,” Mayor Nelson said. “The consensus of this board is 24 units and I don’t see you getting close to that. We have to find an accord on this, somewhere in the middle but I don’t see us doing that.”

“I think we are backtracking here, all that has been addressed,” said DeGennaro, who is pushing for approval now so the project would be completed and ready for spring occupancy. “You have to look at what’s good for the village. All you have now is a vacant lot. I’m putting myself on the line here and I’m asking for a vote. We want no more delays.”

Since the project was first proposed there has been a change in village administration with a new mayor and two new Trustees. Judith Wood-Shaw, one of the original Trustees, has supported the project from the start and has spoken out in favor of it at board presentations.

“We want the village to move forward,” Wood-Shaw said. “I think getting the apartments here will attract people to Stillwater and other things will happen after that. They will also bring in money in taxes — money the village really needs.”

Local realtor Scott Varley, who is working with Camelot to lease space if the project is approved, said the fact that the building is new will draw people to it from surrounding communities.

“I think this plan is genius because it enables people the opportunity to live and work in new space,” Varley said. “I do believe based upon research there are people who want to live here … they don’t want to drive to Clifton Park or Saratoga and deal with the Northway. This is the first opportunity I know of between Mechanicville and Schuylerville there’s going to be a new complex to live in.”

The residential space would also be “a drawing card” for the community, Varley said, because the Stillwater apartments would rent for $800-$1,000 versus similar apartments in Saratoga Springs renting for $1,400-$1,700 per month.

Leasing the retail space could be “a little challenging,” Varley admitted, sighting a similar residential/retail complex on Route 9 in Malta where there is a waiting list for the apartments but “they are having trouble leasing commercially.”

Eight or nine years ago, the same developer proposed a mix of apartments and retail units for the American Linen property, including a strip mall and a bank. But after the developer got all of the approvals from the village the country went into a recession and the project was abandoned.

This time, Camelot has proposed constructing the three apartment buildings right away but waiting to construct the residential/retail building until commercial leases are secured for at least half of the retail space or 3,000 square feet. The commercial space would be retrofitted to the business owner’s needs and lease for about $12-$14 per square foot. The developer would be looking to secure five-year leases on the retail space.

Having no “visible” space to show potential retail leasers has also concerned some Trustees and the mayor.

“How do you market something (to retailers) you can’t see?” Mayor Nelson asked. “There have been no takers so far, what’s going to change?”

“Now the land blank,” DeGennaro said. “But come spring there will be new buildings there, sidewalks, etc. and more exposure for the retail market. It seems to me we have a very viable development here and we think it will succeed.”