Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NY seeks advisers for Harriman project

The Business Review (Albany)

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Harriman board says developer may be picked within 6 weeks

The state is seeking to hire three advisers as it prepares to develop a slice of its Harriman office campus in Albany, N.Y.

State officials said Monday that three requests for proposals, or RFPs, are almost ready to be issued. The board of directors for the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp. plans to vote on selected proposals in an April meeting.

The RFPs are one of the next steps the state is taking as it prepares almost half of the 330 acres at the W. Averell Harriman State Office Campus for development.

In late November, the campus’ board of directors unanimously awarded Albany-based Columbia Development Cos. the rights to redevelop 140 acres of the campus—a controversial and abrupt decision, in the eyes of developers who lost the bid to overhaul the campus.

The Harriman board met behind closed doors on Nov. 30, 2009, to discuss development plans before emerging to formally vote to adopt Columbia’s vision.

Throughout last decade, the state has pursued an ambitious plan to renovate the campus to lure high-tech companies and build retail shops and residential units. The initiative stalled repeatedly amid changing state leadership, the recession, tight credit markets and the state’s problems with multi-billion-dollar deficits.

The remainder of the Harriman campus will continue to be used by state agencies that employ 7,300 people.

Peter Wohl, president of the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp., said the state will soon issue RFPs for three needs:

• a development adviser, to assist with site planning, as well as engineering and environmental studies, as needed

• a property appraiser, to calculate new assessments of the Harriman campus that will replace “outdated” property values on file with the state, Wohl said.

• a consultant to help with the environmental siting process, called the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA. The law requires developers to identify, and address, the “significant environmental aspects” of whatever work is being proposed or permitted.

“That takes nine to 12 months to complete, so we’re looking to engage someone fairly quickly,” Wohl said at a Monday meeting of the Harriman board.

The board plans to vote on winning bids at an April 12 meeting, its next regularly scheduled session.

Wohl said the state is continuing negotiations with Columbia Development. There is no timeline for finishing those talks.

The state has declined to make public any elements of Columbia’s concept for the Harriman campus, citing an exemption in the state’s Freedom of Information law for ongoing contract negotiations.

1 comment:

  1. It might be a very positive step to have a private company such as Columbia Development take control of the Harriman development project. Allegedly Columbia has a history of effectively managing this type of project where neither UAlbany nor HRDTC have the required expertise. With a private developer, we could see a much more efficient use of the Harriman lands which could include dorms and provide some tax revenues for the city of Albany. Several people have cited the University of Austin and the development around that campus as a source of inspiration; I urge our office holders and politicians to check out that campus' development. I would also like to know why such procedures are cloaked in a veil of secrecy??