The Business Review (Albany) - by Adam Sichko
The board governing the state’s Harriman office campus in Albany, N.Y., has given a developer more land to work with in the initial stage of a campus overhaul.
In November 2009, Columbia Development Cos. was awarded the rights to redevelop 140 of the 330 acres at the state-owned W. Averell Harriman State Office Campus. The remainder of the Harriman campus will continue to be used by state agencies that employ 7,300 people.
At an April 19 meeting, the Harriman campus’ board voted to give Columbia access of up to 20 of the 140 acres for its first stage of development. Initially, state officials told The Business Review they had planned to give the company between 5 acres and 15 acres to work with.
The state will lease the land to Columbia for about a year, giving the firm the chance to market the site to potential tenants. Terms of the lease are being negotiated.
The intent is for Columbia to eventually buy the initial parcel, and the other acres to be developed, from the state.
The board also voted that high-tech companies will be the only businesses allowed to locate in that parcel.
The votes were taken after the board went behind closed doors to discuss ongoing contract talks with Columbia. The state and Columbia have met four times, most recently last week, said Peter Wohl, president of the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp.
To date, no memorandums of understanding (MOUs) have been agreed to, Wohl said.
The parcel in question is located next to the state Department of Labor offices on the campus, near Washington Avenue.
According to plans Columbia submitted to the state, a building of between 40,000 square feet and 60,000 square feet would be built once tenants have been secured.
The state is currently going through a mandatory environmental site review process which will likely last for nine months to a year. Groundbreaking cannot begin until the review is complete.
Throughout last decade, the state has pursued an ambitious plan to renovate the campus to attract high-tech companies and build retail shops and residential units. The initiative has stalled repeatedly amid changing state leadership, the recession, tight credit markets and the state’s own financial problems and budget deficits.
The lack of a state budget is the latest hurdle facing the Harriman project. Without a budget, the Harriman board is unable to hire a development adviser or pay for an updated appraisal of the Harriman campus land—a key part to the ongoing negotiations with Columbia.
The development adviser would be retained for two to three years, costing $250,000 in total. Wohl said he is “exploring different ways we can address this,” but he declined to discuss specifics before the board went into executive session.
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