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Board candidates question future of Niskayuna mall

Niskayuna Town Board candidates Linda Rizzo and Rich Fisher are wondering what's happening with St. James Square.

At the Tuesday, Aug. 25, Town Board meeting, the two spoke of their concerns about the current state and future of the semi-vacant shopping center.

About a year and a half ago, Metroplex came to give a presentation that they were going to renovate and do some work at St. James Square. I've seen no work going on. I'm not the only one in the town asking this question, said Rizzo, who noted that she has spoken to several residents who share her concerns.

St. James Square was originally built in two phases. The first phase occurred in 1997 by developer Reginald Scott. It featured a Grand Union and several other small shops and restaurants, including Subway, a dry cleaner, a liquor store and a nail salon. An addition was built several years later by the same developer, who hoped to attract more restaurants and bars, but things went downhill for the center with the closing of the Grand Union in 2001.

Today, the shopping center has some vacant spaces. Its tenants include a Starbucks, a Friendly's, a Chinese restaurant and some smaller retail establishments such as a liquor store and nail boutique.

"I realize that businesses like the St. James Square area are not the direct business of the town board, but since 2001 it's been empty," said Fisher. "It's the closest thing we have to downtown Niskayuna, but I think it's long overdue that someone takes the lead on this and says, 'Let's get involved and let's get things moving.'"

St. James Square is not a complete loss for the town, as the owners are still paying taxes on the property. Niskayuna Town Supervisor Joe Landry said that the town and the Schenectady Metroplex are working to attract a large business to fill the space where Grand Union once stood, and that they have come close to striking several deals, but it is difficult to attract any businesses in this down economy.

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