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County funding for Vista road uncertain

Developer has worked $1M promise into funding proposal

Developers are preparing to submit to the Town of Bethlehem the fist detailed sets of plans for many of the structures they hope will be going up in the coming year at the Vista Technology Campus.

At the same time, financing for the project's vital infrastructure is still not certain. Columbia Development is seeking bonds issued by the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency to finance the nearly $7 million Vista Boulevard, a plan that the independent agency tentatively approved recently.

The developer is also expecting to receive $1 million from Albany County for that project, but a county representative recently questioned if the 2003 promise applies to this plan.

The county's intent was that this money was to support high-tech job creation at the park, said spokeswoman Mary Duryea. "Thus far, no commitments have been made on the county's end. The county executive has serious questions about the bonding structure and the county's liability."

Construction of Vista Boulevard must start soon if Columbia and builder BBL Construction want to move some of their interested tenants into the park. Most of those promised businesses are retail, though, and their construction would begin as soon as Vista Boulevard's placement allows it.

The biggest store would be a 65,000-square-foot ShopRite grocery, followed by a 14,800-square-foot CVS. Berkshire Bank, SEFCU and a yet-to-be-named restaurant would also have spaces. All would be standalone buildings.

Developers have been less forthcoming on the identity of commercial enterprises, including a company that is apparently looking to occupy a 110,000-square-foot building by the end of the year. Another office building would be located near the end of Vista Boulevard.

BBL Construction recently appeared before the town's Development Planning Committee to run down its plans for Vista's first structures. Although the initial phase of construction involves mostly retail, the combined space is only about a third of the "secondary" space Vista is allowed to develop. The campus' plan requires that 80 percent of its approved 1.4 million square feet of floor space be "primary use," or offices and high-tech use. Plans also call for condominium housing at Vista.

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