ShopRite and other retailers confirmed, first high-tech tenant hinted
Stakeholders in the Vista Technology Campus are hoping the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency will issue $5.7 million in bonds to fund the building of Vista Boulevard, the long road into the massive Slingerlands project.
In a special meeting of that public benefit entity this morning, IDA board members granted conceptual approval to the plan, which would see the town creating special taxing districts in the park to have tenants pay the debt service on the loans.
Columbia Development’s Joe Nicolla said this unusual plan is necessary to get Vista moving ahead. He said many tenants are ready to sign leases, but it’s hard to get commitments without any infrastructure at the site.
We’re under time constraints to get all these people in and we need the road, he said. `You’ll see this thing develop very, very quickly if we can get this road in place.`
The commercial lending environment has made obtaining the substantial loans from banks difficult, he said. Albany County has committed to paying $1 million to the project, which is factored into the equation.
Nicolla also confirmed several of the retailers who will come to Vista, including a ShopRite grocery store. CVS, SEFCU and Berkshire Bank are also set to locate there, as is an unnamed restaurant `that everybody knows.`
Nicolla also said it’s essential development get under way to attract the campus’ first high-tech tenant to a 110,000-square-foot building. He would not mention the company’s name, but said it is an `electronics publishing group` that does work with Amazon’s Kindle e-reader and Apple’s iPad. The company would employ about 600 at the location.
The company also needs to be in that space by Jan. 1 of next year, which sets an aggressive schedule for Columbia and builder BBL Construction. Nicolla said he’d like to start construction in March, which is probably sooner than the complex financing approval schedule could be completed.
Nicolla pointed to many other Tech Valley locations, including the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta, as reason to move Vista ahead as soon as possible. 30 high-tech companies are expected to come to the area as the result of a GlobalFoundries semiconductor plant being built there, he said, and developers here want a piece of that action.
Town Supervisor Sam Messina said the proposal would now be forwarded to the town’s 2020 planning committee, and if all should go well he would expect the Town Board to take it up at the end of February. The plan would also need state comptroller approval.
Messina said this deal is exactly what the agency was created to do.
`I see nothing on the horizon in terms of economics that can benefit our town more than this,` said Messina, who sat on the IDA board before taking the supervisor’s office. `I haven’t seen the IDA with an opportunity to do exactly what the IDA has wanted to do for six year.
Mark Hennessey, who is also on the Bethlehem Town Board, was the only IDA board member to oppose the plan. He cited concerns that the developer did not have tenant commitments in hand and that the IDA or town would be on the hook for the road costs should Vista founder.“