Long-time area residents may have already noticed a change to the Westgate Plaza sign, after its several month absence from its Central Avenue home.
The 65-foot tall iconic Westgate Plaza sign, which welcomes patrons to what is considered as the first mall in the Albany area, has once again been restored.
Passers-by may have noticed the change in the past weeks, but Albany’s Central Business Improvement District (BID) officially lit the sign Wednesday, April 8. The blue and red sign is now lit with LED lights and has a more modern look to it, thanks to the Albany-based company Saxton Sign Corp.
“The sign here at Westgate Plaza is an icon, and if you will, it’s been a beacon for many, many years,” said Central BID Executive Director Anthony Capece. “No matter how we live by the moment today, some things never go out of style. People like to return to their favorite things. And Westgate Plaza continues to be one of those things.”
Many consider the Westgate sign to be a local landmark. It is among the ranks of Nipper, the RCA mascot that sits atop a former RCA building in downtown Albany, and the Egg, as a Capital District icon.
The shopping center, on the border of Albany and the Town of Colonie at 911 Central Ave., is considered to be the first mall in the Albany area, opening in 1957. Over the years, it housed a J.C. Penney, Albany Public Market and National Savings Bank, among dozens of more businesses.
Businesses like J.C. Penney moved to Crossgates Mall in Guilderland when it opened in 1984 and took over as the largest shopping center in the Albany area.
“I remember when I was a kid, I would walk over to Westgate Shopping Center, and I can tell you some of the stores that used to be there,” said Albany Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “Westgate Shopping Center endures. Those shops aren’t here, but the blue is here, and I think we’re all glad to see it refurbished.”
Now, the plaza contains a Price Chopper, Key Bank, Mr. Subb and Best Fitness, and is owned and managed by Horizon Management Associates.
The sign came down in mid-December to be restored by Saxton Sign Corp, which owns the former Judge Neon Sign Company of Albany, the original manufacturers of the Westgate sign. Saxton consulted Albany’s Historic Resources Commission before refurbishing the sign to ensure the historic value was not lost.
Taking the sign down to restore took three days with the neon light bulbs and connected ovals. Saxton replaced the neon with energy-efficient LED and the sign was repainted its original blue. As well, lights around the outer edge that had been long-since burned out were replaced.
“These days we find comfort in things that are familiar and things that we know and love, and are delighted even more when they become new again. The Westgate Plaza and its tenants in this area, we continue to redefine ourselves out here,” said Capece. “We…celebrate the rebirth of a landmark in the Capital Region and, quite honestly, in the Northeastern U. S.”