The plot of land along Troy Schenectady Road with Whitney Road to the left and Bailey Avenue to the right. Photo via Google Maps
Northwestern Mutual wants to build a new three-story, 49,000-square-foot office building on a 2.5-acre lot on Troy Schenectady Road between Whitney Road and Bailey Avenue.
But the Planning Board gave a cool reception to the idea presented on behalf of John Hodorowski, of Schenectady-based J. Luke Construction, on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
“At first blush, it looks like you’re trying to do too much on the site,” said Planning Board member Craig Shamilan.
The sketch plan, the first formal step in the development process to introduce the project to the Planning Board, does present a number of issues, said the town’s designated engineer on the project, Joe Grasso, including: accessing the site, parking spots located up against the existing neighborhood, high density and not enough greenspace.
“It’s a lot to put in that space and I would not be inclined to approve a request for less greenspace, but I am especially concerned with the amount of traffic already there. It’s a nightmare,” said Planning Board member Kathleen Dalton.
In 2007, the plot of land was zoned for Neighborhood, Commercial, Office, and/or Residential, better known as NCOR.
The town requires 223 parking spots for a building that size and the developer is asking for a waiver to only build 205, with 28 located under the building. Because there are so many spots required, it would reduce the amount of greenspace below the required 35 percent to 30.2 percent and a waiver would be needed for that too. And the developer initially wanted a variance to allow a density of 19,841-square-foot per acre, which is above the maximum 18,000-square-foot per acre allowed by the town.
Hodorowski said Northwestern Mutual is not a typical office client, and most who work for the financial planning company do their business on the road at clients’ home. Typically, the 110 or so employees are expected to generate some 78 new trips during the morning peak hours and 75 in the evening but that formula, he said, only firmly applies to traditional office buildings.
Also, J. Luke purchased a home at the corner of Whitney Road to allow a driveway into the site without taking traffic directly onto the congested Troy-Schenectady Road. How that property was zoned and if it can figure into the overall size of the site related to the allowable density was not determined at the meeting.
If allowed, the driveway onto Whitey Road would take exiting vehicles to a traffic light which has NYSUT drive across Route 7.
That idea too, was met with a cool reception though the board acknowledged it is a better alternative than exiting right onto the busy Route 7.
“I know if someone said they were knocking gown the house next door and said there would be a whole lot of traffic instead …” said Chairman Peter Stuto without finishing the sentence.
Bailey and Whitney roads forms something like the legs of a horseshoe while the arch connecting them is Audrey Road, a street lined with single family homes on both sides. That neighborhood would be directly behind the proposed office building.
The plan calls for a retaining wall along the back of the site with a six-foot high fence and two rows of pine trees to act as buffers.
The plan, if approved, would allow Northwestern to consolidate offices from Albany, Latham and Troy at the new location and is being built for the company to grow too so every square foot of space would not be used right off the bat.
“They want to consolidate all operations here and the square footage is stipulated to it leaves room for growth,” Hodorowski said.
That was only a sketch plan review and the developers will likely make some changes and then bring the project back to the Planning Board for concept acceptance and then will need to return again for final approval before construction can start.