GUILDERLAND — A new Costco store is proposed to open at the intersection of Western Avenue with Crossgates Mall and Rapp roads in Guilderland in the near future.
The store is set to take up around 160,000 square feet on a 16-acre parcel of land with several fuel pumps and 700 parking spaces. According to the town’s website, the site currently contains 13 vacant homes which were bought by the Pyramid Companies, a real estate company that also owns the nearby Crossgates Mall, within the last 15 years. There, however, is one property still occupied by a homeowner on the proposed site.
The Costco store is set to be a part of Guilderland’s Transit-Oriented District, a designated area that hopes to promote more pedestrian linkages and public transit. Along with Crossgates Mall, Costco is proposed to be accompanied by a nearby 222-unit apartment and townhome development combined with 3,900 square feet of commercial space on 19.7 acres; and a 11.3-acre site that may one day be home to 115,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of office space and 48 apartments.
Guilderland Town Planner Kenneth Kovalchik said the Planning Board has until Feb. 7 to review the Costco store proposal’s draft environmental impact statement. The project, which was first submitted to the town in spring 2019, has also been referred to the Albany County Planning Board.
He said that since the project has not received final approval, Costco opening in Guilderland is still not a certainty.
Guilderland Town Supervisor Peter Barber said Costco is a highly-rated company that gives people more choices for shopping and offers retail jobs for locals once it opens. He added that under the proposal’s review, the town is working with the City of Albany to mitigate traffic impacts on nearby neighborhoods as well as hearing comments from local residents so far.
The town’s website page on the proposed project includes around three dozen public comments from local residents and organizations which are available to view.
Barber said this would be the first time a Costco store would be located in the Capital District. “If you look around the country, there’s typically just one Costco store in a metropolitan area, two in the largest ones,” he said. “This new Costco store would probably be it here.”
Barber added that the proposed site, along with the greater Transit-Oriented District, seeks to take advantage of the CDTA public transport system and the nearby Interstate highways.
Kovalchik said given the Costco site’s proximity to residential neighborhoods like the Rapp Road Community Historic District, concerns about potential increased traffic are being heard. “The [Rapp Road] neighborhood is within the City of Albany and there’s only so much the town can do in terms of mitigating effects on that neighborhood,” he said. “We’re also working with some nearby neighborhoods in Albany and Guilderland and people have sent emails and letters on record to me about their concerns.”
He continued, “There must be a coordinated effort between the city and town. The environmental impact statement will further analyze the mitigation effort on the Rapp Road community.”
Beverly Bardequez, the president of the Rapp Road Historical Association whose family has lived in that neighborhood for decades, said her main concern is the traffic impact. “Even now, we are inundated with too much traffic and people have a tendency to cut through Rapp Road, where the historic district is, to go to Crossgates or Western Avenue,” she said. “People don’t respect the speed limit and they come flying down here like a main thoroughfare. This road is not built to handle that volume of traffic.”
The Rapp Road community is a quiet 14-acre residential neighborhood and its origins date back to the Great Migration in the early 1930s, a period where six million African-Americans left the South for urban areas in the Northeast, Midwest and West. Rapp Road eventually became one such destination and at its peak, 23 families lived on the road in the 1950s; over a dozen still do today.
Bardequez said she has been trying to work with the City of Albany to come up with a plan to mitigate traffic impact or close the Rapp Road Community Historic District somehow from general traffic. “I need something in place before construction begins and I have not heard any updates from the city since I met with them in summer 2019,” she said.
She added that her Rapp Road neighbors are also aware of the Costco store proposal and they are concerned about traffic too. “I plan to send out a letter to the Rapp Road residents soon to ask them what they want to do and also continue to inform them of the proposal,” she said. “I’m hoping that everyone can put their heads together to decide how to move forward about this.”
For more information, visit www.townofguilderland.org/planning-board/pages/environmental-impact-statement-rapp-road-residentialwestern-avenue-mixed-use.