Albany County Land Bank seeks developer for third cluster project


ALBANY – The Albany County Landbank is seeking a development team ready to take on 1.8 acres along Ontario Street in the city’s Beverwyck neighborhood.

The proposed development is the third so-called ‘cluster development’ the landbank has launched in the past two years as it attempts to bundle underutilized individual lots into larger developments likely to attract developers .

Adam Zaranko, executive director of the land bank, said the vision for the Ontario Street project is to create affordable mixed-income housing as well as a mixed-use community space. Zaranko said the space could accommodate nonprofits or small businesses with related uses, such as a medical or dental office.

Zaranko pointed to the downtown Blake Annex and the Albany Center for Economic Success small business incubator on Orange Street as similar projects for this mixed-use space.

“We feel we are in a unique position as a land reserve and we will try to do something different,” he said.

The vision is the result of community outreach and discussions with neighborhood groups, he said.

The four properties are 130 and 135 Ontario Street, which contain two vacant buildings, and two vacant lots at 134 and 154 West Street, totaling just over 1.8 acres. They were acquired by tax seizure.

The land reserve has received interests from a number of community groups for the properties. But the vacant buildings need major redevelopment that is likely beyond the financial reach and expertise of these groups, Zaranko said.

This is where a developer comes in. The land bank would connect their developer with groups already interested in using the space, providing them with ready tenants for that community space.

The organization’s two other cluster developments are also progressing.

Zaranko said he expects to soon recommend a developer to the land bank’s board of directors for a cluster of 22 properties near the intersection of Clinton Avenue and Henry Johnson Boulevard.

The land bank is also moving forward with plans for more than 60 properties which it has consolidated in the city’s South End area.

In the first phase, the development team would construct 11 single-family townhouse-style buildings in two locations. These would be priced affordably to first-time home buyers, Zaranko said.

The second phase is much larger. The project includes 3 buildings of 50 units each of affordable mixed-income housing.

“We want it to look like market-priced housing but be affordable for people,” Zaranko said.

Both projects are still seeking funding from the New York State Homes and Community Renewal agency. The Land Preserve also requested a portion of the city’s federal bailout funding to help fill the funding gap.

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