Aug. 22--ALBANY -- The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering closed Wednesday on its purchase of historic Peter D. Kiernan Plaza, the vacant former Broadway train station slated to become an incubator for tech companies working to make cities more efficient.
The $3 million sale, which is expected to be announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, means that the college -- and its nonprofit real estate arm, Fuller Road Management Corp. -- won't need Albany Industrial Development Agency to take the 113-year-old building, formerly known as Union Station, through eminent domain.
"We couldn't be happier. It's such an incredible building. It belongs in the public trust," said Michael Fancher, the college's vice president for economic outreach and business development, calling the sale "a huge milestone in achieving Governor Cuomo's vision of bringing Nanotech to the heart of downtown."
Fuller Road Management Corp. is buying the building with part of a $4 million grant from the competitive regional economic development system established by Cuomo.
The remainder will go toward renovating common areas to accommodate multiple tenants, Fancher said.
The IDA was preparing to wield its authority to seize the property to free it from a complex financial arrangement that would have otherwise blocked its sale by a real estate investment trust until 2019, at which point it would likely have been vacant for a decade.
But once the panel voted to green light the condemnation proceedings, the way was paved to negotiate the sale from First States Investors 5200 LLC, Fancher said.
From the beginning, city and college officials had described the transaction as non-adversarial, with eminent domain serving as a tool to free the building from a group of more than 200 held as collateral for a large loan.
NanoCollege officials hope to transform the Beaux-Arts landmark into Smart Cities Technology Innovation Center, which will be a hub for companies -- new and established -- to develop technology that can makes cities more efficient through innovations such as smarter parking meters and traffic lights.
Not only will the so-called SCiTI Center take the college's high-tech work from its main campus along Fuller Road to downtown, it also will allow Albany to serve as a proving ground for some of the technologies developed there, Fancher said.
"Albany is an ideal size for a city, whereas if you try to go down to New York City right off the bat, it's a little overwhelming," he said.
The only announced tenant for the building so far is engineering firm CHA -- formerly known as Clough Harbour & Associates -- which plans to move its offices there from Colonie.
Fancher said the building will be ready for CHA immediately, with other as-yet-unannounced tenants joining "in the very near future."
In all, the new tenants are expected to spend an additional $6 million in private money to refit the building, which was last occupied by Bank of America in 2009. The building is expected to put 250 jobs downtown -- 150 of them new.
In January, Mayor Jerry Jennings used the building -- restored in the 1980s by Peter D. Kiernan, then the head of Norstar Bancorp based there -- as a backdrop to his State of the City Address.
Though the building will now be owned by a nonprofit entity, Fuller Road Management Corp. has agreed to make payments in lieu of taxes to the city, county and school district equivalent to the taxes owed on it for the next 15 years.
The NanoCollege is currently part of the University at Albany but will split from it starting with the 2014-15 school year.
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