BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — The busy hub of Clifton Park, right off Exit 9, may experience some major development changes by this time next year if the proposal to construct a $50 million mixed-use redevelopment project made by Windsor Development comes to fruition.
More than 200 luxury apartments would replace the now-vacant Kmart on Route 146 near Northway Exit 9, with amenities such as a pool, courtyards, a workout facility and a fully enclosed, wraparound parking garage for all residents. The 25,000-square-foot retail-filled ground floor would be populated with a coffee shop and other service-based small businesses, which would also support the broader community of Clifton Park.
The plan also includes 75,000 square feet for office space and 6,000 square feet for a freestanding restaurant.
“We own the shopping center on the north side of Route 146; it’s currently the Price Chopper and Kmart’s business was winding down here but they had quite a few years left in their lease, but we bought the remainder of their term of the lease so that we could get control of the property once again,” Windsor CEO Robert C. Miller said. “It is on that site that we are proposing this as the next step in the development of Clifton Park.”
“We experienced the declining demand of retail square footage; we certainly have felt it — we had Borders and we had Kmart, and those business models are changing. The Internet has an impact, and people are looking for smaller spaces. We are creating the opportunities for some of those types of tenants for the ground floor.”
Clifton-Park based Windsor is the owner and developer of several properties, including Village Plaza, and The Shops at Village Plaza and Shoppers World Plaza, where the Price Chopper supermarket is currently undergoing extensive renovations as part of the grocery chain’s rebranding to Market 32.
“I’m on the downtown study committee, so I’ve gotten a good chance to see where the vision is going and what we want to see for our downtown,” said Pete Bardunias, CEO of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County. “I really believe that in general we are pretty much in agreement on the fact that downtown needs to have more walkable streets, more public amenities and density as far as having residents that actually live there in order to walk to nearby stores.”
The real question is: How dense and how soon?
“It would provide a natural source of customers for the area businesses, which is important,” Bardunias said. “I think the key is you have to be careful, because we live in upstate New York, where people are used to driving around and people are going to go for whatever’s most convenient. So, if it’s not done the right way, if it becomes more difficult to negotiate downtown Clifton Park, it will just be another downtown that people try to avoid as much as necessary.”
The transition from unattractive box stores to beautifully crafted developments has been a trend that has slowly been sweeping the nation. “For the past couple of decades, these malls have turned into these nice facades on sidewalks, very open set-ups,” Bardunias said. “I think this is a trend that’s going on nationwide and catching on in the major population areas.”
Staying hip with the trend isn’t the only factor spurring this kind of change. “This is also driven by dynamics; two demographics are helping to feed this,” Bardunias said. “One is people from other parts of the world. They don’t want to buy the big, giant house that many of us aspire to have when we were little with the white picket fence and multiple acres; they want something close to the city, and the option of being able to move on. It’s the same with the younger generation; they would prefer to explore the world and aren’t ready to settle down — this more dense set-up allows for this kind of lifestyle, which is not something we are used to here.”
Windsor has high hopes that the project will come to fruition. “We anticipate this Town Center residential community will appeal to young couples and professionals as well as longtime Clifton Park homeowners looking to transition to a simpler lifestyle, so they can remain in our community and not sacrifice the amenities that homeownership offers,” Miller said. “This truly is a one-of-a-kind project.”
The vision would appear to fit the Clifton Park Town Center Plan, which was adopted in 2012.
“It’s been a three-year process up to this point,” Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said. “We developed a plan through a series of public meetings, working with consultants and received a great deal of input from Clifton Park residents for developing a future for the Exit 9 commerce area.”
Developing the plan was the first phase; the next was to develop zoning for the area in conjunction with that plan, which has been taking place over the last year.
“The town developed a sense of what they want to be, and what they want to be is represented in that building.” Miller said. “People want a live-work-play environment in the town center area. There is a clear alignment on what we intend to do and what the Town Center Plan wants.”
No formal application for the Windsor project has been submitted to the town at this point.