By R.J. DeLuke
Commercial and residential developers
in Saratoga County are finding that work
is brisk in the area, with a trend in recent
years of people having a stronger interest in
rental properties than single-family homes.
Mixed-use properties are under way in
many areas, combining rental units with
space for shops and offices. That’s happening
not just in the city of Saratoga Springs,
but in outlying areas as well.
And John Witt, president of Witt construction
in Saratoga Springs, notes that
after a sluggish period of about four years,
the market for single family homes in the
area “is coming back.”
Witt said the rental market “is huge” thanks in part to GlobalFoundries, the microchip manufacturing plant in Malta and the work force it has brought to the area. But there are also “empty nesters” wanting to get away from the upkeep of a full home, and there are young families starting out who prefer to rent before investing, perhaps later, in a home.
For Hal Schultz of HR Schultz Real Estate Development, an area of development is opening up west of the Northway in Malta. That area “has always been kind of a sleeper,” he said, and now that it has been rezoned from industrial to light industrial, which allows for commercial and residential mix, it is ripe.
Schultz has 40 acres at Eastline Road and Route 67 in Ballston. He said the east side of the Northway has always received the most attention, especially with GlobalFoundries plant landing there. Schultz’s project will bring a mix of residential, commercial and office space. It’s being called East Line Commons.
The state also has money to improve the intersection of Route 9 and Route 67, and improved roads in that area will also be a benefit, said Schultz.
He said from his perspective there is high interest for apartments and low interest for commercial. In rural areas, he sees “new urbanism,” with buildings being built close to the road. Condos and townhouses are part of his plan in Malta. He has 142,000 square feet of buildable apartment space.
Originally, Schultz considered large buildings out front that required a lot of parking. That has been revised to 21 townhouses and buildable apartment space.
“Route 67 is a sleeper. With the zoning change, there’s much more appeal,” he said. There is a lot of vehicle traffic in that area, which opens up the potential for mixed-use development. “There are a awful lot of small businesses that don’t want to go over [south of] the Twin Bridges” that take Northway travelers into Albany County. They want to be in Saratoga County and the activity there.
Nonetheless, the area is still tied to the Albany market and is only 20 minutes away from Albany International Airport, he said. Cecil Provost owner of both ProRealty of New York and Saratoga Construction, said the market for commercial real estate has improved in the last few years, “though financing is still a challenge” with banks being more cautious about loaning funds than thy wee five years ago.
As far as residential, he acknowledged a stronger market for renting in the area, noting “there are also many more apartments in Saratoga than there used to be … A lot of people are renting first, seeing if they like the area.”
Provost said the re-sale market for single-family homes is still strong Witt said his company is currently busy in the home renovation market. But he is also involved in redesigning a project called Excelsior Park on 50 acres near the crossing of Route 50 and the Northway.
It was originally planned for some 200 condominiums and some mixed-use space, but condos stopped selling. It will become 120 apartments ad 60-plus townhouses, with a community pool and community space; also walking trails, Witt said.
It will have about 50,000 square feet of commercial space. Witt said that while mixed-use is popular, in areas where there isn’t dense residential population “its not as easy to lease the commercial space.”
As far as single-family homes go, Witt said he is seeing a call for smaller homes that require less maintenance. The floor plans are more open, with open kitchen space and, overall, plenty of storage in the home.
Schultz feels the economy is picking up and that has more effect than anything on a strong market for commercial and residential development, including the existence of GlobalFoundries.
“We’re very busy on the construction side,” said Provost, noting that his niche is somewhat different. He builds homes on land already owned by the customer. That can involve vacation homes, second homes or tear-down/rebuild situations.
He said buying vacant land is not easy, but the residential housing market is “back to a healthy situation.” Banks want to do business with people who “have a job, have good credit and have some money in the bank. That’s the way it should be.”