By Christine Graf
The history of Luther Forest Corp. dates back to the 1890s when Cailean Mackay’s Scottish ancestors began planting trees in Luther Forest. Sustainable timber harvesting was the company’s primary business until the 1980s, but forestry now generates just 50 percent of revenue.
Mackay, Luther Forest Corp.’s fifth-generation president, joined the family business in 2013. He is also general manager of Saratoga Lake Golf Club which was built by his father, Alec.
As part of the company’s diversification, Luther Forest Corp. has proposed the development of Luther Forest Business Park, a $60 million warehouse and business park in Stillwater.
If approved, it will be built on approximately 62 acres of land owned by the company. Luther Forest Corp. has owned the land for more than 100 years and currently uses it for forestry. In total, the company owns more than 3,000 acres of land.
“It’s going to be a mix of warehouse and office space,” said Mackay. “We like to call them business suites. They are mini warehouses.”
He said the 1,500-sqaure-feet suites are ideal for local contractors or others who have outgrown their equipment storage spaces. A total of 30 suites will be contained within two separate buildings. The site’s six additional buildings will contain warehouse space.
“They will vary in size from 45,000 to 160,000 square feet, and they can be divided up into multiple tenants,” said Mackey.
For Mackay, this will be his company’s first warehouse development project. There is a shortage of warehouse space in the Capital Region where demand is high. According to Mackay, many prospective tenants don’t meet the zoning requirements that would allow them to be tenants in the Luther Forest Tech Campus. Mackay’s proposed Luther Forest Business Park would be located adjacent to the campus.
“There has been a constant denial of applicants that would like to be in the Luther Forest Tech Campus including the big Scannell project that was supposed to go in there,” said Mackay. “The tech campus does not have the correct zoning for the people that have wanted to be in there. You can’t just have a warehouse with a shipping facility or something like that.”
Scannell Properties recently abandoned plans to build warehouse space in the Luther Forest Tech Campus. Zoning changes would have been necessary in order for the company to build five warehouses with more than two million square feet of warehouse space.
Mackay is awaiting subdivision and site plan approval from the Town of Stillwater but has already started construction of a through road in the park. He is cautiously optimistic that construction of phase one of the project could begin in the fall.
“There are always hiccups, but I think it will go fairly smoothly,” said Mackay. “After approvals, building permits and infrastructure, the building suites will go up first. Best case scenario for those would be to have them ready in October or November.”
From start to finish, the project is expected to take three years to complete. Mackay expects to invest upwards of $60 million in the project, and he is working with Lansing Engineering of Malta, DN Excavating in Castleton-On-Hudson and Franco Construction in Ballston Spa.
“The whole point of this project is to prep Luther Forest for a successful sixth and seventh generation,” said Mackay who has a 15-month-old son. “Forestry will always be a part of it, but with the way this area has been growing over the past 10 years or so, it was time to pivot.”
As part of that pivot, in recent years, Mackay devoted considerable time and energy to gaining approval for construction of a 39-lot housing subdivision and 260 apartments. Both projects were sold and are currently under construction.