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University neutral on controversial apartment plans

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Tensions surfaced at the Pine Hill Neighborhood Association meeting last Tuesday over a potential development to be built on Western Ave.

Construction of a six story, 327 bed apartment building with indoor parking and street level retail space would replace an existing office building currently at the site.

GSX Ventures, a Maryland based firm, is the project’s developer. Other local GSX projects include the Aspen, now Block 75, and the soon to be completed Auden apartments, both located on Washington Avenue.

The firm’s website describes GSX as specializing in discovery and repositioning of properties. Nine of twelve projects featured on the GSX’s site are student housing complexes.

The proposed site is just steps away from University Plaza shopping center on the Western Avenue side of the University at Albany campus. If built, the apartments would likely be marketed to UAlbany students.

“We as a University do not have a public position in favor of/against the project,” said director of Community and Relations Jordan Carleo-Evangelist in a statement. “Because the neighbors are upset, we’ve tried very hard to stay out of it.”

“We have a situation here on Western Avenue that I think is very unfair,” said local resident Nancy Harrigan. “We believe that building is a tremendous blow against sustainability of that neighborhood.”

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan also shared her concerns at the neighborhood association meeting. “This project is not one that I support,” Sheehan said.

In January, Sheehan wrote a letter to the City of Albany Planning Board urging it to not allow the project to move forward.

“Given the significant and valid concerns raised by residents and business owners, I respectfully request that any application of a conditional use permit for this project be denied until concerns regarding potential impacts to traffic, sound, light, and water infrastructure are adequately addressed,” the letter read.

“I believe the impacts here are really extreme,” community member Steve Burke said.

Burke measured the site and found that the development’s footprint would take up the entire site, potentially affecting fire department access to the building.

“It’s an urban building in a relatively suburban, single residential area. It’s incompatible, it’s inconceivable and it’s irresponsible.”

“The project is still in its infancy,” said Vincent Rigosu, president of the Eagle Hill Neighborhood Association. “We don’t know what is going to happen to this project.”

Jon Grant, the principal of GSX Ventures, is expected to return to Albany soon to further discuss the project with city officials.

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