More self-storage proposed for Western Avenue as Crossgates continues sell-off

— From Guilderland Realty Partners submittal to town of Guilderland

A developer is proposing a three-story, 93,600-square-foot indoor climate-controlled self-storage facility at 1583 and 1593 Western Ave. The land is owned by Crossgates Mall, which currently is in the midst of a property sell-off. 

GUILDERLAND — A developer is looking to construct 93,600 square feet of self-storage space on vacant land along Western Avenue that was once the location of a mobile-home park. 

Guilderland Realty Partners, LLC is proposing a three-story, 93,600-square-foot indoor climate-controlled self-storage facility at 1583 and 1593 Western Ave.

The hours of operation — when an employee will be on site — are proposed to be Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 pm., and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with Sunday hours still to be determined. Customers would be able to access the facility between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week.

The properties, which previously were the site of the 30-spot Magley’s Trailer Park, are currently owned by Crossgates Mall and require a lot-line adjustment, with the applicant proposing merging approximately 2 acres of the existing 2.8 acres at 1583 Western Ave. with the existing 1.9 acres at 1593 Western Ave.

Guilderland Realty Partners has a contract with Crossgates to purchase the newly-drawn parcel, which would make it the fourth property the mall has sold off since May.

The project was before the planning board at its Sept. 14 meeting for a site-plan review; the zoning board is the lead agency for the proposal.

Setback and parking issues were major concerns for the planning board as it reviewed the project. 

Town Planner Kenneth Kovalchick told board members all 14 parking spaces are proposed to be located within the front setback, which would require an area variance. 

The properties are located in Guilderland’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) District, and the town’s zoning code, with a few exceptions, doesn’t allow parking to be located in the property-line setback, which Chairman Stephen Feeney thought was 15 feet and was confirmed by project engineer Nicholas Costa.

Costa, in response to a question from Feeney, said he was not aware of the variance needed for parking. 

It seemed as if Costa probably could have designed the parking “to not need variances,” Feeney said. 

Later in the meeting, Feeney said of the zoning board granting a variance for parking, “I don’t know why they [would] give it to you, but they could. I don’t know why they would.” 

While noting the height of the building — three stories (buildings within 75 feet of Western Avenue in the TOD are allowed to be a maximum height of 35 feet), in relation to others in the area — board members asked the applicant about the location of the structure relative to its neighbors. 

“Generally, we typically try to hold the building line,” Feeney said, later adding, “so you don’t get this hodgepodge of structures.”

The buildings adjacent to 1583 and 1593 Western Ave. all appear to have setbacks of at least 50 feet from their front property lines, according to the town and county’s interactive mapping. 

The board was told by Tom Burke, the applicant, “The bigger issue here is there’s an economic factor or financial component to this thing: the cost of the land, cost of the development, the required size of the building in order to yield any sort of an economic return, the requirements of self storage with respect to the geometry of the building, the length and the width.”

He continued, “And I can appreciate the concern of the board about the parking in the front, additional green space, and so forth. And we’ll certainly take all that into account and try and come back with the very best plan that we can, but I can’t allow [Costa] to negotiate and say, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it.’ … I can’t play ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’ I’ve got to be cognizant of the fact that I’ve got handcuffs on, there are limitations as to what I can do. And, frankly, what the seller of the property is willing to do.”


Pyramid’s big picture

Crossgates Mall’s parent company, Pyramid, has sought to move beyond retail for some time, expanding into apartments and hotels in recent years. But the pandemic made it difficult for Pyramid to pay off well over $1 billion in loans, which led to forbearances, lawsuits, and what appears to be a shift in its business model. Bloomberg reported in March of last year that “the pandemic has hit few mall operators harder than Pyramid Management Group.”

Ten of Pyramid’s mortgaged properties (it owns 14) tracked by credit-rating agency DBRS Morningstar have had a recent collective drop in their appraised of 40 percent, from $3.35 billion to $1.98 billion. Crossgates saw its appraised value drop from $470 million to $281 million

The mall, which missed millions in loan payments over the course of the pandemic, still owes about $248 million on its 2012 refinanced mortgage, which was due to mature in May; however, Crossgates received a year’s extension from creditors — of the $5.46 billion worth of bundled loans in which Crossgates’ 2012 mortgage can be found, $4.72 billion was due to be paid out after May 2022. 

Pyramid’s total debt on the 10 properties adds up to $1.77 billion. When issued, the mortgages had an aggregate value of $1.95 billion — eight of the loans have been on Pyramid’s books for at least a decade. 

The issue with repayment is the commercial mortgage-backed securities industry’s loan structure, which is designed to have low monthly payments, as if the money were being paid back over multiple decades while actually having five- and 10-year payback periods and a large lump-sum owed at the end of the loan term. This comes with its own set of issues as borrowers can get caught in a constant cycle of refinancing, which becomes more difficult to pull off when the underlying asset isn’t worth what it once was.

However, Pyramid in recent months has been successful in extending some $700 million in loans that were due to mature earlier this summer, including receiving a 10-year reprieve from a $30 million balloon payment on Crossgates Commons.

Crossgates Mall saw its net operating income bounce back in 2021 to its pre-pandemic level, taking in $28.2 million last year up from $16.4 million in 2020; the mall took in $28.2 million in 2019.

But the first six months of this year have seen a near 9-percent drop in income compared to the same period last year, from $14.3 million in January to June 2021 to $13.2 million in the first six months of 2022. 

Pyramid initially proposed a 222-unit residential development on Rapp Road, on the Macy’s side of Crossgates Mall, but effectively sold the project in June to the United Group of Companies of Troy for $5.43 million. In Massachusetts, one of the company’s recent apartment projects is now due to be owned and operated by a major residential developer, according to The Boston Globe. 

In May, Pyramid unloaded a 1.5-acre parcel to a Viscusi Builders’ limited liability company for $605,000. In February, the Rotterdam developer proposed building 24 apartments on the site, which is sandwiched between Crossgates Mall and the Hilton hotel on Western Avenue.

In August, a hospitality company out of Maine paid $30.3 million for the dual-branded Hilton. 



At the Sept. 14 meeting, the planning board ultimately signed off on Guilderland Realty Partners’s site plan, but made recommendations to the zoning board, the lead agency for the proposal.

The planning board recommends:

— The New York State Department of Transportation approves access to Route 20.

In his memo to the board on the proposal, planner Kovalchik wrote, “Considering the low vehicle trip generation associated with self-storage facilities, two driveways for the proposed use may not be necessary”; 

— The applicant provides landscaping along the foundation of the building and between the parking lot at the front of the site and Western Avenue;

— The applicant tries to hold the building line with existing neighboring structures on Western Avenue; and 

— The applicant considers an alternative parking layout that avoids the need for a variance. 

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