BY REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Albany Medical Center plans to build a three-story Ambulatory Care Center at 1769 Union St., it announced on Sept. 14.
The facility, which will provide outpatient surgery, urgent care, laboratory services and other services, is expected to be completed in September 2016.
The construction will require the demolition of some properties on Union Street and Troy Place, including a dentist’s office.
The developer of the project, Lecce Development Co., has purchased five homes — at 2 Troy Place, 4 Troy Place, 1765 Union St., 1769 Union St., and 1775 Union St. The company also purchased a dentist’s office at 1771 Union St. and former post office at 1759 Union St., creating an almost-continuous parcel with a built-in green space on the two Troy Place lots.
“This is one of the only areas that’s zoned residential professional, which allows for medical professional buildings with a special use permit,” Niskayuna town planner Laura Robertson said.
Lou Lecce of Lecce Development Co. said he realized the area’s commercial potential even before Albany Medical Center approached them about their plans to expand in the area.
“I purchased 1759 Union Street back in November,” Lecce said. Initially, Albany Medical Center was planning a simple urgent care center. However, plans grew as the developer discovered he could expand the parcel.
“I started talking to some of the residents there who wanted to sell,” Lecce said.
Among the homeowners, there was one holdout. The Buckley family at 1767 Union St. plans to stay put, even as construction surrounds their hundred-plus-year-old home.
Janice Buckley, a mother of eight, said she and her husband Ivan considered the $275,000 offer they were made and eventually turned it down.
“I said to my husband, ‘I’m not moving ’til my kids are off to college,’ ” Buckley said.
By that standard, it’ll be a while. While she talked, her youngest zoomed around the living room in a red Little Tykes car the Buckleys bought when the family next door held a moving sale after accepting Lecce Development’s offer.
Practically speaking, Buckley said she and her husband didn’t feel $275,000 would be enough for them to pay off their home, which they purchased for around $150,000 eight years ago, with money left over for moving expenses and a bigger place.
Standing on her porch and looking at the homes on either side of her, which would soon be gone, Buckley said she was disappointed the others hadn’t held out.
“I don’t think they should tear down these perfectly good homes,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right. I’m not the only one.”
Buckley missed the public hearing for the project, but wrote the town a letter expressing her concerns.
It didn’t change the outcome of the project, but Buckley said she’s not afraid to take her stand without the next-door neighbors.
“I’ll be on my own private little island, and I’ll be OK with that,” she said.
Beth Jacobs, who lives nearby on Van Antwerp Road, said she’s worried about the traffic on Upper Union St., where she often walks her dog, nicknamed Muppet. “The traffic through here is going to be a nightmare,” she said.
Robertson said she hoped improvements to Upper Union Street that would make the medical building more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists would be completed alongside or shortly after the facility itself.
She also expressed concern about drainage in the area, which already floods easily.
“There isn’t a house on this block that doesn’t have a sump pump,” she said.
Lecce noted the town had carefully reviewed the site’s plans for drainage and had approved everything.
“There will be no drainage problems,” he said. Other neighbors felt more positive about the project. During an April 27 public hearing held by the Niskayuna Planning Board, Keith Money of 6 Troy Place expressed support for the project as long as his home was carefully protected during the demolition process.
The homes next to Money’s, at 2 Troy Place and 4 Troy Place, are in disrepair. They will be replaced with green space.
“I’m all in favor of the project, in and of itself,” Money said during the public hearing. Money could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Before the Ambulatory Care Center can be constructed, Lecce Development Co. has to provide a replacement for the dental offices of Kent Molino and Todd Vaccaro, currently at 1771 Union St.
“This is a two-phase project,” Lecce said. “One of the buildings that I purchased is Dr. Molino’s dentist office. I will be building him a new building at 1759 Union, which is the old post office. So he’s moving to a brand new building at the corner.”
Lecce said he plans to begin demolition on the old post office on Sept. 21. Construction on the new dental office is set to begin next month.
Once Molino and Vaccaro have moved their practices, a second round of demolition will knock out the remaining homes and vacated dental office. If things go as planned, the second round of work will begin in January or February.
“It’s going to be great for Upper Union Street,” said Lecce, who lives in town off Rosendale Road. “It’s going to bring people to the Upper Union Street area to eat, to shop.”
“It’s a good fit,” Robertson said. “People are getting treatments that are private, painful, whatever. It’s nicer if they don’t have to drive an hour and a half.”