GE’s campus upgrade all about first impressions

Company seeks more-welcoming space

December 16, 2014
BY BETHANY BUMP Gazette Reporter
Reach Gazette reporter Bethany Bump at 395-3107 or  .

General Electric wants to give visitors to its Schenectady campus a better first impression.


The company is spending several million dollars to spruce up its main reception area, with extensive renovations planned for Building 33 and upgrades to the surrounding parking lots, landscaping, sidewalks, curbs, guard houses, gates, lighting and signage. The project is also designed to ease traffic congestion outside the main gate.


“This is all about first impressions,” said GE spokesman Thomas Schwendler. “The building is where many visitors get their first impressions of GE and we’re excited to be able to offer our guests the best when they walk through our doors next year.”    Visitors typically get their first taste of the GE campus at Building 33, which is the first building on the left when you follow the signs along Interstate-890 and Exit 4B to the GE plant. Built in 1959, it has served as a reception area where visitors receive security clearance to enter the plant with a GE escort. It has housed some offices for human resources personnel and communications equipment, and a Sunmark Federal Credit Union branch for nearly 30 years.


Nearly 22,000 people passed through the reception area last year, Schwendler said. The 8,135-square-foot first floor area will feature a conference room and displays showcasing the technologies and work being done by GE in Schenectady. An additional station will be added to reception to expedite the security clearance and badge process. Several private offices on the second floor will be used as interview rooms and a conference room where contractors can undergo safety orientation.


“It’s certainly going to be a welcoming place, and a place where we’ll be able to set up displays of products and technologies we have to offer,” he said. “So it will be very dramatic in terms of the change from what we’ve had to where we’re going.”


Over the summer, GE moved reception operations to a trailer in the parking lot nearby and Sunmark’s office to the cafeteria building on campus to allow for preliminary work inside Building 33.


Renovations can begin in January and are expected to wrap up in the third quarter of 2015. The project is on the part of GE’s 628-acre campus that falls within the town of Rotterdam, just west of Interstate-890, so it needs town approval first.


Rotterdam Senior Planner Peter Comenzo said Monday the Planning Commission is prepared to grant final site plan review at its meeting tonight, clearing the way for GE to get a building permit and then start renovations.


“Their welcome center is kind of bleak currently,” he said. “So this is a fairly straightforward project that will make it a little bit nicer and allow traffic to flow a little better.”


The project will add about 20 parking spaces and a third gate by reception to ease traffic congestion. The layout will be tweaked, as well, to make the area safer.


“This is intended to improve the traffic pattern since visitors have had to cross traffic and through a security checkpoint to enter the GE campus,” Schwendler said.


The bidding process is underway, so an exact cost has yet to be determined for the project, he said.


“But it’s likely to be several million dollars,” he added.

Part of GE’s Schenectady campus is seen on Monday. Inset: A rendering of the renovations proposed for Building 33 on the campus. GE will spend several million dollars to spruce up its main reception area, with upgrades also planned for the surrounding parking lots, landscaping, sidewalks, curbs, guard houses, gates, lighting and signage.


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