With each swing of the excavator’s boom, another section of Capitol Plaza crumbled to the ground. By noon on Wednesday, demolition crews had reduced a modern addition to the defunct shopping center — about a quarter of the 29,000-square-foot building — to a pile of broken cinder blocks and twisted steel girders. Spectators periodically pulled up to the demolition site to watch the half-century-old structure crumble.
But instead of remorse, most onlookers expressed relief to see the badly dilapidated building torn down. For nearly two years, the dormant plaza has loomed over the bustling intersection of Curry Road and Altamont Avenue.
“It’s about time they got rid of that eyesore,” said Tony DiLallo, a Rotterdam resident who drove by the plaza so his two young sons, Nicholas and Sammy, could watch the excavators at work.
Pat Cerone, a Rotterdam resident of more than 33 years, was also content to watch the building toppled. She felt no nostalgia for Capitol Plaza and hasn’t come across any fellow residents that do.
“No one I’ve talked to is unhappy about it coming down,” she said.
Cerone was hoping the demolition project might touch off others around the town, such as the rotted-out Curry Road Shopping Center a few miles away or a vacant commercial building on Guilderland Avenue, just a few blocks away from Town Hall. She considered leveling Capitol Plaza a good start for the town, but sees other vacant commercial buildings that need to go.
“One eyesore down and a few more to go,” she said. “They can work their way up Curry Road and take them down as they go.”
Town and county officials placed the demolition on a fast track so that developers from BBL Construction Services can begin constructing a Recovery Sports Grill and a bank on the site. The new restaurant will occupy 7,300 square feet on the 1.23 acre lot, with the adjacent bank taking up 2,500 square feet.
The project relies on a $65,000 grant from the county’s Metroplex Development Authority and a $60,000 grant from the Rotterdam Industrial Development Agency to make the site shovel-ready. The developer also stressed the need to move quickly on the project and anticipates completing the restaurant by January.
“We’ve done a few of these now,” said Brent Kosoc, BBL’s project executive. “We can almost do them in our sleep.”
BBL closed on the property with former owner Jeff Musiker on Tuesday. Now demolition crews will make their way from the Deforest Avenue side of the building toward the kitschy Capitol Plaza sign on top of the structure.
Workers on the site said the sign, a hallmark of the structure since it was built during the 1950s, will likely be toppled with the building. Work on the site is expected to continue until mid-September, when construction is scheduled to begin.
The demolition brings to an end a saga that started more than four years ago, when a private developer tried to construct a 14,550-square-foot Walgreens pharmacy on the site of the building, which contained 13 businesses at the time. But the project languished until Walgreens abandoned the project in 2009, leaving behind an empty and increasingly shabby-looking building.
Ray Gillen, chairman of the Metroplex Development Authority, credited the close partnership between town and county agencies for bringing the project from concept to reality in about two months. Over the course of three days earlier this month, the project received approvals from town’s Planning Commission, Metroplex and then the Rotterdam IDA.
“The Capitol Plaza project was put together in record time due to the close cooperative relationship between the county’s economic development team at Metroplex, the town of Rotterdam, the Rotterdam IDA and the town Planning Commission,” he said Wednesday.