Colonie Center; Colonie, New York

Boscov's (former Steinbach) at Colonie Center in Colonie, New York

Anyone who’s been paying attention–and that likely includes most of the regular readers of this here blog–knows that malls aren’t actually in trouble. Sure, a good many individual malls are in trouble, and far more are closing than opening. But the species itself isn’t troubled; it’s just that why people go to malls has changed.

With our busy schedules and long American workweeks, big box centers make sense. You can swing in, grab what you need, and get home. The functional enclosed mall serves less and less purpose for this reason, but anyone who’s traipsed around to see a lot of malls all over the country (and we’re certainly guilty as charged) will agree that the top-tier malls, the biggest and most dominant centers in every area, are doing better than ever. Why is this? The really large centers are actually shopping destinations on their own, and Americans still love to shop.

Macy's at Colonie Center in Colonie, New York

That’s why I feel the need to give some kudos to the current, in-progress renovation and repositioning of the Colonie Center, the older of the two mega-malls serving the Capital Region of New York. The larger and more dominant Crossgates Mall, which opened in 1984 just a mile or so away, draws people from over 60 miles in every direction. In the time since, Colonie Center has soldiered on with a different set of tenants, but new owners Feldman Mall Properties have decided to aggressively re-position and retenant the aging center. Here’s the deal:

Colonie Center opened in 1966 as the first enclosed mall in the Albany area, with a strategic location between Albany, Troy, and Schenectady, right near the intersection of I-87 and I-90, and along US-5. Sears and Macy’s were initial anchor stores. For twenty years, the mall was the dominant center in the region, pulling shoppers from all over east-central New York. Even the 1984 opening of Crossgates Mall didn’t seem to dent its success. Colonie Center’s management was proactive during most of the center’s existence, and in 1992 expanded the mall substantially, adding a Steinbach department store in the center of the mall and expanding the length of the main concourse to the north along Wolf Road. At this time, Macy’s moved to the 300,000 square-foot, grand brick facade store (their old one was swallowed up by mall space) that they still occupy today. Steinbach closed in 1995, but was replaced by Boscov’s. Macy’s, Boscov’s, and Sears remain as the 1.2 million-square-foot mall’s three primary anchor tenants today, and they were joined in the late 1990s/early 200s by Christmas Tree Shops and Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear, respectively.

In 2005, the mall was sold to Feldman Mall Properties, and they are attempting to rebrand the mall–which had clearly been suffering at least some amount due to Crossgates–as an entertainment-oriented destination. The front of the mall is abuzz with construction activity, which will add a large, tall Regal Cinemas to be cantilevered over the mall as well as Barnes & Noble and L.L. Bean as new anchor stores, while also bringing new restaurants. The plan? According to the placards placed in the mall, they want Colonie Center to be “Downtown Albany” (a bit presumptuous, but I support the concept); a place to gather, browse, eat, drink, and be entertained. The interior of the mall, which was in good shape to begin with, was given yet another facelift that dressed the mall in an Adirondack theme, complete with working fireplaces, television lounges, and living room style arrangements. I’ve seen much of this at other malls, but it was more well done here.

Most importantly, Feldman seems to “get it:” They understand that the malls of the future will be places people want to spend leisure time, not places targeted towards the convenience-oriented consumer. Plenty of people will still want to get out of the house, to be able to have dinner and browse stores and see a movie. Tenants like Barnes & Noble and L.L. Bean–lifestyle brands that offer leisure products people actually enjoy pawing at and browsing–will thrive in this arrangement. Similarly, mid-sized metropolitan areas like Albany–cities that are substantially-sized but which lack the in-town shopping or entertainment offerings of larger cities–will likely embrace changes like the one underway at Colonie Center.

Here are the placards detailing Feldman’s plans for Colonie Center:

Placards discussing plans for renovation of Colonie Center Mall Placards discussing plans for renovation of Colonie Center Mall Placards discussing plans for renovation of Colonie Center Mall

In addition, one of Colonie Center’s new tenants as a result of its repositioning is a men’s formalwear shop called Spector’s, that I include a picture of due to their store’s blatant nod towards mid-century retail design. Could it foretell a trend?

Spector's at Colonie Center in Colonie, New York

Sears at Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Construction at the Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Colonie Center in Colonie, New York

Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Colonie Center in Colonie, New York

Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Colonie Center in Colonie, New York Colonie Center in Colonie, New York

27 Responses to “Colonie Center; Colonie, New York”

  1. A nice mall. Wide open, nicely decored and I like the hanging arrow signs from the ceiling which remind me of a Holyoke Mall from long past. It’s got flare, not terribly out of the ordinary but definitely looks like a vital place to shop. Can’t say I’d spend too much time admiring the architecture. Sears, of course, can’t help looking maybe a tad dated…

    If “Spectors” is a specter to future anchor trends becoming classier, I think I like that.

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  2. We live in Bucharest, Romania but we’re from the US. The picture of Spector’s caught my eye because that mid-century look is all the rage here! I like it too.

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  3. Actually, Spector’s isn’t new. It has been in Colonie Center since at least the turn of the century, originally being located in what will soon be the LL Bean space and prior to the new location being in a couple interim locations (mostly in the former Abercrombie and Fitch on the upper level). Prior to this, they were located closer to downtown and for a few years had both that location and the Colonie Center location open.

    For all the improvement, some eggs were broken in that Feldman barred CDTA’s buses from the property for the duration of the construction, exiling them to a stop on Wolf Road which has gotten the ire of the disabled and elderly (now forced to walk a sizable distance, sometimes crossing a busy Wolf Road) and mall workers (many of which use CDTA to get to work). As an able bodied male it hasn’t harmed me, but Feldman has gotten negative press and on-site protests over the matter. Whether this remains when the construction is complete or when Feldman inevitably dumps the mall remains to be seen.

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  4. Spector’s looks really nice, as does the rest of the mall. I really like the Macy’s, though the sign is largely invisible outside.

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  5. I like the Sears store. It’s the only thing that looks remotely original in this mall. The classic “Sears and Roebuck” sign over the entrances still exist as well.

    As for Christmas Tree Shops, that was previously Herman’s World of Sports, and the new Macy’s was, at the time, a prototype for the company.

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  6. Now if Feldman would do the same with their mall here in Tallahassee, I’d be happy. Instead, Feldman has just stood pat here, which makes little sense specially with the current competition in town, plus what is being proposed (2 separate million plus square foot lifestyle centers).

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  7. So, are they just adding big-box retailers to the outside of the mall? They aren’t de-malling it, are they?
    I think shopping habits have changed, but does anyone really think they can get “in and out” quickly in a power center? It’s worse than the mall when it comes to cars. It must be a perception issue. New and fancy (and perhaps, shiney), always wins out.
    Scott

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  8. Nope, they’re not de-malling. They’re merely adding these tenants to the side of the mall that faces towards Wolf Road, so they’ll have both exterior and interior entrances.

    On the whole, I think this is the right way to reposition a shopping mall. Leisure-oriented tenants who offer products that people don’t tend to buy in a rush (who’s in a rush when buying a book, or a kayak??) but rather when they’re shopping as a leisure activity, make the most sense in malls currently. People wont’ care about the time/convenience issue and will be more apt to cross-shop, benefiting the rest of the mall tenants.

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  9. This is what is being done to a few malls here in Wisconsin as well, mostly in the Milwaukee area. Brookfield Square, Mayfair and Bayshore Town Center (formerly Bayshore Mall) have all fronted their main ‘enclosed’ buildings, with lifestyle components. The new mall that’ll be built west of Waukesha will also be a hybrid enclosed mall w/ lifestyle components.

    They’re all tackling the parking issues with new parking decks at the back of the malls, away from where they are not visible.

    A smart move by the owners of this particular mall, and if it goes off right, this one should be around for a long time to come.

    Gotta love the retro look of Spectors too. Reminds me of storefronts of the 1950s-late 1970s that I recall seeing at some malls that were untouched. They have eventually ether been remodeled, or seen the wrecking ball in recent years.

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  10. I haven’t been to this mall since visiting my relatives in Colonie in 2004 or so, so I have yet to see the newer Adirondack theme. I must say, it is kind of sad to know that they no longer have the fake palm trees inside. That was certainly an interesting site to see in Capitaland.

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  11. I went to this mall a week ago and tons and tons of construction was being done and the food court was closed and ll. bean is coming soon and cheesecake factory will open.

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  12. The new renovations are really nice and very much what this mall needed. It never sank all that low, but the number of shoppers outside the anchors had seemed really thin for a while. As someone above noted, Spectors has been there for a while (having moved from a near-downtown location), but now being next to Macy’s, and with the cheaper/trendier Christopher’s Menswear right above it, there’s something of an anchor area for men’s shopping that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

    Just for the record, there used to be a stand-alone cinema behind Colonie Center, long-gone. If you see the kinds of crowds that go to the 18-screen cinema at Crossgates, you can see what kind of traffic that drives into that end of the mall, so I’ve always felt Colonie Center, whose scale I like much better, was missing out by not having a cinema.

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  13. It is great to see that Colonie Center is still doing well and the construction/remerchandising they are doing is quite impressive.

    As a youngster, I remember visiting this mall…this was before the construction that expanded the mall. I remember at each end of the mall, there was a carpeted stairwell with a fountain underneath each. Each fountain (both were kind of small) had about 6 jets and red and blue lights…very cool. The mall was a little dark and the 1st construction seems to have brightened the place up.

    This mall is also at a great location and its remerchandising will definitely make it a unique place to shop in the Albany area.

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  14. If I knew what I was looking for, I could get in and out of a mall as quick as a Wal-Mart. Here is a blogpost for the mall: http://retail-stories.blogspot.com/2006/11/colonie-center-albany-new-york.html

    My thoughts on this mall is a bright star where lifestyle centers roam. By sprucing up by adding pleasant sidewalks around the mall and adding new restaurants and whatnot, they are creating a new area without destroying a perfectly good mall.

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  15. I just got back from a vacation in Albany. The purpose of my trip, believe it or not, was to visit both Crossgates Mall and Colonie Center.

    In my mind, Colonie Center was clearly the superior of the two malls, for the reasons listed below:

    *The indoor design of Colonie looked absolutely magnificent, whereas the pastel color scheme of Crossgates’ interior looked quite dated. Additionally, Colonie has plenty of comfortable seating areas spread throughout the mall, while Crossgates just offers hard benches to sit on.

    *The middle to upper class clientale found at Colonie was quite a contrast to some seedy types who happened to be shopping at Crossgates. (In fairness, however, there were plenty of middle class shoppers at Crossgates as well.)

    *As I mentioned before, Colonie has zero anchor vacancies while Crossgates has two of them. And, I consider the anchor selection of Sears and Boscov’s to be superior to JCPenney.

    *While both malls each have a Macy’s, the Macy’s at Colonie is far nicer and bigger than the one at Crossgates. (Although I have been very critical of Macy’s for the terrible housekeeping found in many of their stores, their store at Colonie is absolutely beautiful. Also, I want to state that the Sears at Colonie is incredibly nice looking as well.)

    *I find the “mini-anchors” at Colonie–Barnes & Noble, Christmas Tree Shops, and L.L. Bean–to be preferable to the Best Buy, Borders, Burlington Coat Factory, and Dick’s Sporting Goods found at Crossgates Mall.

    It should be noted, however, that I still enjoyed my time at Crossgates Mall. After all, Crossgates has at least three things going for it: its immense size (it was truly a very long walk from one end of the mall to the other), far more dining options than Colonie, and the presence of two stores I really like–Harry & David and Williams Sonoma–that are not found at Colonie.

    Before I conclude this post, I just want to mention that according to Wikipedia, the size of each of the anchor’s at Colonie Center is as follows:

    *Macy’s: 300,000 sq. ft.
    *Sears: 246,000 sq. ft.
    *Boscov’s: 228,000 sq. ft.

    Note that the mall’s first Macy’s store was only 180,000 sq. ft. And, back when Steinbach was an anchor, it building measured a mere 80,000 sq. ft. Because of the small size of the Steinbach building, Boscov’s decided to tear down that structure and construct a new store on site.

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  16. Where exactly is the new cinema at Colonie Center? I lived in Albany until late 2006, so I did not see any of the construction going on now.

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  17. This mall is so much nicer now, after the renovations. It had gotten really dumpy and dirty, a place where you wouldn’t be surprised if someone tried to sell you drugs, that awful. Now, it’s a destination, with stores we don’t have anywhere else in the area (Sephora, Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang’s, L.L. Bean). Plus, it’s got a Regal Cinema now, the first digital one in the region, in fact.

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  18. If they could get rid of Sears and put in a Bloomingdales or Nordstorm, that would put this mall over the top.

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  19. In response to Max’s post, the former Steinbach space was engulfed in the Boscov’s construction. If you look at the mall from above, you can see the original building within the newer Boscov’s construction.

    And to answer AJS’ question, the new theater is on a newly constructed third level above where the food court is.

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  20. Until the Macy-fication of America in 2006, the Colonie Center Macy’s was the northern-most outpost of Macy’s in New York State.

    It has always been a draw. I was there when the new store opened in 1991, and it was truly a Macy’s branch, not a Kaufmann’s or Filene’s converted to a Macy’s.

    The Boscov’s store there is also very well organized and stocked. I hope that Boscov’s pulls out of its current financial woes.

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  21. On a similar subject, since the Borders on Wolf Road has been closed for two years now, do you think it would be a good location for a Crate and Barrel to open up in? And does anyone think that the Borders there was nicer than the one now at Crossgates? I’m uncertain.

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  22. Re the question about Borders on Wolf Road: it was definitely superior, both in stock and layout, to the one in Crossgates. (It was also better than the current B&N in nearby Colonie Center.) Plus, it had a great little coffee bar and a much quirkier selection of titles in its music and film section. The “Wolf” Borders was always crowded; it was a social scene as well as a store. All in all, a sorely missed establishment.

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  23. I lived in Albany for two years and this was definitely a very nice mall. Much, MUCH better than Crossgates, but of course smaller. What was interesting was that I only saw it after an extensive refurbishment / image make over. From what I heard, it had formerly been a dumpy, dieing, and apparently unsafe mall that was the choice of vagrants to wander. They beat the odds and managed a complete turnaround, becoming the “nice” mall once again.

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  24. Well, I can’t believe I’ve never posted here. I live about halfway in between Colonie and Crossgates now. I agree with the earlier comment about Colonie being the superior mall. The only reason I ever go to Crossgates is for Orange Julius (the only one left in the areas – located just outside the abandoned Macy’s building. I hear they’re getting a Dave and Busters though, but not in the old Macy’s building.

    It’s truly interesting to read how Colonie Center has evolved over the years. After 50 years, it has finally officially taken out its earliest rival – Latham Circle Mall.

    The Frendlys has closed and remains an empty building. I used to love stopping by there and grabbing a milkshake while I walk. The Arbys in the food court is gone leaving one Food Court vacancy; THANKFULLY there is a new one less than one mile away on Wolf road. Still, the best food court in the area. There is now additionally a Five Guys and soon to be a Moe’s, just below the food court. However there is no “down” staircase or escalator.

    There are still large vacancies for most of the year on the Sears wing. One across from Radio Shack and one in the old FYE building. I loved the old FYE due to its large size, but the new one right next door is almost as large. I fear another large vacancy soon – the sports store across from Christmas Tree Shops – they’ve had a storewide sale all year so far. But still no one goes in.

    There is a new store – Time Warner Cable store which strangely enough also sells Verizon phones. It’s right in front of Christmas Tree Shops. It’s dark an unappealing so I didn’t go in.

    Finally to the reason I came here. Sears will be leasing a portion of their lower floor to Whole Foods grocery store. While initially excited, I’ve heard some bad things about them (from Trader Joes and Fresh Market fans). Most of the Sears store has been on clearance this year, but still the prices seem a bit too high. They’ve now walled off the southwest corner of the store. I didn’t get a look at the outside, but that must be where it’s going. Ironically enough, that means the closest store to the Sears Auto Center will no longer be Sears. Whole Foods does not look like it will connect to the mall, so if you need to pick up a few groceries while walking the mall, you have to go outside. Unless they add a door within Sears.

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  25. KKR Invests in 1.3M-SF Colonie Center in Albany
    Apr. 11, 2013 Kelly Stratton

    NEW YORK—KKR affiliates and clients, including KKR Financial Holdings LLC (KFN), in partnership with Colonie Pacific, has acquired Colonie Center, a 1.3 million-sq.-ft. regional mall in Albany, N.Y. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

    The center, situated on 91 acres, includes more than 113 stores and is anchored by Macy’s, Boscov’ and Sears. Located off of Interstate 87, the property is located in close proximity to the University at Albany and generates an estimated $245 million in retail sales, including anchors with specialty retail stores producing an estimated $400 per sq. ft. Colonie Center underwent significant renovations in 2007.

    Additional tenants include Aeropostale, American Eagle, Christmas Tree Shops, Express and Sephora, among others. The shopping mall also includes a 13-screen Regal Cinemas. Whole Foods is slated to open in 2014.

    Colonie is KKR’s third retail real estate investment since 2011 and ninth overall.
    .

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    E Reply:

    @SEAN, Thanks for posting. I had no idea. I wonder what changes this will yield for the mall. Poor management can drive even a successful mall into the ground.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @E, My plesure.

    Your above comment is so true as poor management can seel the fate of any mall.

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