COLONIE CENTER
Central Avenue and Wolf Road
Albany County (Town of Colonie), New York

The first shopping mall in New York's Capital Region was built on a 96 acre plot. This was located 4.9 miles northwest of the New York State Capitol, in a section of Albany County known as Town of Colonie. The site had been occupied by the Colonie Country Club between 1915 and 1963 and was adjacent to the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) and Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87) highways.

COLONIE CENTER was designed by Los Angeles-based Victor Gruen Associates. It was the fifth mall built by Homart Development, a subsidiary of Sears & Roebuck. Ground was broken for the project October 16, 1964. The first operational store, a 2-level (180,000 square foot) Macy's, opened for business March 24, 1966. The debut of a 2-level (210,000 square foot) Sears came soon after.

A "preview showing" of various inline stores took place October 26, 1966. The official mall dedication was held November 1st. COLONIE CENTER encompassed 830,000 leasable square feet and sixty-two stores and services. Charter tenants included Mack Drugs, Zales Jewelers, Suburban Gal, the Barnsider Restaurant, Howard Clothes for Men, Kennedy's apparel, Flah's ladies' wear and the Colonie Cafeteria.

Two movie theaters operated in the vicinity of the original mall. The National General Corporation Fox Colonie Theatre was located across Wolf Road from the complex. It showed its first feature January 8, 1969. The Hellman Cinema Center Theater, another single-screen venue, was a southeastern outparcel of the mall. It made its debut in April 1969.

There would be several commercial competitors for COLONIE CENTER. NORTHWAY MALL {.1 mile southwest, in Albany County} was completed in 1970. MOHAWK MALL {5.7 miles northwest, in Schenectady County} also opened in 1970.

CLIFTON COUNTRY MALL {10.2 miles northeast, in Saratoga County} was officially dedicated in 1976. LATHAM CORNERS CENTER {3.4 miles northeast, in Albany County} was a strip complex that was renovated into the fully-enclosed LATHAM CIRCLE MALL in 1977.

Soon after, COLONIE CENTER came up against its most formidable rival. CROSSGATES MALL {1.6 miles southwest, in Guilderland} was dedicated in 1984. As a competitive measure, the owners of COLONIE CENTER announced a renovation and expansion of their 18-year-old shopping center. However, the project never got off the ground.

In May 1989, a revised renovation got underway that was done in three phases. The first consisted of the construction of a 3-level (305,000 square foot) Macy's, which was dedicated on October 3, 1990. During Phase Two, the original Macy's was gutted and rebuilt as sixty inline stores, including a 10-bay Food Court.

Phase Three of the remodeling added a 2-level (86,000 square foot), Asbury Park, New Jersey-based Steinbach. This store made its debut October 17, 1991. The 68 million dollar mall renovation concluded with a $75 per person, black tie charity gala, held November 1, 1991. The event was hosted by singer-actress Diahann Carroll, with festivities continuing for 10 days.

COLONIE CENTER now encompassed 1,177,800 square feet and had surpassed the 875,000 square foot CROSSGATES MALL in size. The retail roster had grown from ninety stores and services to one hundred and fifty, making COLONIE CENTER the largest shopping mall in the entire Capital Region.

The next mall enlargement involved the expansion of two existing spaces. A 30,000 square foot store on the upper level, which had been occupied by Flah's and -then- Herman's World of Sporting Goods, was enlarged by 20,000 square feet. Christmas Tree Shops opened here in September 1998.

Steinbach had shuttered their store in August 1995. At first, a multiplex cinema was considered as its replacement. However, the store was eventually enlarged into a 2-level (240,000 square foot), Reading, Pennsylvania-based Boscov's, which held its grand opening October 30, 1998.

Great Neck, New York-based Feldman Mall Properties acquired COLONIE CENTER in February 2005 and embarked on a 110 million dollar makeover the following November. This time around, 123,000 square feet of interior space was remodeled. New lighting and flooring were installed and a 2-story fireplace became a fixture of Center Court. This first phase face lift was completed in July 2006.

Next, the north-facing front of the complex was extended with an open-air Streetscape. This utilized previously-existing and newly-built space. In all, 105,000 square feet were added. Cheesecake Factory was dedicated August 29, 2006. L.L. Bean began business September 14, 2007. P.F. Chang's China Bistro welcomed its first diners October 8, 2007. Barnes & Noble opened November 13 of the same year.

The third -and final- phase of the COLONIE CENTER makeover involved construction of the Regal Colonie Center Stadium 13 multiplex. Built on a third level, on top of the mall's Main Entrance, the new movie house premiered on May 16, 2008.

With its latest reinvention, COLONIE CENTER had cemented its position as the preeminent shopping center in Greater Albany. Its GLA now measured 1,495,800 square feet.

Feldman Mall Properties, who ran short on cash during the mall's extensive renovation, brought in Chicago-based Heitman Value Partners, as co-owner, in 2006. In June 2009, Heitman bought out Feldman and established one hundred percent ownership of the property.

The center was sold again in April 2013. The new owner was a joint venture of New York City-based KKR (Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts Company) and El Segundo, California's Pacific Retail Capital Partners.

Sears downsized their COLONIE CENTER store in the Twenty-tens. A 32,000 square foot space on the corner of Sears' lower level was sectioned off and rebuilt as a Whole Foods Market. The specialty grocer opened for business June 18, 2014.

Sources:

"Colonie Center" article on Wikipedia
www.labelscar.com
www.bizjournals.com
http://projectmoviehouse.blogspot.com
www.regmovies.com
www.cinematreasures.org
www.rejournal.com


FAIR USE OF COLONIE CENTER IMAGE:

The graphic from The Schenectady Gazette illustrates a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The image is of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The imag is not replaceable with free-use or public-domain image. The use of the image does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the image in any way. The image is being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and its use is not believed to detract from the original image in any way.