January 18, 2013
Albany NanoTech charges ahead with Kiernan Plaza tech hub
By: Michael DeMasi
Source: The Business Review
Albany NanoTech is moving fast to finalize contracts and get
renovations started at historic Kiernan Plaza in downtown Albany, NY,
now that the state has committed $4 million to the project.
moving aggressively to renovate the building and to locate companies
there as quickly as possible,” said Michael Fancher, vice president for
business development and economic outreach at Albany NanoTech, formally
known as the University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science &
Engineering. The nanocollege is a $14 billion research complex centered
at UAlbany that conducts computer chip technology and other research
with more than 260 businesses and organizations.
plans to convert the building into a business center for emerging
technology companies. “The funding provided by Gov. Cuomo is serving as a
lightning rod,” Fancher added. “The level of interest, not just from
the potential tenant companies but the community, has been phenomenal.”
That’s no surprise, considering the building’s beauty and link to the past.
most of its life, beginning in 1900, it was known as Union Station,
where countless people boarded trains or waited anxiously for loved ones
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I wish I could have
experienced what it was like, but the train station at 575 Broadway
closed in 1968, a year before I was born, and replaced by an uninspired
rectangular box across the river in Rensselaer (thankfully, that box has
since been replaced by something much nicer).
In 1986, Union
Station was resurrected by Peter Kiernan, president of what was then
Norstar Bank, and converted into the bank’s headquarters. Architecture
firm EYP — then known as Einhorn Yaffee Prescott — won heaps of praise
for the interior redesign.
Fast forward to three years ago.
tenant, Bank of America, pulled all its employees out as part of a
massive cost-cutting move. Kiernan Plaza sat empty, another vacancy
That will change in the coming months, and Fancher sees an historical symmetry in the plans.
Station’s name was inspired by the decision of competing 19th-century
railroad titans to share resources by building one station to serve
Albany, he said, as they did in other cities.
“Train stations were icons for technology in the last industrial revolution,” he said.
He likened it to the innovations in nanoscience being researched at UAlbany in the 21st century.
college is taking the lead on the Kiernan Plaza renovations, and hired
EYP to redesign the interior again, this time to accommodate multiple
tenants instead of one bank. The state’s $4 million grant will pay for
Separately, the college is negotiating to buy the
property for an undisclosed sum from the current owner, a real estate
The first tenant will be CHA, the largest
engineering firm in the region, which will move its corporate
headquarters there from Colonie.
“There’s a great deal of
technological innovation going in the architecture and engineering
field,” Fancher said. “What is driving a lot of that innovation is the
very technologies we’re developing here at the NanoTech complex, for
example ‘smart grids’ and ‘smart buildings.’ We’ve been working with the
city to use it as a test bed.”
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings will
no doubt be talking that up during his upcoming State of the City speech
which will be delivered in — where else — Kiernan Plaza on Jan. 29 at