ROTTERDAM — A Syracuse auto parts supplier will buy the former Sears store at ViaPort Rotterdam for conversion into a distribution/retail/e-commerce facility.

The deal was sealed when the town approved subdivision of the mall. The company and mall and local officials announced the move Thursday.

United Auto Supply plans to invest $6 million in the conversion above and beyond the purchase price for the 103,000-square-foot space, which hasn’t been made public yet as the sale has not closed.

The 74-year-old family-owned company is known as a wholesale supplier to retailers, fleet operators and vehicle dealers but it also has a network of retail locations, mostly in New York.

Rotterdam is near the northeastern corner of United Auto Supply’s service area, and placing a distribution center there is part of its plans to expand farther north in New York and east into New England.

The new facility will employ 50 at the start. The plan is to expand to 150 employees in Rotterdam as those new locations come online to the north and east.

Rotterdam Town Supervisor Steve Tommasone said the deal is the latest step in refilling the mall. With the closure of Kmart two years ago, it no longer has a large retail anchor store. It has adapted to the changing face of the retail industry by converting store space to an entertainment venue and an aquarium, and has converted most of the former Macy’s space into a call center for the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority helped broker the sale early this year.

“This is a deal we made right in the middle of COVID,” Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said. A week after mall and local officials took United Auto Supply on a walk-through, the state banned such in-person showings.

As an incentive, Metroplex is providing the company an exemption on the sales tax it will accrue on materials it buys for the renovation, as well as on the mortgage recording tax that comes with the purchase. Total value is about $200,000.

The Rotterdam project won’t be the first adaptive reuse for United Auto Supply: Its headquarters is in the million-square-foot Syracuse building formerly serving as the main warehouse for P&C supermarkets.

The company currently employs more than 500 people, operates 30 retail stores in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and distributes the products of more than 100 companies.

United Auto Supply’s decision to buy and convert rather than lease suggests a long-term commitment, Gillen said.

“This company has a proven track record,” he said.

With a commitment to one of the two large open spaces at the mall, attention turns to the other, he added.

“That leaves Kmart, which is our next opportunity,” Gillen said.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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