Asia Food Market is buying the former NL Industries site

COLONIE — The company behind a chain of Asian grocery stores has purchased the site of a former NL Industries ammunition plant.

Albany County records show Asian Center Mall LLC bought the 11-acre property at 1130 Center Ave. from the federal government on Jan. 17 for $2.15 million. The site was put up for auction by federal officials between December 2021 and May 2022.

The company first opened Asian Food Market in Rochester in 2005, according to the grocery chain’s website. A Syracuse location opened in 2015, followed by a Buffalo location in 2017. Its website features live seafood and specialty items, as well as sushi, baked goods and dim sum made on site.

Asia Center Mall President Rocky Ren confirmed the company bought the property with the intention of building a retail space, but said it was unclear whether an Asian food market would be there. Ren floated the idea of ​​multiple retail stores or even a community center as possibilities.
Sean Maguire, director of planning and economic development for the city of Colonia, said the site is zoned industrial, allowing for retailers such as supermarkets. A number of other businesses are allowed in the zoning, but the community center requires a use variance, he said. When informed of the purchase, Maguire said a building application has not yet been submitted on the site, but he expects to see one soon.
National Lead Industries operated as a foundry from 1937 to 1984. It began producing uranium and thorium products under state and federal licenses in 1958, leading to uranium contamination of surrounding areas and buildings. The plant was closed in 1984 by a state court order, resulting in the federal government taking over the cleanup. Except for some environmental easements, it has been completely restored. Wren said the property’s history is a concern, but the company has a team of environmental engineers working on the site.

With high visibility to commuters, the property is an ideal location for businesses, according to Anthony Capsey, executive director of the Central Neighborhood Management Association – a business improvement district along Central Avenue in Albany. Outside the district, the property borders it, he said.
A number of Asian grocery stores for importing products from East and Southeast Asian countries to non-Asian parts of the world are located within a few miles of the site, including along Central Avenue. But Capece said that may not be an issue for the new chain, especially as it becomes a “destination” for customers.
“If your niche is different than everyone else’s, you can’t really have saturation,” he said. “And consumers have preferences.”