ALBANY — Where most people see blight and decay, Devanshu “Dave” Patel sees potential.
And while most Albany citizens have been primarily confined to their homes in recent days, adhering to the city’s shelter-in-place order, a transformation has been taking place at the long-neglected Village Green Shopping Center in northwest Albany.
Patel, who owns several businesses in the city, recently purchased one-half of the Village Green plaza, and the changes that are currently on display are, the businessman says, only the beginning. Over the course of the next few weeks, the Village Green Plaza from the Charley B’s nightclub to the east will arise from years of disrepair and become what Patel calls “something a whole lot better.”
And, not long after Patel finalized purchase of the eastern half of the complex, Live Oak Properties purchased the other half — from Charley B’s to the west — and officials with that company say they will make repairs to match the work being done by Patel.
“We tore down everything and, basically started over,” Patel said of work being carried out by LRA Constructors at the plaza. “We’ll have new ceilings, new roofs, new HVAC units. Everything will be brand new.”
The purchase of the Village Green Shopping Center included the building that is occupied by BJ’s Country Buffet. Former owner — now tenant — B.J. Fletcher said Patel plans to upgrade that building as well. The Dairy Queen restaurant at the southeast corner of the property will remain a standalone business, and the San Joe’s To Go establishment will “move into a building soon.”
Plus the entire parking lot will be resurfaced.
In the Village Green property purchased by Patel, plans are already in place for a new Mexican restaurant, a coffee shop and a high-end liquor establishment. The Dollar General store located in the plaza will remain where it is, and three other storefronts are being prepared for as-yet undetermined businesses.
“(The coronavirus) has delayed things a bit,” Patel said. “We were hoping to have everything finished by mid-May, but it will take a little longer now. We’ve completed the demolition work, and now we’ve started putting up the new walls. Hopefully there won’t be too long of a delay.”
Job Superintendent Kenneth Silas, who worked Friday with a crew that included Lavoski Watts, Laurence Brown, Willie Johnson, Randy Robinson and Member Holsey, said work was progressing as expected despite the virus outbreak.
“We’re taking all proper precautions recommended by the city,” Silas said. “We have the proper (protective) protocols in place, and we’re all glad to have the opportunity to continue working when a lot of people can’t. This is a process, but we’ve got the demolition work out of the way and we’ve started rebuilding. We’re a little behind our original deadline, but I believe we’ll have things done by June or early July.”
Patel, whose holdings include a gas station/convenience store, restaurant, laundrymat and liquor store, came to Albany from New Jersey 17 years ago and quickly established himself as a hard-worker with ambition. He had only recently moved to America from India at the time of his Southern trek but discovered in the Georgia city a land much like his native country.
“We love this community; in fact, we soon found that there was very little difference in (Albany) and our home country,” the businessman said. “We feel like we’re part of this community. We were encouraged to close our stores (when the virus hit), but we knew if we did the people in that (east Albany) neighborhood would have nowhere else close by that they could get food or necessities.”
Patel said he’s excited about the prospects of reopening the Village Green plaza.
“I talked with B.J. about her building, and she said she’d been thinking about a move,” he said. “I told her to stay where she was, to be a part of what we were doing. I told her she’d be a part of something a lot better.”