AKA: Troy Atrium, Downtown, Troy, NY

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - shopping malls

Designers: Elbasani, Logan, Severin, Freeman, Architects (firm); Barry Elbasani (architect); Geoffrey Freeman (architect); Donn Hubert Logan (architect); Michael Louis Severin (architect)

Dates: constructed 1977-1979

2 stories, total floor area: 166,000 sq. ft.

4 3rd Street
Dowentown, Troy, NY 12180

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map


Like many distressed urban business districts depleted by competition with suburban malls, Troy, NY's commercial downtown was in trouble by the late 1960s. At this time, the City of Troy made plans to construct a large center-city mall to compete with those on the suburban fringes. Funding for this grand downtown mall fell through in the unsettled economic times of the mid-1970s in NY State, but this smaller, two-floor mall and office complex was completed in 1979, utilizing the design skills of a prominent Berkeley, CA and New York, NY-based design firm, Elbasani, Logan, Severin and Freeman (ELSF), Architects. ELSF obtained a great number of urban planning / architectural commissions from cities seeking to revive their central business districts during the 1970s and 1980s.

Building History

This two-floor shopping mall and office development was erected between 1977 and 1979, and represented a much scaled-down project. By the late 1960s, the Troy Urban Renewal Agency (TURA) had dreamed of building a $96-million, "ultra-modern mall" on the site, the "Uncle Sam Mall," to replace old business blocks. (See Michael DeMasi, Albany Business Review.com, "The history of the Troy Atrium," published 04/05/2019, accessed 03/18/2022.) By 1976, local developer Carl George Grimm (born 04/08/1907 in Troy, NY-d. 08/24/1992 in Troy, NY) commissioned the noted architectural firm of ELSF to design a much smaller, less-expensive $7.4 million mall, built in Downtown Troy, NY, connected by a passageway to an opulent department store built in 1897, Frear's Troy Cash Bazaar.

The new ELSF building site was just south and east of the Frear store on a parcel bounded by Broadway on the south, 4th Street on the east, Fulton Street on the north and 3rd Street on the west. A large parking garage was attached to the Atrium via a skybridge across Fulton, north of the Frear store.

Grimm leveraged the use of $1.7 million of Federal Housing and Urban Development grants to secure financing. An article by reporter Kenneth C. Crowe II in the Albany Times-Union stated: "The square block site historically was at the heart of the city’s downtown shopping district. Frear’s Troy Cash Bazaar was the department store that evolved to anchor the city’s shopping. The building survives as retail and office space. The buildings south of the Frear site were razed in 1969 to make way for what became known first at the Uncle Same Atrium before evolving into the Troy Atrium." (See Kenneth C. Crowe II, Albany Times-Union.com, "Era's end: Troy Atrium mall to be razed, rebuilt for apartments, parking," published 04/19/2021, accessed 03/18/2022.) Grimm connected his new Atrium to the Frear Block and a new 530-car parking garage, built with a $1 million Federal grant and $1.5 million of local bond money, to complete the ensemble of old and new buildings. (See Harold Faber, "Troy Gets New Shopping Mall as It Tries to Halt Decline," New York Times, 05/06/1979, accessed 03/18/2022.)

The Uncle Sam Atrium did not perform well financially, and it was quite sick by the early 1990s, particularly after its anchor tenant, The Carl Company, a Schenectady department store, left in 1990. Before 1999, the real estate investment firm, Northeast Properties of Boston, MA, owned the diminutive mall. On 07/31/1999, another local developer (and architect), David Bryce, bought the property, transforming it mostly into office space leased by the New York Department of Health and its Department of Labor. (See William Tuthill, Albany Business Journal.com, "High hopes for a Troy landmark," published 09/13/1999, accessed 03/18/2022.) By 2021, Bryce announced plans to raze 85% of the mall, and replace it with a taller mix of apartments and offices.


In 04/2021, it was announced that most of the Uncle Sam Atrium would be demolished. An article in the Albany Times-Union stated: "Much of the modernistic Uncle Sam Atrium - a showpiece of urban renewal when it opened in the city’s Victorian downtown in 1979 that failed to gain traction as a shopping center - is to be ripped down and replaced with 60 apartments, a 400-space parking garage and commercial development. Plans submitted to the city Planning Commission envision a new approach to the one-block square site that will maintain the historic Frear Building while eliminating 60,000-to-80,000 square feet of what has now been known for years as the Troy Atrium." A small amount of the commercial and retail section of the Uncle Sam Atrium (about 15%) was to be saved, with four new levels of apartments and offices to be built above the atrium's southern end. A new parking garage to accommodate 400 vehicles was to built at Fulton and 4th Streets. (See Kenneth C. Crowe II, Albany Times-Union.com. "Era's end: Troy Atrium mall to be razed, rebuilt for apartments, parking," published 04/19/2021, accessed 03/18/2022.)The rebuilt housing and commercial center would be known as the “Troy Winter Garden at Quackenbush Square."

By 08/2021, plans for this new development were put on hold, and the atrium was spare temporarily. (See Kenneth C. Crowe II, Albany Times-Union.com, "Troy Atrium project halted," published 08/15/2021, accessed 03/18/2022.)

PCAD id: 24316