Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B1

Date: Thursday, July 9, 1998

A 12-story hotel that will be the cornerstone of a $100 million plan to expand Crossgates Mall will stand 171 feet tall. That's 418 feet shorter than Albany's 42-story Corning Tower.

The 200-room hotel, which owners hope will cause hundreds to dally at the mall overnight, would exemplify the mall's transformation from a mega-retail center into a tourist destination, said John Safe, director of development at Pyramid Cos. ``It provides an architectural landmark,'' he said Wednesday after a meeting with Times Union editors. ``It provides an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence. It makes the project a signature project. Malls are typically precast. And here we'd have a glass tower.''

The plan also calls for parking decks that would accommodate 2,000 cars, expanding the ramp off the Northway from one to four lanes and the access road surrounding the mall to six lanes in places.

Town officials will host two neighborhood meetings on the project: at 7:30 p.m. July 21 at the Westmere Fire Department and at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11 at Christ the King Church. The zoning board meets at 7:30 p.m. July 23 in Town Hall to discuss the project.

A major concern raised by residents has been traffic and who would make road improvements. Safe promised that extensive road improvements would be made -- and paid ``ultimately by us.''

Pyramid continues to challenge the assessed value of its 200-store mall, which was $205.5 million last July. For the last six years, Crossgates has argued that it is about 40 percent overassessed. So far, the town and school district have spent over $200,000 defending its assessment. But that shouldn't affect the expansion, Safe said.

``No matter what, the fair taxes will double,'' he said. ``Even if we win the reduction.''

In April, Pyramid put its mall empire of Crossgates and 20 other malls on the market.