'Putting Hornell on the map': City approves site plan for new Alstom building

Planning Board, Planning and Development Committee receive first glimpse of the plan for the new building

Chris Potter
The Evening Tribune

HORNELL — Bill Norton’s nephew, a First Sergeant in the Air Force, was in town over the weekend to visit the Hornell branch of the family.

Norton took him on a tour of the city to catch up on the latest happenings after years away, and his nephew was struck by all the changes around Hornell — a new hospital, new housing developments, repurposed buildings and fresh construction projects. 

The tour eventually took a swing by Shawmut Drive, where the stage is set for another big addition to the Maple City. 

Earlier in the week, the Hornell Planning Board and the City's Planning and Development Committee both unanimously approved site plans for the new Alstom car shell manufacturing building to be located in the Shawmut Industrial Park. 

“He said, ‘This place is booming. I can’t believe the changes around here,’” Norton recalled. “‘This is going to put Hornell on the map.’”

Norton is a member of the Hornell Planning Board that signed off on Alstom’s site plan following a presentation attended by the company as well as the engineering and architectural firms involved in the project. 

A rendering of Alstom's planned 135,000 square feet rail car manufacturing facility just north of Alstom's current Plant 2 at the Shawmut Industrial Park.

Construction of a new 135,000 square feet rail car manufacturing facility is planned at 3 Shawmut Park Dr. just north of Alstom's current Plant 2. Alstom is expanding its Hornell footprint after the company was awarded a Metra contract to supply rail cars for the Chicago metropolitan area. Alstom formally received the initial $769 million order for the first 200 cars in March with options for 300 more. In total, the contract could total up to $1.8 billion. 

Norton said the lone concern put forth by the Planning Board was transportation of the large shells through city streets when they are moved from one Hornell plant to the next during the manufacturing process. The board was assured transports will occur during off-peak traffic hours. Planning is also underway to cut back some trees along the route and address any utilities or public infrastructure that may need to be moved to accommodate transport. 

“I felt a lot better about it after hearing their plan,” said Norton. “I don’t see Alstom doing anything to disrupt people.” 

The Planning Board and the City's Planning and Development Committee both got a first glimpse of a rendering of the building. The new facility will feature 105,000 square feet of manufacturing space, along with 18,000 square feet for warehouse space and 12,000 for office space. 

The Metra effort is expected to create around 250 new skilled manufacturing jobs at the Hornell facility, and help preserve another 400 positions in Hornell. 

“This is a very important step to help make this project a reality and bring another 250 jobs to Hornell,” Mayor John Buckley said of the approvals. “This is an exciting time for Alstom and the Hornell community.” 

When construction of the building is complete, the road will be resurfaced and a new sidewalk will be installed allowing improved pedestrian access to the Shawmut Park. 

“Looking at the plan, the building aesthetics are almost the same as the other buildings at the main plant,” said Norton. “It will make the area look sharp. I think it’s going to make that whole area look better and hopefully put people back to work. 

“A lot of people go down to the Shawmut Park and walk the trail down there. It’s going to improve that area and be really beneficial to the city.” 

Chris Potter can be reached at cpotter@gannett.com or on Twitter @ChrisPotter413. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.