Proctors will turn KeyBank into banquet, musical venue

The imposing KeyBank building on State Street will soon become an elegant banquet and conference fac
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The imposing KeyBank building on State Street will soon become an elegant banquet and conference facility for Proctors.

Musical performances will also eventually be held in the space, which has such perfect acoustics that Proctors CEO Philip Morris did not need a microphone when he announced his plans there Wednesday.

But performances will have to wait until phase two of the project, which includes a retractable seating arrangement. Seats might fold into the floor or another space, as they do in the GE Theater.

For now, Morris is focusing on making the facility suitable for conferences and banquets. All he has to do is move the marble tellers’ counter that cuts the main room in half, he said. By fall the building could reopen as a conference and banquet facility called Key Hall. It is just one door away from the main stage.

KeyBank sold its building to Proctors last Friday for just $150,000 — far less than its assessed value of $565,500, for which it paid the city and county $10,900 in taxes each year.

The sale turns the building into a tax-exempt property, but city officials praised the move.

“This is an exciting announcement for all of us,” Mayor Brian U. Stratton said. “Thank you for helping Schenectady grow again.”

Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen said he didn’t want the building sold to anyone but Proctors.

“We never really worked to show this building,” he said. “We had some interest but we kept kind of putting those people aside because we had Proctors’ dream in mind.”

He argued that Proctors shows generate significant sales tax revenue and bring in thousands of visitors who eat at local restaurants and buy from local stores.

While Gillen wasn’t showing the building, Morris was lobbying KeyBank to let him buy it. The Proctors arcade shares a wall with the building, behind the Parker Inn, and Morris envisioned a beautiful entranceway connecting the arcade to a new entertainment venue in the bank.

“I kept saying, remember, remember, it connects to the arcade!” Morris said, adding that he saw the bank as an exquisite site for entertainment. “As you can hear, the acoustics are terrific,” he said. “It’s fabulous marble.”

The price was a sticking point. KeyBank officials eventually decided to sell for far less than the building was worth, said Jeffrey Stone, regional president of KeyBank.

“We knew Proctors couldn’t afford the full price for this building,” Stone said. “Yet we knew Proctors had a vision for this building we could not resist.”

KeyBank has long played an important role with Proctors. It helps fund each season’s Broadway shows, which are called the KeyBank Broadway series, and it financed the renovations to the main stage that made those shows possible.

Morris does not yet know how much it will cost to add lighting, seating and stage equipment to the bank. He has no time frame for that portion of the project. But he is determined to have a design that will ensure the space remains as majestic as it is now.

He needs an “elegant” space for conferences, he said, because many groups are not satisfied with the GE Theater and the Proctors basement.

“That’s nothing against the GE Theater — that’s the way it was designed,” Morris said. “And it’s not big enough for both a conference and lunch. But a lot of conferences are hesitant to go downstairs to the educational center because it doesn’t look as good.”

Soon, they can hold their conferences on marble floors, under a vaulted three-story ceiling, and have lunch at the GE Theater, he said.

Morris could choose to do all renovations now, creating a performance space as well as the slight changes needed to turn the main room of the bank into a banquet and conference facility.

But that might take a year or more, and he doesn’t want to wait.

“I’ve got people ready to use this space,” he said. “If we had this space available today, I think within two weeks we would have 40 bookings.”

Beyond those who want a more elegant facility, some of those bookings are groups that need more space than Proctors could provide. The bank will allow Proctors to host banquets of up to 400 people, which previously could be accommodated only on the main stage. That stage is far too busy now for many banquets.

If Morris is going to reopen the bank by fall, he has one major decision ahead of him: What will he do with the marble tellers’ counter?

He’s certain it will be reused. He may turn part of it into a bar. He could create small tables or counters along the sides of the main room.

“We’re not going to lose it,” he said. “Because it’s just plain too cool not to use.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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