Schenectady County

Key Hall nearly set to host performances

It’s taken a year and a half, but Key Hall will soon be ready for performances.

It’s taken a year and a half, but Key Hall will soon be ready for performances. Work should be completed next month.

Proctors, which owns the former KeyBank building, had expected to use it far sooner. But there were serious acoustics problems in the long, narrow main room, Proctors CEO Philip Morris said.

“The install we did of amplified sound was not very good,” he said.

So they spent months testing the system and the building. They ran rehearsals with test audiences seated in various parts of the main room, trying to see where the acoustics were best (and worst). Performance groups insisted on trying it out, too, before committing to use the venue.

“We’ve done all sorts of tests,” Morris said, adding that he hadn’t expected the problems to take so long to resolve.

“We think we have the ideal layout now,” he said. A new sound system will be installed in June to fit that layout.

In the meantime, the room has mainly been used for banquets and weddings. Some participants said it was difficult to hear speakers during those events.

Running for-profit events could jeopardize the building’s tax-exempt status, but Mayor Gary McCarthy said he doesn’t expect any problems since Proctors intends to begin using the building for performances soon.

“It was their intent all along,” he said. “You get these mixed uses.”

And if Proctors hadn’t bought the building, it would not be generating much in property taxes, Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen said.

“It’d be a vacant bank. It’d be paying the taxes of one house,” he said. “Now it’s generating sales taxes and everything. Hopefully there’s an offset there.”

Proctors also agreed to a $5,000 annual payment in lieu of taxes agreement in consideration of the fire protection and other services the city provides.

“The city does tons of stuff for us,” Morris said. “We respect that.”

He said he hopes to increase the PILOT amount in the future.

As for Key Hall, Proctors will schedule a concert series there next year. Albany Pro Musica will also use the venue.

“It’s taken a little bit of time,” Morris said. “But I’m happy with the room, actually.”

Proctors bought it in March 2010 and spent the rest of the year turning the main bank room into a wide venue. Workers painstakingly removed the thick marble counter that split the room in half, repainted the walls to accent the ornamental side columns and broke through a side wall to create an interior entrance to the Proctors arcade.

The bank vault now leads to a kitchen, while the old safe door — still functional — hangs on the wall as a decorative piece.

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