After years of efforts to spruce up downtown left lower Union Street and North Broadway in the dust, that area is finally beginning to see some tender loving care head its way.
Plans for a restaurant at 308 Union St. are moving along with some new funding, while economic development officials are in the process of accepting a bid on sidewalk improvements in the area.
The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority sought bids on a downtown fix-up project several months ago that would include new sidewalks and curbs along North Broadway. After bids came in higher than expected — partly because of some underground work that would need to be done — the board amended and approved a project plan Wednesday evening that would allow it to increase the project cost.
Bids ranged from a low of $144,200 to a high of $196,466 on the project. Metroplex will retain the lowest bidder, Albany-based Hudson River Construction Co., Inc. The selection raises the project cost by $47,000 to a total investment of nearly $200,000.
Other sidewalks in that area need work, as well, said several Metroplex board members. The ones nearest the railroad overpass are the worst off, they agreed.
“We’re trying to put together a package that will fix all of the sidewalks under the bridges, but right now we have to be selective with only two of them,” said Metroplex Executive Director Jayme Lahut.
The agency has long had three focuses when it comes to improving downtown: the Proctors block, Jay Street and Erie Boulevard. With the last of that work — the massive Erie Boulevard project — under way, the economic development arm is looking to bring renovations elsewhere.
“Our principal focus is really connecting State and North Broadway down to Union,” said Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen at a June board meeting. “We have some bollards that we want painted and other things that will keep the downtown area in good repair. We’re really trying to get into the details of making sure downtown is clean, safe and secure 24/7.”
Sidewalk upgrades are fairly effective in funneling visitors into a more welcoming downtown, officials agreed. Board member Bill Chapman noted the flat sidewalks and handicapped curbs along Upper Union Street as helpful in fostering a pedestrian environment.
The board also approved on Wednesday an additional $45,000 for an up-and-coming restaurant, banquet and wine bar that will border the North Broadway railroad overpass.
The would-be owners of the site at 308 Union St. are still just as reluctant to identify themselves as they were when the project was first announced. But Rich Piedmont, an attorney for the holding company that purchased the property, said everything is still on track for a fall opening.
And as the back lot is paved, lampposts installed, and a pavilion put in, the owners have finalized a name: Centre Street.
The name is an homage to the site in the 1800s, when the Centre Street Brewery was housed inside the facility on what was then known as Centre Street (now Broadway).
“There will be four different venues,” said Piedmont. “They’ve gone through several different iterations of what it’s going to be.”
The venue will include a wine bar, outdoor garden seating, a banquet room and a restaurant with a variety of beers on tap.
The additional funds bring the total Metroplex contribution to $105,000. In May, the board approved a $60,000 façade grant for the property, and on Wednesday it approved the $45,000 as a loan set for 10 years at a 3 percent interest rate. The loan will primarily be used on the North Broadway façade.
“They’ve got plans to really change that side, make it look new, and put signage out front that will wrap up all the finishing touches,” said Piedmont.