When people see 28 Ingersoll Ave., they don’t know whether to congratulate its new owner or console him.
The two-story home on a dead-end street in Schenectady’s historic Stockade neighborhood has seen better days. Except for a tiny pop of mint green siding on the attic façade, the building’s exterior is stripped of all color. What remains is the kind of gray, brown and beige look you’ll find in any flood-damaged community.
Blinds dangle in the first-floor windows, which reveal a grimy watermark left when the nearby Mohawk River rose during tropical storms Irene and Lee and then receded, leaving a mess in its wake.
On Thursday, nearly four years after the flood hit the neighborhood, a group of community officials unveiled their plan to save 28 Ingersoll Ave. and two buildings just like it up the street, at 11 and 18 Ingersoll Ave.
“All the buildings along this street to about halfway up this block were flooded,” said Urban Initiatives Group President John Samatulski, who bought the properties this year and will oversee their revitalization. “So one by one, property owners abandoned the property, and they wound up in the hands of the city. So we put together a partnership to save them.”
The Capital Region Land Bank and the Schenectady Heritage Foundation teamed up with Samatulski, providing $45,000 each to to save the structures from demolition and rid the neighborhood of blight. In all, each building will cost $100,000 to $150,000 to restore.
Much of the Stockade was spared from the floods of 2011, but dozens of homes north of Front Street and closest to the river were inundated. Homeowners who didn’t or couldn’t afford to repair their homes left damaged, abandoned homes behind.
Samatulski’s plan is to repair these three abandoned homes in a way that will make them inexpensive to renovate in the face of future flooding. His contractor, James Plowman, will coat the wood floors in polyurethane and top them with a waterproof marine paint, the kind used on the decks of boats so they don’t buckle. The furnaces, hot water heaters and other utilities will go upstairs. The insulation will be water-resistant, so it can be removed, aired out and reused after any future flooding.
He’s still figuring out some stuff, though. If city code allows it, he wants to rewire the homes from the top down, instead of the traditional bottom up, so that if it floods, the wiring won’t need to be redone. And he might consider a kind of wall paneling that can be popped off in the event of a flood, as well as counters and shelving that could simply be hosed off instead of thrown out.
“It’s not all ironed out yet, but we’re going to document everything as we go along and see what works and what doesn’t, so that other homeowners in the neighborhood can replicate it, if they wish,” Samatulski said.
Exterior work on the buildings will begin next week and should wrap up in about three months. The interiors will take longer and are expected to wrap up sometime next year. Once done, the two-story residential flats will be rented for about $800 a month.
“We felt it was important to save this section of Ingersoll Avenue because it does offer a more-moderately priced housing option,” said Schenectady Heritage Foundation Chairwoman Gloria Kishton. “A historic district is a synergy of different people and buildings. One of the important things about urban living and historic districts is the diversity of housing, because it attracts a diversity of people. So if you walk the entire neighborhood, you’ll see a wide range of buildings, eras, different construction and architecture, but also people.”
The Capital Region Land Bank, formed in 2012 to buy and then demolish or renovate distressed properties in the city of Amsterdam and within Schenectady County, is assisting the project since it involves the restoration of several buildings at once along the same corridor, rather than just a single property here and there.
“Instead of doing things piecemeal, we said why don’t we focus on corridors?” said Richard Ruzzo, a Schenectady County legislator who chairs the land bank. “We’re doing Eastern Parkway right now and achieving some momentum there, so when John said he had not one, not two, but three properties that he wanted to return to active status on the tax rolls, we felt this could be an important project.”
Samatulski bought each of the properties this spring for $1,000 from the city, which took them over in foreclosure proceedings in the years following the flood, according to property records.
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