Schenectady County

Big changes afoot on Schenectady’s State Street

Housing, retail, and start-up companies are underway.
Demolition is underway Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, on the former Olender Mattress building on lower State Street in Schenectady.
Demolition is underway Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, on the former Olender Mattress building on lower State Street in Schenectady.

First the focus was on downtown, now development is ramping up on lower State Street.

Housing is sprouting up in several locations along lower State, a handful of startup companies have moved into new office space and there are plans for quality-of-life improvements including park and street upgrades.

After years of neglect, the goal is to create a gateway to the city on lower State by the Schenectady County Community College, Interstate 890 and the village of Scotia.

Here are projects underway that are helping to reach that goal:

1. Electric City Apartments

Near the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard, the demolition of several buildings is making way for luxury apartments and retail space.

The buildings include the BiMor Army & Navy building at 232 State St., a red brick building at 236 State St., which was once occupied by Absolute Pest Control, and the Olender Mattress building at 254 State St.

Highbridge Development of Schenectady and Prime Companies of Cohoes are building 105 luxury apartments and 9,900 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

It will feature a 12,000-square-foot rooftop garden with outdoor cooking facilities, a fire pit, outdoor televisions and a bocce ball court.

The 144,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed by the end of next year. The project comes with a $20 million price tag.

*$1.2 million in state funding from the Regional Economic Development Council awards in 2015

*PILOT agreement: $115,500 for three years, to $135,300 for four years, to $156,300 for one year, to $166,200 for four years, to $187,200 for five years.

2. The old YMCA

Buffalo-based Norstar Development is renovating the former YMCA at 13 State St. into 61 senior housing units.

The 104,000-square-foot historic building, which is four stories, will also have a fitness facility, library, community room and entertainment room.

On the first floor, 8,650 square feet of space will be marketed for commercial use through the state’s business tax incentive program START-UP NY.

Work will start in the spring and is expected to be finished by the end of next year. The project comes with an $18 million price tag.

*Projected $6,385,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding

*Estimated $3,228,859 in state and federal historic tax credits

*$500,000 from the state Housing Trust Fund

“They are already in there doing maintenance work,” said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority. “We’re really close to getting started. It’s a big project. It’s a total rehab. We’re going to be involved in marketing the old gym space and office space. We already have interest in that space.”

3. The Kindl Building

The Kindl Building at 201 State St. was donated to SCCC by Schenectady’s Kindl family.

The 12,000-square-foot building is the new home for the college’s workforce development program. It was renovated with office space, classrooms, a computer lab and meeting rooms.

The second and third floors will be used as incubator space through the START-UP NY program. Those floors, a total of 6,311 square feet, have yet to be rehabilitated until the college partners with interested companies.

Renovation costs have totaled $1.6 million to date, with $425,000 for exterior upgrades and $1.2 million for first floor renovations.

*$350,000 donated by the Kindl family for building renovations

*$150,000 in state funding to help pay for renovations to house the college’s workforce development program

4. New York BizLab

The BizLab at 251 State St. is a business accelerator that has already attracted four startup companies with plans to add more.

The BizLab is now home to SureDone, an E-commerce company; Lottery Rewards, a second-chance gaming website; Furlocity, a pet travel site; and Fundabilities, a crowdfunding site.

The 25,000-sqaure-foot building, which houses First Niagara on the ground floor, is owned by Transfinder CEO Antonio Civitella.

The accelerator attracts start-ups under the START-UP NY program, offering tax breaks for qualified businesses partnering with SCCC.

The BizLab cost $1.8 million to renovate and was largely funded by Civitella.

*$300,000 facade grant from Metroplex

5. Gateway Park

Liberty Park, across from the old YMCA, will be transformed into Gateway Park, doubling its size.

The expansion of the park will start in the summer with the first phase done by the end of the year. The second phase of the project will kick off next year.

The two-phase project will reconfigure the park into a pedestrian-friendly green space with a plaza, performance space and other attractions.

The park would be expanded to include Water Street and the short street connecting Washington Avenue with Railroad Street.

Buildings at 10 and 18 State St. and 108 Railroad St. will be demolished to also expand the park there.

*$400,000 in state funding from the Regional Economic Development Council awards in 2015

*$960,161 Federal Emergency Management Administration grant for the demolition of three buildings that suffered severe flood damage during Tropical Storm Irene

“We’re hoping to have design documents done in time to bid it out in May or June and have work start in July,” said Steve Strichman, the city’s zoning officer. “I’m hoping the demolition of the buildings might be able to happen this year as well. That expands beyond the previous design.”

In addition to the five developments along lower State, there are plans to complete the last phase of sidewalk and streetlight improvements from South Church Street to Washington Avenue.

Earlier this month Metroplex approved a contract with CHA, formerly Clough Harbour & Associates, for $54,000 to survey and design the final portion of upgrades needed on lower State.

“We’re looking at running it the rest of the way from South Church to the college so that the lighting and sidewalks get done in front of the old Y,” Gillen said. “We’ll have $18 million in the Y and a park upgrade, so we want to finish the streetscape.”

Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.

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