A Schenectady businessman is looking to purchase a city-owned historic building on lower Union Street and renovate it with office space and apartment units.
The City Council plans to vote on Monday to sell the home for $50,000 to Tony Ward. Ward, of AKW Consulting, is proposing to invest a total of $400,000 into the property.
Ward said he is looking to develop the building with ground-floor office space and two upscale apartment units on the second floor. The building is 4,000 square feet, with 2,000 square feet on each floor.
The building has a small parking lot in back with six or seven spaces, Ward said. He said extensive work is required to restore the building’s facade and upgrade utilities.
“Our hope and intent is to completely restore the outside without changing it at all,” he said. “The brick facade has separated from the building, so that’s a major piece of work. The inside will be gutted and refurbished. It’s in pretty rough shape.”
Ward said he is looking to get one tenant to occupy the first-floor office space, but possibly two. He said the downstairs comes with two fireplaces.
Ward is partnering on the project with John and Paul Bonacquisti of Bonacquisti Brothers Construction in Cohoes.
The project could be completed by the end of the year, Ward said. He added that he would be seeking historic tax credits for the renovation of the facade, which used to be covered in ivy.
“Some of the roots of those vines are 4 or 5 inches in diameter,” he said. “Once they grow, they suck moisture out of the building and it destroys the masonry. I wouldn’t try to take that stuff off until we resecure the front facade. Then every inch will come off and it will be clean.”
The $400,000 estimated investment led the council to choose Ward’s bid over a higher bid in executive session during a council committee meeting Monday evening.
Top bid bypassed
Mark Swanson bid $55,000 for the property. His proposed investment was $280,000. Swanson said he didn’t know the price of investment would lead to him not getting the building.
Swanson was proposing retail space on the ground floor, with a possible spa or wellness center, and apartment units on the second floor.
There were a total of seven bids for the property, according to the city’s director of development, Jackie Mancini. The city foreclosed on the property in November. It is assessed at $233,100.
“They picked the other bidder because their total investment amount was higher than mine,” Swanson said. “I don’t understand that because that was not outlined in the criteria. We were conservative with those estimates. You can’t really know how much it is going to cost.”
Swanson said he would be willing to invest more than initially proposed to rehabilitate the building, located next to Experience & Creative Design.
“They have no way of holding the bidder to that amount,” Swanson said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. You could consider this a bait-and-switch. We plan to reach out to the city.”
Councilman Vince Riggi said the decision was subjective but that the council does not have to accept the highest bidder. Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico confirmed the council is not required to accept the highest offer.
“Regardless of the investment, maybe the finished product would be the same,” Riggi said. “Maybe properties like this should go to auction. Are we getting the most bang for our buck for the taxpayers? We’re talking about properties in prime locations.”
The building, at the corner of Union and Jay streets, is located in an area commonly referred to as “restaurant row,” with several restaurants located a block away.
The former Union Inn across the street is also vacant and the city is looking to sell another foreclosed property at 708 Union St. across from French restaurant Chez Nous.