SCHENECTADY — One year after the Nicholaus Building was deemed structurally unstable, it is the subject of many court filings but has seen little progress toward becoming usable again.
Events surrounding the building’s destabilization spawned multiple lawsuits and, most recently, building code violations. Until those are settled, resolution is likely to remain elusive for the property at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard, which has been surrounded by fencing and concrete barriers for a year.
Owners Viroj and Malinee Chompupong have filed lawsuits against the Schenectady Metroplex Development authority and construction companies affiliated with a project next door that they claim caused the Nicholaus Building’s current state.
The city of Schenectady, meanwhile, is prosecuting the owners for several building code violations, after the Chompupongs failed to fix the damaged structure. The court case is in the discovery stage, and a trial date could be scheduled within the next month or so, said city attorney Carl Falotico.
“Despite everyone’s best efforts, nothing’s been fixed at this building, and we want to see something fixed,” Falotico said. “Like all building code violations, what we want is for the owner to do whatever work is necessary to fix the building. The only way we have to enforce that is through the prosecution of building codes.”
The structure, which dates to the 1800s, began shaking on April 1, 2016, resulting in cracks and the separation of walls from ceilings and floors. The building, which housed Thai Thai Bistro and several apartments at the time, had to be evacuated and stabilized. It has sat empty ever since.
In May, Metroplex hired an engineering firm that specializes in restoring historic buildings to look the structure over. Metroplex shared the firm’s plans with the building owners in August but never heard back.
The city didn’t bring charges until the fall, in an attempt to give the owners time to address the violations, Falotico said. If no settlement is reached, and the building owners are found guilty of the code violations, they could face fines or jail time, he said.
“The idea is they would fix the issue, because they don’t want to keep facing punishment like that,” Falotico said.
The building had to be stabilized shortly after the former Olender Mattress building next door was demolished as part of the planned State Street Electric City Apartments.
The owners’ lawsuit, filed in December by New York City-based attorney Anthony Dougherty, seeks $2 million in damages and alleges work at the neighboring site caused the Nicholaus Building to sustain severe damage.
Dougherty could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
As the various legal proceedings progress, the plans for the apartments project next door are also stalled.
“The developers of that project want to move forward,” said Ray Gillen, chairman of Metroplex. “They’re anxious; they’ve been patient and they continue to be patient.”
Numerous developers and architects affiliated with the apartment project — Highbridge/Prime Development, C2 Design Architecture, Plank, D.A. Collins Construction and Ryan Biggs Clark Davis Engineering and Surveying — were all named in the Chompupongs’ lawsuit.
The city’s Industrial Development Agency in March approved a six-month extension of a sales tax exemption for the apartments project, which allows Highbridge/Prime Development to buy construction materials free of sales tax. If the process continues to drag out, Gillen said, the exemption will be extended again.