SCHENECTADY — The city is changing fast.
But amid the demolition of derelict properties and the housing complexes being constructed in their footprints, properties elsewhere are being dusted off, renovated and given new acts.
Six buildings have been honored by the Schenectady Heritage Foundation for excellence in historic preservation as part of National Historic Preservation Month.
- First Reformed Church: 8 N. Church St.;
- The Ryley House: 214 Union St.,
- The Fitzgerald Building: 148 Clinton St.;
- Daley’s on Yates: 10 Yates St.;
- Schenectady Labor Temple: 105 Clinton St.;
- The Heritage Home for Women: 1519 Union St.;
Attendees gathered at City Hall last week to fete the renovation projects.
They range from the overhaul of a mid-19th century church — First Reformed Church, which completed a sweeping $3.6 million restoration project in February — to the transformation of two downtown buildings into high-end apartment complexes: The Fitzgerald Building and the Schenectady Labor Temple, both of which began accepting tenants this year.
“It’s really to give these property owners recognition and also to raise the level of awareness of historic preservation and how it contributes to a sense of place and economic development,” said Gloria Kishton, chairperson of Schenectady Heritage Foundation.
In a city that continues to reinvent itself, Kishton said preservation has numerous ramifications for a sense of civic identity.
Using historic preservation as an economic development tool allows developers to revamp “unusual spaces and unique spaces” that cannot be recreated, she said.
Take Daly’s on Yates, for instance, the restaurant that opened in a former taxi garage.
“They’ve still retained some of those elements, and that industrial look is very popular now in restaurants and some other uses,” Kishton said.
Each location has a unique story.
Jane Schramm, administrator for the Heritage Home for Women, noted the 150-year-old residential living facility underwent a major refurbishment project while continuing to stay open for residents.
Residents were engaged in some design elements — including selecting the colors of the “wayfinding” strips that delineate floor levels by color — and got to know the workers from the contracting crew who became almost like family.
Each resident was given the option to be temporarily relocated during the project.
“None of them wanted to go. All of them wanted to be right in the middle of it,” Schramm said.
While unassuming, the Fitzgerald Building has a history that in many ways, runs parallel to the story of the Electric City.
The Schenectady Business College opened on the downtown side street in 1914, partially in response to meeting modern communication needs — including typing and shorthand — in the face of industrialization and demands by companies like GE and Alco.
“These jobs provided careers to women when women had very little resource for work, and this building provided that,” said Michael Lopez, historic preservation and grants manager for Redburn Development Partners, the building’s owner.
Ter Bush & Powell later used their Clinton Street headquarters as a launch pad for an insurance brokerage that ranked among the nation’s top 10 after making significant inroads with the state workforce in Albany.
Following a $1.6 million renovation, the building now hosts 12 upscale apartments and a retail business on the ground floor.
Redburn Development Partners conducts deep historical research into its properties in order to tap historic tax credits to fund their work, which has also included the Foster Building on State Street.
“One would never guess the history behind that building without a little digging,” Lopez said. “It’s a terrific story.”