SCHENECTADY — The plan to convert the Stockade Inn to apartments hit a bump Thursday, falling short in a bid to gain the first special city approval the plan needs.
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-1 to approve the use variance Redburn Development would need to undertake the project. But a minimum of four yes votes by the seven-member board in needed to approve a request.
Another special approval — a special use permit — was scheduled for a vote June 17 by the city Planning Commission.
Redburn, a Schenectady company specializing in creating and managing urban residential rental space, seeks to buy the boutique hotel and event space and covert it to 23 apartments and an office.
Parts of the Stockade Inn date to 1810, and over the years it has been a residence, a school, a bank and most recently the Lower Mohawk Club. The Inn has been struggling in the wake of a January kitchen fire and the COVID-19 shutdown starting in March.
The Stockade Association, an organization founded to protect, preserve and improve the historic neighborhood, registered its opposition this week to the apartment conversion plan. It laid out five reasons in a letter to the ZBA dated Tuesday:
- It is counter to the Schenectady 2020 Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2008, which called for less rental housing in the Stockade. The neighborhood already is roughly 80 percent renter-occupied, and more rental units will only increase turnover and reduce stability.
- The current owner, Gregor Hotels, has not proved hardship, which is a condition for a variance. The previous owner ran the Inn successfully for 16 years; Gregor Hotels’ few months of failed operation do not provide enough data to prove the venture is not viable.
- Redburn already owns 26 buildings totaling 91 apartments in the Stockade. Strong, stable neighborhoods have diverse ownership.
- COVID-19 is not a hardship, it is a temporary cause of economic distress. Conversion of the inn to apartments is an inappropriate response, and its consequences would last far longer than those of the pandemic.
- Redburn’s assertion that apartments will have a less-intense effect on the neighborhood than the 18-room hotel and banquet space is spurious. Turnover of small apartments would be more disruptive than traffic generated by guests and events at the inn.
The Stockade Inn is itself the product of a special use permit, which allowed its conversion in 2003.
Redburn says in its application that it will seek historic tax credits and will preserve historic circulation and common areas in the building, including the Van Curler Room.
No exterior changes are proposed, aside from masonry repairs.