SCHENECTADY — The past year has been a bleak one for the Stockade Inn.
After a kitchen fire prompted its closure in January, developers sought to purchase the building and convert the shuttered boutique hotel into an apartment complex and office space.
The deal, however, fell through in July following widespread neighborhood opposition, sparking concerns over the building’s future.
Those fears were ultimately short-lived:
Urban Initiatives Group has purchased the building in the city’s Stockade neighborhood and will continue to operate the venue as the Stockade Inn. The deal was finalized last Friday.
“One of the reasons we took on this project is because the Stockade Historical District is such a special place, not only in the region, but it’s nationally recognized as a historic district,” said John Samatulski, president of Urban Initiatives Group. “And the Stockade Inn is one of the very few places anyone could come and experience the Stockade.”
Samatulski envisions slight tweaks to the road-tested formula of good food and comfy confines:
Rooms will receive minor “thoughtful” upgrades, and while overnight rooms will be retained, the new owners aim to capture the extended-stay crowd, or visitors on short-term work assignments like traveling nurses and business executives.
“There will be some rooms available within three months if things go according to plan,” Samatulski said.
Food service will take longer.
While damage incurred from the kitchen fire, which was sparked by a cook reducing butter, has been repaired, more renovations are needed.
A revamped menu will encompass two distinct price points and will ramp up gradually, starting with cafe-style offerings followed by fine dining.
Diversifying revenue sources, including tapping into small-scale events and a co-working space, will offer a buffer against economic risk and will provide a sense of stability, Samatulski said. “It’s going to be very different than what’s been done here before.”
The building at the corner of Union and Church streets has long housed a hospitality venue, operating for decades as the Lower Mohawk Club.
Urban Initiatives Group will be the third owner in two years.
The McDonalds owned and operated the business from 2003 until last year, when they sold to Gregor Hotels, which operated the venue for six months.
The Gregors purchased the building for $975,000; Redburn Development Partners offered $545,000, while Urban Initiatives paid $550,000.
Following the fire, Gregor Hotels contended the venue could not be sustained as a hospitality business and found a potential buyer in Redburn, which proposed converting the building into a 23-unit apartment complex — but only if granted a use variance by the city Board of Zoning Appeals.
Fervent community opposition resulted in the developers scrapping the project hours before a second attempt to seek the variance on July 1.
Samatulski reached out to the Stockade Association and Schenectady Heritage Foundation immediately afterward.
Both are thrilled with the new ownership.
“It vindicates our position that we didn’t feel the previous owner had explored potential buyers,” said Stockade Association President Suzanne Unger.
The Stockade Association and Schenectady Heritage Foundation were opposed to Redburn’s purchase, contending the developers were poor stewards of the numerous properties they have purchased in the neighborhood in recent years. They also contended that the building didn’t qualify for a variance because the inn’s financial hardship was self-created and its decline was not a result of shifting industry trends.
Critics also expressed concern over high turnover at the apartments and losing a landmark institution from a neighborhood with few restaurants and community spaces.
“I think Redburn realized we weren’t going to let it go if it was approved,” Unger said.
Gloria Kishton, chairwoman of the Schenectady Heritage Foundation, said Gregor Hotels and Redburn failed to meet the criteria for receiving a use variance.
“I think continuing the business as an inn under the current zoning is what the neighborhood wanted in the first place,” Kishton said. “I think people are going to be very, very happy with the outcome here.”
After clsing the inn, former owner Robert Gregor began liquidating contents, selling items like antique tables and mirrors on social media.
None were historic architectural elements, Samatulski said.
“There was a concern that architectural elements were ripped out of the building, and that did not happen,” he said.
Urban Initiative Group is no stranger to development, and resurrection of the Stockade Inn is its 14th project in the city,
For past several years, the developers have been transforming 140 Erie Blvd., renovating four storefronts and attracting businesses like Hot Yoga.
Work is ongoing to create a series of urban art studios under the Alchemy Urban Playground banner (Urban Initiative Group is asking the state to chip in 44 percent of the $685,000 project through the Schenectady Downtown Revitalization Initiative).
Urban Initiative Group also redeveloped three flood-damaged homes on Ingersoll Avenue, converting them into affordable housing units, and is currently renovating 432 Franklin St. across from City Hall.
“In some ways, this is our biggest and most ambitious effort to date,” Samatulski said. “But all of our work over the past decade has led us to the point where we can be successful here.”