SCHENECTADY — Where some see reason to walk away, others see untapped potential.
With a footprint across seven different counties, real estate agent and developer Renee Farley now has her eye cocked toward the Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood, where she has finished restoring one flood-damaged home and is pivoting to another.
When she first laid eyes on 28 North St., the two-family home was in rough shape after being flooded by the Mohawk River in 2011.
Floodwaters had reached the second floor.
For years, the home lay exposed and prone to all the usual pitfalls that happen when a property sits vacant, including trespassers — both human and animal.
So Farley, owner of Renee Farley Realty Group and the Malta-based Jo-Re Construction Company, purchased the building in 2016, sparing it from demolition and launching a full restoration.
“It was a total gut job,” Farley recalled of the modest home, which looks out over Riverside Park.
Farley used the opportunity to convert the home into a one-family dwelling, including dropping the original upper-level front door to street level.
Farley likes to incorporate old with the new, scouring antiques markets and secondhand shops for artifacts, furniture and other accoutrements.
For instance, she found a vintage Rita Hayworth poster advertising a strapless bra that is now incorporated into the kitchen island.
When the property became available, a bidding war between 21 interested parties ensued, Farley recalled.
“Everyone wants to be in the Stockade,” said Farley, who said the project acted as a catalyst for other homeowners on the block to spruce up their properties.
While the neighborhood is full of stately structures with noble pedigrees, the home at 28 North St. itself is modest, said Frank Gilmore, a local architect who estimated the structure dates to the early 1900s. The home would have been simple, affordable housing constructed to incorporate the influx of labor flocking to what was then an industrial powerhouse.
“These were lower-middle-class homes originally,” Gilmore said. “They were pretty much functional places.”
However modest its origins, Farley doesn’t mind.
“Knowing what it was like having your hands on every inch of the property — it’s like birthing a child,” said Farley upon completing a renovation.
One block away, Farley is in the midst of renovating a second property at 122 N. Ferry St. The building had garnered headlines in the past — negative ones.
The long-empty home was in such bad shape it became a harbor for mold and wild animals.
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The crumbling building actually caused the walkway between the house next door to pull away from the foundation, leading the homeowner to file a notice of claim with the city in 2018.
Farley recalled most of the foundation was missing after she took ownership, purchasing the building for $6,200 and bringing her children into the fold to aid with its rebirth.
One son designed the lintels in a fairly faithful reconstruction of the original design.
Like its neighbor a block away, the project was a total overhaul that took everything down to the studs.
Now tenants occupy the top floor, while the ground floor remains a work in progress.
It’s not cheap: Any exterior changes must adhere to Schenectady Historic District Commission’s guidelines.
That equated to several 2-by-2 windows clocking in at $2,000 a pop, said Farley.
She found another window — this one nearly 6 feet long — at Schenectady Habitat Restore and will use it to flood the kitchen with light, hopefully pleasing its new occupants as they gaze out into the grassy backyard.
Farley enjoys finding ways to bring light into older homes that didn’t prioritize natural light, including creative placement of windows to maximize light between rooms and hallways, as well as cathedral-style ceilings.
“The goal is trying to keep the history but make it more functional,” Farley said.
The two properties are Farley’s first in the neighborhood.
“I love working in the Stockade,” Farley said. “If you can start by taking on just one house, it becomes infectious.”
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