Schenectady’s Ambition café to undergo structural, aesthetic upgrades

Ambiton Café owner Mark Renson in front of his establishment Saturday

Ambiton Café owner Mark Renson in front of his establishment Saturday

SCHENECTADY — Ambition Coffee and Eatery is gearing up for an upgrade.

Owner Marc Renson said the plan is improvement of existing space rather than expansion into new space. He said the project will create a second-floor balcony, but didn’t want to disclose other details. Some aspects, he said, haven’t even been decided.

“I don’t have a look of the place yet,” Renson said.

“I see it on the blueprint, but I don’t know. I have to feel it in my soul.”

Whatever the visual changes, the bistro’s Hollywood theme will endure, he added.

The project got an unlikely start back in December 2019, when a carbon monoxide leak resulted in a shutdown order by the city Code Department on grounds of unsanitary conditions.

The closure was brief as the shutdown order was quickly rescinded. The chief codes officer apologized for the inspector’s “overzealous” interpretation of normal wear and tear in the old building at 154-156 Jay St., on the pedestrian-only retail zone that connects State and Franklin streets.

“In the course of all that, a little bit of a miracle, they found a structural beam that needed to be repaired,” Renson said.

The main part of the project will be jacking up the building and replacing the compromised beam, as well as another structural beam. 

“We are also doing a new facade on the building,” he said, as well as new flooring and a new roof.

The vacant space on the second floor will become office space, with a circular staircase added to reach the new balcony.

Projects on 150-year-old buildings are notoriously prone to growing larger once begun. But Renson is being told this one will entail only three weeks of work in the bistro itself, and that he’ll be able to stay open for business while the work is underway — the workers won’t arrive until mid-afternoon, closing time for Ambition.

The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority is providing a $25,000 facade grant for the project, which it says involves one of the most distinctive buildings downtown.

The circa-1870 building housed the Jay Tavern from 1944 to 2000. Ambition opened in its place on April 10, 2000.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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