SCHENECTADY — Plans were announced Tuesday for a new restaurant at the corner of Franklin and Jay streets.
When those plans will be realized has yet to be determined, as a large block of state funding that would help pay for it appears to be in a holding pattern.
In early July 2020, Spraragen Partners announced the start of an overhaul of the former office building at 430 Franklin St. into a more attractive mixed-use property. Not long after, they began working with the owners of Simone’s Kitchen in Greene County on the idea of opening a second location of the fast-casual eatery on the ground floor.
Nearly a year later, conversion of the building has bogged down over uncertainty in funding.
The building was proposed to receive $600,000 in state economic development funding to defray a project budget projected at $2.4 million.
The money would come as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award the state made to the city of Schenectady in November 2019. The local committee that recommended spending allocations submitted its wish list to the state in September 2020, but seven months later, there has been no decision on the request from the state.
“It’s in the state’s hands right now,” said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, which was involved in the process.
“And it’s up to them to make the final selection of projects that are going to be funded.”
He said he had no insight into what the decision would be and when it would be announced.
Metroplex saw the building as an important and lagging part of the downtown landscape that has seen so much improvement in the last two decades. It was a nondescript office building on a key corner across from City Hall, and was one of the largest vacant buildings downtown. Metroplex made a particularly large facade grant — $175,000 — to help make the project a reality.
Spraragen Partners saw potential in 430 Franklin St., given its location and solid construction. Brooke and Chris Spraragen have named it The Benjamin after their great-grandfather who, 98 years ago Tuesday, founded the family business that would become Schenectady Hardware & Electric.
The siblings announced the restaurant plan Tuesday in hopes of drumming up support for the future location of Simone’s Kitchen and in hopes of goosing along some movement by the state on approving the DRI allocations.
“The DRI is a huge component of making this a success,” Brooke said. Demolition has been completed but the interior fit-out has not begun and the planned elevator has not been installed, she said.
She’s excited about the prospect of Simone’s cutting the ribbon in Schenectady. It’s something different from the other restaurants in downtown Schenectady, offering a Mediterranean fusion menu in a quick-casual setting.
“They have a really great concept,” she said. “When we met with them we really hit it off.”
Sunday will be the third anniversary of their opening in West Coxsackie.
“What their focus is really about is healthy affordable options for people.”