SCHENECTADY – A Black, family-owned business that has taken on neglected, city-owned properties was feted by city officials Wednesday for its work transforming a run-down former church into a gleaming two-family apartment building in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood.
Led by Pamela Swanigan, AIK Property Group bought 1073 Howard St. as part of a cluster of purchases from the city. It gutted, rehabbed and transformed the former church into a pair of three-bedroom apartments with open floor plans and oversized windows.
It was the second time city officials saluted AIK Property Group for giving a new beginning to a neighborhood eyesore. The previous ceremony occurred in September 2019, when AIK Property Group renovated 3330 Balltown Road through the same HOMES (Homeownership Made Easy in Schenectady) Initiative.
On Dec. 23, 2019, the City Council adopted a resolution authorizing the sale of 1073 Howard St., as well as a vacant lot on Olean St., 2022 Williams St., and 2026 Williams St. to AIK Property Group, all for $25,000. The closing was June 22, 2020.
After receiving accolades in its Howard Street parking lot Wednesday, Swanigan led a tour of one of the units.
The first-floor apartment is already rented, while property manager Homes by Harline, is marketing the 1,400-square-foot upstairs apartment for $1,200 a month. Prospective tenants with Section 8 subsidies are welcome to apply, Swanigan said.
“This would not have been possible without the vision, tenacity and perseverance of people like Pam Swanigan, who I consider a friend, a community leader and really an example of how you work through these projects, how do you make them happen,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said.
A representative of state Sen. James Tedisco’s office gave Swanigan a citation, and a rep from Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara’s office presented certificates of merit to AIK and Homes by Harline.
Since 2013, when McCarthy established the HOMES Initiative to promote and facilitate housing opportunities throughout Schenectady, more than 600 previously vacant city-owned properties have been sold, renovated, and put back on the tax rolls.
The initiative leverages partnerships with area banks, realtors, and other housing-related entities.
In the first three months of this year, Schenectady has sold 32 properties to new owners for more than $1.2 million in revenue for city taxpayers.
During public remarks, Swanigan thanked God for providing the protection and grace that she said is “needed to keep us steady as we go through these projects, but also just as we achieve our goals and try and put back in the community.”
She also saluted McCarthy for supporting small business owners.
After purchasing the double lot from the city, AIK hired local minority and women-owned businesses to complete the rehabilitation project, including graduates of Schenectady’s Economic Opportunity Workforce Initiative.
One such contractor, Michael DeOrio of Happy Electric, Inc., said going through the city’s construction management program provided him a base for starting his business. It’s been a struggle starting out, he acknowledged.
“Fortunately, I’ve been able to find people in my travels like Pam,” DeOrio said, adding she fostered a family-type work environment that made him want to do his best.
In speaking about the economic empowerment program that creates opportunity for smaller contractors, City Affirmative Action Officer Ron Gardner praised Swanigan for buying into the city’s vision of building neighborhoods and community. Gardner also thanked the corporation counsel and other city departments whose work behind the scenes often goes unrecognized in keeping the properties stabilized and clean until they are sold.
Swanigan also acknowledged Amber and Glenn Schworm of Vestor Pro for being part of her company’s network of private investors. She called them friends and mentors.
“I’ll just be very frank with you, traditional banks will not lend to us to get these properties done,” Swanigan said, adding the couple was “integral to a woman who’s over 60 and about to retire” in moving forward with the lofty rehab project.
Amber Schworm returned the compliment, praising Swanigan for not only having the “genius to follow up the information that she needed to make it happen, but she took action and she did it. She didn’t just sit on that dream.”
Swanigan said she’s happy to help others in using her “system,” and she suggested people were “missing out on an opportunity to take advantage of the generosity of the city,” and to engage with small investors to get this kind of work accomplished.
“I’m here to say Schenectady is definitely open for business as far as AIK is concerned and I encourage all other small investors to do the same,” she said.
Potential homebuyers can find purchase offer forms and information regarding housing opportunities, financial assistance, first-time homebuyer programs, and other resources at www.CallSchenectadyHome.com, or by contacting Maurice Brown, the City’s Homeownership Coordinator, at (518) 382-5199 ext. 5348, or [email protected]