The newest downtown event venue is up and running in one of the older buildings in that part of Schenectady.
The Edison Downtown is the new incarnation of a former carpet store and printing press building at 132-136 Broadway, and the reimagined space pays tribute to the age and commercial heritage of the early 20th century structures.
Salvaged oak doors, pressed tin ceilings, an obsolete electrical control panel and hardwood floors contribute to the aesthetic.
But the centerpiece clearly is the two-story well where the old Schenectady Gazette’s printing press towers once stood.
The floor is new polished wood and the walls are layered in paint and plaster from decades before. Above it all, three chandeliers glow.
One of the old-time pressmen would be gobsmacked upon walking in and seeing it today, and it’s apparently also making quite an impression on couples considering the venue for wedding receptions and other events.
“Amid massive construction, I’ve shown this place 28 times and we have 26 bookings,” said Belinda Shumway of Colonie-based Seasons Catering.
Belinda and her husband, Bob, are veterans of the area catering industry. But her 25 years of catering have been all off-premises — Seasons has never had a venue of its own.
That changed after an employee of Redburn Development Partners was getting married, and mentioned to the Shumways that Redburn was converting the upper floors of the former Gazette printing building into apartments but didn’t have a use yet for the ground floor.
Belinda was sold on the industrial-chic potential of the space.
“It’s been my vision for almost four years and I feel it’s the upcoming new trend for weddings,” she said.
She visited a successful execution of the same concept on a trip to the South — The Cadillac Service Garage in Greensboro, North Carolina — and decided it would work here, too.
“There’s nothing in the area like it. We wanted to be the first one out.”
Seasons Catering will occupy the space through a lease with Redburn, which spent $1.7 million refitting it and was applying the finishing touches late this past week. Redburn also recently completed work on the residential portion of the complex.
The two buildings most recently were home to the Edison Tech Center and Electric City Bike Rescue, and were among the more challenging projects the company has taken on in its continuing effort to spur revitalization in downtowns across the region.
The former carpet store was a single story and the four-story Gazette press building was configured oddly with a two-story cavern in the middle where the press once stood.
“We knew from almost the moment we walked in here that this was going to have to be some kind of event space,” Redburn Principal Jeff Buell said.
Meanwhile, the economics of the configuration — it yielded just 11 apartments — dictated that the ground floor would need to generate a significant and steady stream of revenue to help cover the costs of renovation and maintenance.
The Shumways said the location is a winner for them.
“Besides the obvious — the size, the space, the beauty — you’re downtown,” Bob said.
The main kitchen is downstairs and a satellite kitchen for staging purposes is upstairs, off the ballroom. A smaller space they’re calling The White Gallery will be useful for overflow or for small events. The old electrical control room for the printing press serves as an ante room; groomsmen might wait there for their cue, for example.
Redburn offered to remove the old-time controls to increase the floor space, Bob recalled, and he said no way, leave them as is.
“We just thought the guys would love this,” he said.
A bridal shower on June 5 was the first event on site. A wedding on June 18 will be the first on site in its finished state.
Belinda said the bride and groom have been delaying the ceremony until The Edison Downtown was ready.
“They had four different dates and they stuck it out with me,” she said. “The wedding was not even supposed to be here, it was supposed to be someplace else. They saw this place and they switched.”