SCHENECTADY — Big changes are coming to downtown following Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting, including dozens of new apartments, businesses and a permanent headquarters for the Schenectady Greenmarket.
Commissioners approved a number of projects that would alter the look of the downtown area, including plans to redevelop the historic Wedgeway Building at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard and a proposal to tear down the existing structure at 31 Lafayette St. to make way for a new five-story apartment complex.
Also approved were plans to restore the three-story Swift Building at 26 North Broadway, which once housed the Schenectady Beef Co. in the 1800s but has sat empty the past five years.
Developer John Samatulski of Urban Initiatives Group purchased the building that sits between Pinhead Susan’s and 20 North, and has already secured a number of businesses interested in leasing a portion of the approximate 14,000-square-foot space.
Samatulski is behind a number of development projects in the city, including 432 Franklin St., home to the coworking space Capital Co-Works across from City Hall.
The Schenectady Greenmarket, which has seen steady growth in recent years, plans to lease a portion of the building for storage, food prep and offices. The market is gearing up to launch a food box program that will provide fresh produce to low-income residents beginning May 1.
The building is about a block from City Hall where the Greenmarket hosts its weekly outdoor market between April and November. The market moves indoors to Proctors during the winter.
“While we’re outside City Hall for the outdoor market season and inside Proctors for the winter, this space is an ideal location for us to secure all our market items and equipment and have meeting space for our board and staff, especially while we’re adding several additional staff members to manage the market and our food box program,” Haley Viccaro, board chair of the Schenectady Greenmarket, said in a statement.
Other businesses that have agreed to lease space in the building include Ally Roofing, LAZ Parking, WeStaff, the Barber Shop Builder, Chelsea’s Canvas and The Beauty Bar.
The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority is planning to provide $50,000 towards the rehabilitation of the building, including $25,000 for facade improvements and $25,000 to assist the Greenmarket in renovating its space.
Metroplex Chair Ray Gillen said Samatulski is a proven developer with a strong track record, and having a permanent headquarters for the Greenmarket in the downtown area would benefit both the city and market.
One of the most prominent corners in the city is also on the path towards redevelopment after the Planning Commission unanimously approved site plans to restore the Wedgeway Building at 271-277 State St.
A few details still need to be sorted, including concerns about parking and lighting for the building’s theater marquee, but those issues are expected to be hammered out in the coming weeks.
Cass Hill Development Co. of Latham is planning to restore the historic structure constructed in 1885 and add a six-story extension to the building’s north end that is currently a parking lot. The extension will feature two commercial tenants and a 24 spot underground parking garage for residents.
Once complete, the building will feature 14,000 square feet of commercial space and 80 apartment units.
Marc Paquin, CEO of Cass Hill Development, said he has a contract to purchase a 65 spot parking garage along Liberty Street and is working on an agreement with Metroplex to lease a number of spots at public parking facility across the street from the building for commercial tenants.
Metroplex is planning to contribute more than $500,000 towards the building’s restoration.
The development authority pushed to have the building listed to the State and National Historic Registries in order to unlock a number of historic tax credits to redevelop the structure, which has been the subject of a number of city code violations in recent years.
Gillen said a number of large projects have been completed along the State Street corridor in recent years, including the development of the Electric City Apartments and the Mill Lane Artisan District, but noted the dilapidated Wedgeway Building has proven to be an obstacle.
“There’ll be a domino effect once this building is restored,” he said.
A two-story structure at 31 Lafayette St., just across the street from the city’s police station, will be torn down to make way for a five-story apartment complex. Rosenblum Group, the the Albany-based development company behind the Schaffer Senior Center along Nott Terrace, is behind the project.
The building will include a mix of one- and two-bedroom units that will feature 5-foot windows balconies and a courtyard.
Plans also call for a first-floor parking garage featuring 50 spots, as well as greenery to enhance curb appeal, according to Michael Roman, an architect with C2 Design Group.
The project prompted a discussion regarding the enforcement of design guidelines but was ultimately approved unanimously by Planning Commission members, but was ultimately approved unanimously.
“Do we want a city that looks exactly the same?” said Commissioner Randall Beach. “I think it’s a great structure. I think it’s a great plan and I’m excited to have it here.”
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.