SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority will provide $1.85 million in financial assistance and numerous tax breaks to the Latham-based developer seeking to restore the Wedgeway Building at the corner of Erie Boulevard and State Street.
The Metroplex board of directors unanimously approved the project plan last week, which includes a sales-tax exemption for the purchase of construction materials, a mortgage recording tax exemption and a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that has yet to be finalized, according to Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen.
Gillen, in an interview Monday, acknowledged that the package was significant, but said the estimated $17 million investment by Cass Hill Development Co. will save the historic building at 271-277 State St., which he said is a key to unlocking future development along the State Street corridor.
“This is an aggressive incentive package from us but it needed to be because the building is in very poor condition,” he said. “We’re saving this building with this investment and our support.”
The full extent of the tax breaks, however, remain unclear.
Cass Hill has yet to close on the building and the developer is still in the process of determining the cost of materials to restore the building, according to Gillen, who noted ongoing supply chain issues could drive up construction costs.
Exact details are expected to be revealed later this year, according to Gillen.
Mayor Gary McCarthy did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Cass Hill received Planning Commission approval for the project last month, with plans calling for 14,000 square feet of retail space on the building’s first floor and 80 market-rate apartments on the upper floors. A six-story addition will be constructed on the building’s northside parking lot along Erie Boulevard, which will feature an underground parking garage with 24 spots and two commercial retails spaces on the first floor.
But plans to restore the building’s marquee — a key feature of the building that for decades housed the State Theater until it closed in the 1980s — were tabled until a future date over a lack of details and concerns about the city’s zoning laws. Approval of the marquee design is the last obstacle that must be cleared before the sale is finalized, Gillen said.
Restoring the Wedgeway Building has been a key priority for Metroplex, which worked with the city to have the building listed to the state and national historic registries in order to unlock a number of historic tax credits to help offset redevelopment costs.
The building was first constructed in the 1880s and was once the most prominent symbols of economic vibrancy in the entire city. But the building has has been the subject of a number of code violations in recent years and has sat vacant since last year when The Photo-Lab closed.
A chain-link fence surrounds the building along Erie Boulevard in order to protect pedestrians from falling debris.
Gillen said Metroplex’s $1.85 million investment sets aside $100,000 to stabilize the building’s facade and marquee.
He added a number of state programs are also being looked into to help offset Metroplex’s investment. The development authority is also looking into using up to $600,000 for facade improvements along State Street set aside as part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant awarded in 2019.
Metroplex, which is administering the facade program, entered into a contract with the state’s Department of State for the program last week.
“It’s the most important on lower State [Street]. We’re still going through our contract with the state, but it’s up to $600,000 to be reimbursed from the DRI,” he said.
A number of large-scale projects have been completed along the lower State Street corridor in recent years, totaling millions in private investment, but Gillen said the poor condition of the Wedgeway Building has prevented some development projects from moving forward, including those involving the former DMV building located at 267 State St.
“We believe this is going to have a positive impact that still need work on lower State,” he said. “You’ll see us take action on those in future meetings as early as next month.”
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.