If Metroplex is going to invest $1.85 million in a downtown project, it probably couldn’t pick a better target for the money than the restoration of the historic Wedgeway Building.
The crumbling, vacant building at the corner of Erie Boulevard and State Street is prominent in a number of ways — physical size, visibility, uniqueness, location and history.
It’s exactly the kind of building that city and Metroplex officials should be trying to save, restore and put back into use.
Plans by Latham developer Cass Hill Development include creating 14,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and up to 80 apartments on the upper floors. The plan includes purchase of a 65-space parking lot on Liberty Street to meet the city’s parking requirements for the apartments, construction of a six-story addition in a parking lot along Erie Boulevard and an underground parking garage with 24 spots. Work to restore the building will include repairs to the facade.
In addition to the developer’s investment and the investment from Metroplex, the building could be eligible for historic preservation funds to offset expenses.
The Nicholaus Building, once located across the street, should serve as a cautionary tale to developers about the potential problems they face restoring an old building with a history of code issues.
It was demolished in 2017 after it began shaking and was deemed in imminent danger of collapse. The owners at the time alleged that demolition work adjacent to the building undermined the structure, leading to its demise.
Developers need to be cognizant not only of the stability of the building they’re restoring, but of the work they plan to do nearby.
If restored and marketed correctly, the 137-year-old brick Wedgeway Building, with its prominent movie marquee, could contribute to the economic Renaissance in that area .
There are some details to be worked out before we can wholly endorse the effort.
The Metroplex plan includes a sales-tax exemption for construction materials, a mortgage recording tax exemption and a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that has yet to be finalized.
How much of a tax break will the developer get and how will that impact government finances? Will the cost and availability of construction materials drive up the cost and therefore potentially the local investment?
What types of businesses will be located in the renovated and new space, and how much will apartments rent for? So far, there have been no details released about business tenants, which isn’t unusual at this stage but which will shed light on the type of growth officials can expect to see in that area.
Officials also haven’t finalized the fate of the movie marquee, which gives the building much of its charm and historic character. We hope they can preserve it.
And we’d like to see some investment made in the roads around the building to help draw business traffic to that area.
But overall, this type of project checks all the boxes for downtown revitalization.
Let’s hope it comes to fruition.