EDITORIAL: Make old Nicholaus site special again

This empty lot at 264 State St. in Schenectady, at the corner of Erie Boulevard, formerly was the site of the landmark Nicholaus Building.

This empty lot at 264 State St. in Schenectady, at the corner of Erie Boulevard, formerly was the site of the landmark Nicholaus Building.

There are vacant lots throughout the city of Schenectady that can make a marked improvement on their surroundings with just some raking and some mowing.

Then there are others – like the prominent lot at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard on the site of the old Nicholaus Building – that command more attention – and more investment.

So on the surface, it might seem a tad too indulgent for Metroplex to allot $25,000 in economic development money to improve the little sliver of property next to the new Electric City apartment complex.

But the prominence of the corner and the potential aesthetic impact it could have on the city make the investment worth it — if it’s done right.

Right now, the corner stands out like a sore thumb from the rest of the area — an overgrown mess with weedy trees surrounded by a chain-link fence. If you happened by there, you might be inclined to cross the street rather than take your chances walking alongside that fence.

Building a structure on the site is probably out of the question, given the size of the lot and the past problems with the ground there.

So the next best thing for visitors and residents to see as they pass that major intersection is something green and pleasing to the eye.

So what should it be?

For $25,000, it should be more than just some grass and a park bench.

Maybe it could have tables and period lighting to highlight the corner. Maybe an awning or some hanging plants to break up the stark brick facade.

Maybe the lot would be a good place for a statue of a prominent historic figure or event (or, dare we say it, Lady Liberty?). Something to highlight the city’s heritage.

It might also include some kind of marker to pay tribute to the historic Nicholaus building that once stood on the site.

We know this is a touchy subject given the controversy that led to the building being torn down in the face of potential collapse in 2017. But the building was once a big part of the city’s historic and architectural character, and making something out of this vacant lot beyond basic plantings would be a good opportunity to remind people of that.

Built in the early to mid-1800s, the once prominent building was home to a famous German restaurant in its time, among other tenants. Maybe some homage could be made to that history, perhaps with some reference to the restaurant or to the German heritage of its owners, in the form of the style of seating or signage placed on the site.

Even the landscaping selected for the site could reflect the character of the area while providing needed green space for that particular corner.

We’re sure plenty of people already have some good ideas for the site.

That corner is too prominent and too rooted in the city’s past to leave it in its current condition or to treat it as just an ordinary vacant lot to clean up.

Make the investment.

Make it a special place in the heart of Schenectady once again.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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