SCHENECTADY — With work underway to restore the former State Theatre building at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard, the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority last week approved a $300,000 facade grant for the project.
The grant will be paid using a $600,000 façade improvement program established to enhance existing buildings along key corridors as part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative awarded in 2019, and reduces a previous $1.85 million commitment made by Metroplex last year to advance the project, according to Ray Gillen, the development authority’s chairman.
“We’re basically lowering the Metroplex grant and subbing in the DRI,” he said.
The state’s Department of Homes and Community Renewal, which is administering the grant funds, must sign off on the proposal before any funds are released. The grant will be used to replace 159 windows in the building and repair roof damage, according to Gillen.
If approved, the grant will be the latest public funding source for what is expected to be a more than $17 million project to restore one of Schenectady’s most prominent buildings at 271-277 State St. that was once a vibrant economic hub in the city, but became the subject of hundreds of code violations in recent years.
Cass Hill Development Co. of Latham last year gained approval from city planners to restore the building — which is commonly referred to as the Wedgeway and Kresge buildings — to its former glory, while adding a six-story addition on the building’s northside parking lot. Plans call for 14,000 square feet of retail space on the building’s first floor and 80 market rate apartments on the upper floors.
The state last year awarded the project a $2.3 million Restore NY grant, a program administered by Empire State Development to help local governments revitalize downtown regions. Metroplex has also approved a mortgage recording tax exemption and a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the project.
Restoring the former State Theatre building, one of the most prominent in the city, has been a goal for city and county officials for years, but efforts were stalled due to a protracted legal battle with the building’s former owner that ultimately resulted in a $388,000 fine last year.
But even as the legal dispute remained ongoing, officials pushed to have the building added to the state and national historic registries in hopes of unlocking historic tax credits that could help pay for the redevelopment of the buildings. The building was recommended for inclusion to the historic registries last March.
Gillen said construction crews are currently gutting the building’s interior and working to remediate any contaminants like asbestos, and expects construction to begin later this year.
The project is one of several on the lower State Street corridor that is expected to get underway this year.
Just down the road at 22 State St., the Capital District Transportation Authority is expected to break ground on a first-of-its-kind mobility hub where the former Trailways Bus station once stood. Once complete, the $5 million transportation hub will include access to all of CDTA’s transportation methods, including bicycle and scooter share programs, car-share program and various bus lines .
Also in development are plans to restore the former Department of Motor Vehicle building located at 267 State St. The building, which sits directly next to the Wedgway and Kruske buildings, has sat empty for a number of years, but developer Antonio Civitella is working on plans to restore the building into an office space or co-work building, according to Gillen.
Metroplex awarded the project a $375,000 grant to help with the project.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.