The first step in renovating five State Street buildings known as Wellington Row that have stood vacant for 20 years is scheduled to begin on Monday.
Mayor Jerry Jennings and project developer Joseph Nicolla met in front of the Wellington Hotel on Friday morning to announce the project schedule and said environmental cleanup will start on Monday when crews begin removing asbestos from the buildings.
“This is the first step. Without this nothing else happens,” said Nicolla, president of Columbia Development Corp., which purchased the buildings.
The first phase will include “historic deconstruction,” when stonework on the building facade will be removed and labeled for later use.
A second phase will be selective demolition and site restoration and a third phase, scheduled to begin in 2009, will include building restoration and new construction.
Columbia Development purchased the property more than two years ago and plans to build a $50 million, 14-story office tower that will include street-level shops, offices and apartments to draw residents to the city. There will be an entrance through the reconstructed Wellington Hotel facade.
Columbia purchased the property for $925,000 from the London-based Sebba Rockaway Ltd., which had planned to demolish the row of buildings.
Nicolla said the project has received all the necessary permits except site plan approval.
“Look up the hill, “ said Nicolla. “It’s within a stone’s throw to the Capitol grounds. This is the gateway to the Capitol and city.”
The buildings have been vacant for a very long time and the absentee landlord lived overseas and had no reason to develop it, he said.
Nicolla said it’s been a daunting task and he credited Mayor Jennings, who “willed it to happen.”
The project is an important investment in historic preservation and the renaissance of Albany, said Jennings. He said the next 18 months will include significant activity and improvements to State Street.
Standing in front of the Wellington Hotel itself, Nicolla said all the stones will be removed “stone by stone.”
They will be labeled and stored and once the new building is complete, the original stones will be replaced on the new Wellington to preserve its historical appearance.
The plan is to maintain three of the five buildings, including the Elks Club and two buildings east of the Wellington. The facade of the Berkshire, which is west of the former Elks Club, will be stabilized and a new building will be constructed.
The Wellington Hotel, at 136 State St., will be demolished, a replica building will be built and significant facade features will be placed on the building.
The project is receiving $2.5 million in state funding from Restore New York, overseen by Empire State Development. The money will be used to clear the property and get it ready for construction. The city of Albany applied for these funds more than two years ago.
The state Department of Transportation has also committed $2.5 million to assist with improvements to State Street.