How often have you craved a heaping plate of sabzi-polo with shrimp, or a side order of mast-o-khiar, or just a tasty kabob koobideh, only to realize the nearest Persian restaurant is more than 50 miles away?
Local developer Reza Mahoutchian knows your pain.
In early 2009, he will open Schenectady’s — and the Capital Region’s — first Persian restaurant, adding to the city’s growing list of dining spots offering international food.
In addition to homemade yogurt with diced cucumbers (mast-o-khair), the restaurant will also offer dishes of broiled chicken with onions and saffron topped with rice as well as grilled shrimp with rice and fresh Persian herbs (sabzi-polo with shrimp).
Mahoutchian plans to open the restaurant on the roof of a five-story building at 1 State St., where it will command a view of the Mohawk River, Schenectady County Community College and much of the historic Stockade District.
“Our goal is to bring people from outside of Schenectady into Schenectady,” he said.
Mahoutchian bought the building several months ago for $100,000 and plans to spend $1.2 million to rehabilitate it. Besides the restaurant, he plans to install an elevator and convert the interior of the former apartment building into either class A office space or rooms for SCCC students.
He would like to rent the office space to SCCC as his first option and convert it to dorms as a final resort, Mahoutchian said. If used as dorms, the building would house 38 students, he said.
“We are hoping the college wants it for office use. We can provide 10,000 square feet of office space,” Mahoutchian said. “It is a logical choice; the college needs space and is looking to expand, and it is an ideal location.”
The restaurant would be part of the building no matter what direction its use takes, Mahoutchian said. He would like to tie the restaurant to the college’s culinary arts program or else put it under independent operation.
Another plan is to install a digital message board along one side of the building, which would display announcements and other information to people coming into the city.
“The building has great exposure,” sitting as it does opposite SCCC and off the entrances to Interstate 890 and the Western Gateway Bridge, Mahoutchian said. “It is at the gateway to the city,” he said.
Mahoutchian is working with the Metroplex Development Authority and its chairman, Ray Gillen. Gillen is also an SCCC trustee and will present the office concept to the college Board of Trustees, Mahoutchian said. Mahoutchian plans to show Mayor Brian U. Stratton the building design soon.
Gillen praised Mahoutchian’s work and his commitment to the city.
“He recently received an award from the Heritage Foundation for his work in restoring a building on lower Union Street that is now the home to the Winedown Lounge, which is has been a terrific addition to downtown,” he said.
Scott Wallant, of Wallant Architects, designed the restaurant and the building’s other features. “It is a modern element on top of a traditional building. It is still in harmony with the building, and it makes a bold statement,” he said.
Wallant said the renovated building will become a beacon and landmark, and it makes a strong statement about the city and community. A new entrance will be constructed on grade, and the building will contain new glass and different colors.
“It is an eccentric-looking building, but we will calm it down a bit,” Wallant said.
Lyn Gordon, president of the Stockade Association, said Mahoutchian has done other development projects in the Stockade without issue.
“He has a reputation for doing excellent work. He has never done a project that wasn’t a superior work or top-notch. He pays attention to every detail,” she said.
Mahoutchian last year purchased the former MVP Health Care building on Liberty Street. He plans to covert the structure either into luxury apartments or into condominiums. In addition, he will restore the facade of the former courthouse on Union Street. He pegged the project cost at $1.6 million.
The building fronts Union Street in the Stockade with a rear entrance on Liberty Street. It contains 43,000 square feet. MVP vacated the building in 2001 when it moved to its new headquarters at State Street and Nott Terrace.
Mahoutchian recently restored the old Beyer Fur Co. building on Union Street into the Winedown Lounge. He plans to convert several other buildings he owns along the block into a women’s clothing store, a hair salon, an Internet cafe and a pizzeria.
“Each will have a have a function geared to bringing people into Schenectady,” Mahoutchian said. These businesses will open in 2009, he said.