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What you need to know for 10/22/2017

Key Hall adds to rebirth of downtown (with photo gallery)

Key Hall adds to rebirth of downtown (with photo gallery)

Months of work to turn an old bank into an elegant banquet hall culminated in an unveiling that left
Key Hall adds to rebirth of downtown (with photo gallery)
Proctors CEO Phillip Morris speaks for a moment before the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the opening of Key Hall at Proctors.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Months of work to turn an old bank into an elegant banquet hall culminated in an unveiling that left visitors wowed Thursday.

The renamed Key Hall, in what was once Key Bank, is now twice as wide as it appeared to be when Proctors bought it last March.

The thick marble counter that split the narrow building in two has now been painstakingly moved to the far wall — with very few pieces broken along the way, Proctors CEO Philip Morris said.

The walls have been repainted to accent the ornamental columns and the richly designed ceiling. Carpet now covers the floor where the tellers worked behind their marble counter, and the vault now leads to a kitchen.

The main entrance is no longer the front door. Workers cut through the back wall to reach Proctors’ arcade and have created a new entrance there.

The new route is not merely a hallway. The doors open onto a wide, comfortable lobby area that leads to the banquet hall.

That possible connection was one of Morris’ main reasons for buying the building. He was delighted by the final product.

“It’s more comfortable than I thought,” he said. “It’s better than I thought.”

He had worried that the floors would vary greatly in height, forcing him to create an unsightly series of ramps. But when they broke through the wall and measured, they found that the floors were less than an inch apart. Now the lobby slopes at a rate of half an inch over 20 feet — unnoticeable, Morris said proudly.

He’s also pleased with the banquet hall, which he had to redecorate on a limited budget.

“I love it. It’s exactly what I envisioned,” he said. “You know, it was a beautiful building. It didn’t take that much vision.”

Angelo Mazzone, whose Mansion Catering company will run the kitchen, wanted to hold events there as soon as he heard that Proctors was buying it.

He said he didn’t rest on his laurels. Despite running a series of successful local restaurants and managing a popular catering company, he was worried he might not be selected to cater at Key Hall.

“[Chamber of Commerce President] Chuck [Steiner] said it’s just another building, but that’s not true,” Mazzone said. “I couldn’t let this one go.”

He was one of many who used Thursday’s unveiling to declare that Schenectady is no longer a dying city.

“Schenectady’s a whole different space right now,” he said. “It’s time for everyone to believe Schenectady has now arrived. Everything we want in Schenectady, we have.”

County Legislature Chairman Susan Savage called it the “wow” effect.

“It’s another wow day in Schenectady County,” she said.

Those who once “made fun of Schenectady” now realize they’re wrong, she added. “We showed we can make positive change,” she said.

Visitors were also impressed by the building.

“It’s stunning,” Councilman Thomas Della Sala said.

The first wedding reception is scheduled for spring, and banquets are already being held there. Musical performances may be scheduled there as well.

But the Mazzones are hoping to fill it with happy couples. Mansion Catering is offering a special to those who book the space for weddings by March.

The company will also host a grand opening ceremony on Feb. 17 to showcase the facility. The admission fee is a donation to the City Mission, which the company will match. The event will benefit the City Mission’s downtown ambassador program, in which the formerly homeless offer directions and other help to visitors downtown.

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