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Repairs stabilize historic downtown Schenectady building

Repairs stabilize historic downtown Schenectady building

Contractors working for the Metroplex Development Authority over the past year have stabilized a his

Contractors working for the Metroplex Development Authority over the past year have stabilized a historic building on State Street that nearly collapsed due to disrepair.

They removed approximately 298 tons of debris, ranging from asbestos and an old elevator to bird droppings, from the Foster Building and are now installing a sloped roof on the 508 State St. structure.

Metroplex is paying $400,000 for the work. It purchased the building and three nearby structures last April for $250,000 from Craig G. Alsdorf and Dennis Todd. Metroplex is a public benefit authority funded through a portion of Schenectady County sales tax totaling approximately $7 million annually.

Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said the goal is to redevelop the building and put it on the tax rolls. Metroplex is working with Bonacio Construction to find tenants who will fit out the first floor for retail operations and the upper five floors for commercial and residential use.

“We will dry out the building and make sure it is safe and secure, and we will lease it out a floor at a time or more,” Gillen said. He gave no timeline as to when the building might be occupied, saying the effort will take several months.

Metroplex will retain control of the building for the time being, Gillen said, a departure from its usual business model. “We usually partner with someone and redevelop a building,” he said.

Metroplex began eminent domain proceedings against the owners last spring when negotiations stalled over a purchase agreement. Gillen said the owners wanted $1.4 million for the structure, which had suffered from the elements.

“It was so severely distressed no one would have bought it,” he said. “We started eminent domain because the building was in severe distress. The roof was leaking; the upper floors were starting to fail. What happens then is they pancake and it becomes a mess.” he said.

Alsdorf and Todd bought the long-vacant building in 1998 for approximately $50,000. They planned to convert it into apartments but never made any significant investment in the property.

The Foster Building opened in 1907 as Hotel Foster and later became a specialty store and a facility offering low-rent housing to destitute men. The building is listed on the National Register for its distinctive architectural style, called beaux arts. Beaux arts is a neoclassical architectural style that was taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It heavily influenced American architecture between 1890 and 1920.

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