Lower State Street may soon get a much-needed face-lift, with one vacant building torn down while another is filled with new life.
Developer Christopher Maddalone wants to turn the vacant Spencer Business School building into upscale apartments with retail on the first floor.
To give tenants parking spaces, he wants to demolish the old WGY Coin & Stamp building at 142 State St. and replace it with a small parking lot.
The Schenectady Planning Commission will consider the plan on Feb. 20.
It is the latest in a series of projects on the block to fill vacancies with new businesses and renovate occupied buildings.
So far, three new businesses have moved in — including the company running a dorm for Schenectady County Community College students — and more are in the planning stages.
“This is momentum,” said Metroplex Development Chairman Ray Gillen. “We’ve got five, six projects going now.”
Maddalone said the development on lower State Street has picked up so much that people will soon want to rent upscale apartments there.
“We figured, let’s be a pioneer,” he said. “Lower State Street is the next wave of development.”
He’s planning 11 loft-style apartments for empty-nesters and professionals. He wants to market the units as a modern twist on apartment living.
“It will be a little different from the 100-year-old apartments,” he said, referring to the typical apartment in Schenectady. “Granite countertops. Tile bathrooms. Glass doors on the shower, kind of like you would see in a hotel.”
He also wants his designers to find a way to add stairs to a loft office area above each living room. The building has 14-foot ceilings, so he thinks it’s possible.
And while he wanted to offer parking in the lot directly behind the building, ARC controls that space. So he plans to demolish the WGY building across the street.
“The opportunity was there to take down an eyesore,” he said.
But it means putting a parking lot on a corner, which Heritage Foundation Chairwoman Gloria Kishton said isn’t a good idea.
She urged Maddalone to work out a deal with ARC instead.
“You’re creating an odd traffic pattern where people are driving over the sidewalk,” she said. “It’s just not a good urban design.”
However, she had no objections to demolishing the building. “At this point, it’s really just a brick box,” she said. “WGY is not a building anybody’s going to get that upset about.”
She suggested adding a low wall to direct cars so that they couldn’t park on the sidewalk or enter the lot from all directions. “Cars just start parking everywhere,” she said of the corner-lot configuration. “They park on the sidewalk and people have to walk in the street.”
Gillen said the parking lot will be designed well.
“We’re looking to have a really nicely landscaped green space,” he said, adding that he would be delighted to watch the WGY building fall.
“The presence of that building, the fact that it is still standing, is a drain on our redevelopment efforts. It’s that horrible,” he said.
Maddalone plans to put $1 million into the project. Metroplex has offered an $85,000 grant as well as a matching grant to improve the facade for the apartment building.