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What you need to know for 01/21/2018

New owner eyed for Foster Building in Schenectady

New owner eyed for Foster Building in Schenectady

In just 90 days, the historic Foster Building in downtown Schenectady could have a new owner willing
New owner eyed for Foster Building in Schenectady
The Foster Building at 508 State St. in downtown Schenectady is pictured on Wednesday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Bonacio Construction had plans to develop the building in 2011. Bonacio Construction was hired as a contractor only to help stabilize the building.

SCHENECTADY — In just 90 days, the historic Foster Building in downtown Schenectady could have a new owner willing to breathe life into the once grand building that has sat vacant for nearly two decades.

It’s one of few remaining buildings near Proctors in need of revitalization, said Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen.

Metroplex wants to sell the property for $475,000 to a development group that’s planning a mixed-use project at the site, including ground-floor retail space, offices and upscale loft-style apartments. State Public Authorities Law requires that Metroplex give 90 days’ notice for any sale of property the local agency owns. Once the 90-day period is up in mid-July, Metroplex plans to complete the sale.

“The developer is still finalizing their plans for the building and there are some other details to the project,” said Gillen. “We don’t announce projects until they’re a signed deal. So once this is signed, we will announce who they are.”

The developer has experience in working with historic buildings around the Capital Region, Gillen said.

The building gets its name from the Hotel Foster, which opened in 1907 at 508 State St. At the time, the six-story building was quite grand. Its façade was done distinctively in the Beaux Arts style, a neoclassical architectural style being taught around that time at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The building later housed a specialty store and low-rent housing for destitute men. In 1991, it was listed on the federal Register of Historic Places.

It’s not known when the building became vacant, although Gazette archives indicate it had been long empty by the time Craig Alsdorf and Dennis Todd bought it in 1998 with plans to return it to its former glory as a luxury hotel. But Alsdorf and Todd sat on the property, Gillen said, never doing a thing with it. Its condition deteriorated so much that Metroplex initiated eminent domain proceedings against the owners in 2009 to try to take it over and fix it up.

“There are basic steps you need to take to preserve a building and they never took them,” he said. “Water gets in, the building starts to collapse and then you have to take it down. We worked very hard to make sure that didn’t happen.”

By 2010, just before the state Supreme Court was to hold a hearing on the eminent domain case, the owners sold the building to Metroplex for $250,000.

The property is actually a complex of four buildings comprising more than 47,000 square feet. Over the years, elements got in, the windows were spray painted with graffiti or broken, the roof rotted, the interior plaster walls crumbled and its storefronts filled with debris. Metroplex hired contractors who stabilized the building and removed 596,000 pounds of debris (asbestos, an old elevator, bird droppings, and so on) from the building. This work wrapped up in the spring of 2011.

“It’s a very important building,” said Gillen. “The façade is gorgeous. It was very important that it be saved. We preserved it the best we could and then we started showing it. We’ve been selective. We wanted to find the right developer, the right plan. We also had to demonstrate the vitality of the residential market downtown, which we’ve done. And now we have a developer who is very interested.”

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