The Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority is seeking $1.3 million in state funds to redevelop several buildings on lower State Street and Erie Boulevard into apartments and retail space.
The Robinson Block Transformation Project is on a list of priority projects for this year’s regional economic development council awards — an annual competition where the state’s 10 regions vie for a chunk of up to $750 million in economic development funding.
The project will transform four properties in downtown Schenectady — the vacant Robinson lot, Olender Mattress building, BiMor Army & Navy Store and the former Silver Diner lot — into 105 upscale apartments and 9,900 square feet of retail space.
Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said the project would cost a total of nearly $20 million. Metroplex is selling the package of properties, totaling about one acre, to Prime Companies at full market value of $311,500.
“Right now, it’s just a couple of empty buildings, so this is a critical next phase of downtown redevelopment,” Gillen said. “It will create activity, jobs and vibrancy in a part of downtown that is really starting to come back with a lot of investment. This is a really critical project, and it’s terrific the council made it a priority.”
Prime Companies owns and manages more than 700 luxury apartments throughout the Capital Region. By the end of the year, the company plans to expand to more than 900 total apartments.
Gillen said the project has already been designed and the site is shovel-ready, with requirements met under the state Environmental Quality Review Act. If awarded funding, Gillen said the project would take about a year to build.
This year marks the fourth round of the state’s regional economic development council awards. In the first two years, the Capital Region received the smallest funding amount, $113 million. Last year, the region was a top performer, taking home nearly $83 million for 85 projects.
As directed by the state, some of this year’s projects focus on attracting global investment and identifying export strategies. Proposals are also expected to promote veterans’ participation in the workforce through the creation of a Veterans Work Group.
The council is led by James Barba, president of Albany Medical Center, and Robert Jones, president of the University at Albany. In a joint statement Friday, they said this year’s priority projects “ensure that the Tech Valley is advancing and solidifying its foundation for the future.”
Another priority project in Schenectady chosen by the council is an ArtsLab at Proctors. Proctors is requesting $352,152 to develop a multi-use educational space on the third floor of the theater’s administration building.
The space will be used by Schenectady County Community College during the school year for its new media arts degree programs. It will also allow Proctors to expand its educational programs.
The project has a total price tag of $1.8 million and is expected to attract more than 1,000 students, as well as an additional 9,000 people through other community events.
“The many opportunities created by ArtsLab include internship programs, low-cost college credits that will transfer to four-year colleges, and enriching summer and after-school content that impacts scholastic outcomes for younger students,” the application states.
Two other priority projects in Schenectady include $375,000 for the Community Loan Fund’s satellite office on Albany Street and $26,400 for the Museum of Innovation and Science on Nott Terrace Heights to build a roof observatory.
The Community Loan Fund is looking to lend $1.9 million over the next three years to nonprofits for affordable housing and other community services. About $500,000 of that funding would be designated to small businesses and expansion projects.
The organization is also planning to bump its part-time employees to full-time status by next year, creating and retaining up to 35 jobs. It currently offers eight-week business training classes in Schenectady. The total price tag for the initiative is nearly $2.3 million.
The council is also prioritizing the planned addition of a 26-by-32-foot roof observatory at miSci that will house the Dudley Observatory’s antique telescope, along with a viewing area and control room.
“The opening of the observatory will allow the museum to stay open some evenings during the week and increase its attendance and earned income,” the application states. “Four additional staff members will be hired to allow evening operations.”
In last year's awards, a proposed project in Schenectady received among the highest funding from the state in the region. That project was the Galesi Groups redevelopment of the former Alco site off Erie Boulevard, now called Mohawk Harbor. Galesi received $5 million to build apartments, a hotel and office and retail space. The developer is now looking to bring a casino — Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor — to the waterfront site.
The Schenectady proposals are among a list of 65 priority projects throughout the Capital Region. A total of 211 project applications were submitted to the council. This year’s regional council awards event is scheduled for some time in October.
Other priority projects in the Capital Region include:
• $4.5 million for a five-level transit center within the Marina District at 466 River Street in Troy, in partnership with the Capital District Transportation Authority.
• $3.5 million for a facility where sensitive information and classified technologies can be stored at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany that meets federal military and intelligence standards.
• $3.4 million for the Renaissance Albany project to renovate the DeWitt Clinton Hotel into a 204-room Renaissance Hotel.
• $3 million for the Park South redevelopment project in Albany adjacent to Albany Medical Center with office, apartment and retail space.
• $3 million for Finch Paper’s $30 million project at its Glens Falls mill to modernize the facility and increase efficiency.