Construction on a $20 million housing and retail project on Schenectady’s lower State Street corridor could begin this fall if the city Planning Commission approves the project this week.
With one final property in hand, the developers behind the massive Robinson Block project will go before the commission at its monthly meeting Wednesday night. Highbridge Development of Schenectady and Prime Companies of Cohoes are requesting a site plan review for a demolition and construction project that will span six properties on the 200 block of State Street and one on Erie Boulevard for a total of 1.1 acres.
“We’ve had our eye on this location for quite some time,” said Highbridge Development CEO John Roth. “I just think that this is the next transitional section for the development of Schenectady, proceeding from Erie Boulevard down toward the college.”
Four of the seven lots are vacant, including three tax parcels at 238-248 State St. where the old Robinson building once sat and a tiny parcel at 167 Erie Blvd. where the Silver Diner once sat.
The other three lots are slated for demolition, including the Olender Mattress building at 254 State St., a red brick building at 236 State St. once occupied by Absolute Pest Control and the BiMor Army Navy building at 232 State St.
The Absolute Pest Control building was the last to be added to the development. Project officials convinced owner-occupant Rick Zalucki to sell the property about two months ago, Roth said.
Once these three buildings come down, the Nicholaus Building will stand alone at the corner of Erie and State until construction starts around September to fill in the streetscape.
“We’re shooting for the end of the third quarter of this year to start construction,” Roth said. “We’re probably looking at a 14-month project turnaround, so we would open sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016.”
Local officials have called the mixed-use development a transformative one for the city’s lower State Street neighborhood.
The building would span 144,000 square feet. It reaches a total of four stories, not counting the parking level or mezzanine level for the fourth-floor lofts. The first floor would house 9,900 square feet of retail space and the upper floors would house 105 luxury apartments.
Because of a 9-foot grade difference, the Erie Boulevard side of the development will appear to offer an extra story. The ground-floor level will be used for parking that can only be accessed from Erie Boulevard. The ground-floor level on State Street will be used for retail.
“We have met with a number of potential users for the retail space,” Roth said, declining to identify any potential tenants until leases are signed. “We’re looking for a little bit of everything. You’re not going to get one big user down there so we want a variety instead.”
The project would be located in an archaeologically sensitive area — the towpath of the old Erie Canal. The canal once ran through downtown and was filled in during the 1920s to become Erie Boulevard.
Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen said drilling at the site found no environmental issues, but it did find inadequate soil for a normal building foundation.
“The soil conditions contained urban fill, not compact or gravelly soil that is best for building on,” he said.
In order to construct a safe foundation, the developers would have to place building supports deeper than usual into the ground to anchor the development. To help offset the cost of this extra work, the developers and Metroplex applied to the state for $1.3 million in funds through the annual regional economic development council competition. The project was awarded $1.2 million in December.
The architect is C2 Design Architecture, of Schenectady. The engineer is Abd Engineers & Surveyors, of Schenectady.