Two buildings in Schenectady that have been the subject of plans for a low-income housing project have been listed among 26 sites recommended by the state Board for Historic Preservation to be added to the state and national registers of historic places.
The Horace Mann Elementary School and the St. Columba School were both built in the early 20th century on Craig Street. The former St. Columba School is today home to the Schenectady Boys & Girls Club, while Horace Mann has been vacant for years. The Boys & Girls Club is in the process of looking for a new location, meaning that Craig Street could soon have two vacant buildings.
The Community Builders, an Albany-based developer, has had plans for affordable housing projects in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood for almost two years.
The company feels that repurposing the old schools will help the community by providing affordable housing and assuring that two otherwise vacant buildings will be occupied.
“The repurposing will address the serious blighting effect on the community,” said Jacquinn Sinclair, a spokeswoman for The Community Builders.
The company purchased the former Horace Mann School in June of 2014 for $500 and has plans to purchase the Boys & Girls Club as well. But the club must first find a new location.
In January, The Community Builders submitted paperwork to New York state asking that the buildings be considered for the national and state registries of historic places.
Though the historical designation, if approved, would impose limits on what could be done to the exterior of the structures, Sinclair said the company would benefit from certain tax breaks for historic properties.
The project is estimated to cost $22.4 million. The company has secured more than $2.07 million in outside financing. In May it missed out on another $7.95 million when the project didn’t receive a grant from the state Homes & Community Renewal’s Unified Funding Application.
The Horace Mann School was built in 1908 as part of a campaign to accommodate the large number of students who had begun to enroll in public schools as the city’s population grew.
The St. Columba School was built as a parochial school in 1923 for similar reasons and served as a unifying force for the city’s Irish-Catholic population, one of Schenectady’s oldest immigrant communities.
Schenectady Heritage Foundation Chairwoman Gloria Kishton said repurposing historical buildings for housing has been done in the past to great effect, citing the Franklin School Apartments on the city’s Northside as an example.
“We are really happy to see our old school buildings being repurposed for things like housing,” she said.
The schools are an important piece of Schenectady’s past from a different time in the city’s history, she said.
“In that regard, they are part of a collection that represents a different era in Schenectady,” Kishton said.