The city of Schenectady was awarded a Federal Emergency Management Administration grant for $960,161 this week to demolish three buildings that suffered severe flood damage during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
The funds will be used to acquire and demolish the buildings, as well as clean up the vacant lots and expand Liberty Park on State Street downtown.
The buildings are located at the entrance of downtown at 18 and 10 State St., 108 Railroad St. and a vacant lot at 116 Railroad St.
The property at 18 State St. is owned by Scautub Insurance Agency, which has relocated to 108 N. Ballston Ave, Scotia, according to a release from the city.
Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said Metroplex purchased the other three properties in 2011 for $175,000.
“With this grant, Metroplex will get its purchase price, or investment, back,” Gillen said Tuesday. “It’s a very robust grant, and the city did a great job applying for it.
“We’re very grateful to FEMA and the state,” he added.
The properties at 10 State St. and 108 Railroad St. were formerly occupied by the AAA Northway offices, and worked with Metroplex to relocate to Center City at 433 State St. after the storm’s damage.
“There’s just three empty buildings sitting in this vacant lot,” Gillen explained. “The city will purchase the last building with the grant money, and then demolish them all before extending Liberty Park.”
The plan is for the park to be extended past Waters Street, he said, with the extra 0.94 acres of space to be turned into an extra greenspace.
The expansion will be called Gateway Plaza due to its location at the “gateway” of downtown Schenectady.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the space will be across the street from the $20 million renovation of the former YMCA as senior apartments at 13 State St., and near the $20 million Electric City apartments project down the road.
“We’re fortunate the staff was able to line up the grant as it will complement the other activities that are going on there in lower State Street,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “It’s been a slow process to clean up after Irene, and this area in the city is one of the last.
“When you clean up urban blight, it will allow us to attract and market other people to the area.”
The park extension will border Schenectady County Community College and will be located next to apartments for students.
“This creates kind of a welcoming gateway greenspace to downtown,” Gillen said. “It’s kind of a village green effect, which benefits our development efforts and benefits the community college.”
The grant will cover all expenses of required acquisition, reimbursement, demolition and construction for the project, Gillen said.
“It will create a permeable surface so the site will be a flood prevention device because there will be more soil, which absorbs water, instead of pavement and empty buildings, which don’t.” he said.
The city is preparing a bid to hire a firm to design the park early next year with work beginning later in 2016.
Gillen said the Gateway Plaza project is expected to be completed in 2017.
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, firstname.lastname@example.org or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.