SCHENECTADY — What opened in 1903 as the Hotel Foster is now part of four buildings that will house 31 high-end apartments this time next year.
Jeff Buell, 36, president and CEO of the company responsible for the conversion, Sequence Development, lives in the penthouse of the cluster of buildings at 508 State St.
Buell moved into his 2,700 square foot apartment six weeks ago and the vast apartment is still sparsely decorated as he continues to move his things. When he first looked at the building, at the suggestion of the city’s Metroplex Development Authority, he had a plan for the apartment he now calls home.
“The first thing I did was walk around. I counted 25 windows and, in that moment, I decided I would not chop it up,” Buell said of his decision to leave his penthouse whole.
His apartment features the original staircase from the hotel leading from his landing to the interior of the space. His apartment has unique features adding to the upscale feel but each apartment’s finishes are the same — the African mahogany hardwood floors throughout, exposed duct-work, quartz countertops and soft-close cabinets in the kitchen.
“It’s an expensive apartment so you have to have some bells and whistles,” he said.
In addition to the windows, the penthouse has a walk-in closet the size of an average bedroom, a shower with three shower heads, his and hers sinks in one of the two bathrooms, and exposed brick by the staircase and living room areas. In addition to the two bathrooms, there is an office, and two bedrooms - including the master bedroom. Buell plans to use the second bedroom as a meditation room.
The project is being undertaken in two phases, with the first now completed and the second to begin this summer and be finished next March. Buell said he and his team have tried to stay true to local history throughout the development process.
“You want to pay homage to history but present a product that people want to live in,” he said of the mixture of historic and modern styles visible in the apartments.
In the first phase of construction, which cost $2.5 million, he was unable to keep much of the history alive, he said.
But he’s excited to start working on the other three buildings, two facing State Street and one facing Lafayette Street, which allow for him to incorporate more historic elementss.
“In the other buildings there are original walls and concrete ceilings,” he said of the three as of yet untouched structures.
His penthouse had to be nearly completely rebuilt due to damage from a pipe burst in 2001. The windows in the first building show some of the history — 30 percent of the windows are new, the other 70 percent were painstakingly refurbished.
The city view from the penthouse allows Buell to see all the way to the General Electric’s iconic sign and, as his iPhone photo collection attests, some wonderful sunsets. He has plans for numerous outdoor spaces — including rooftop gardens as well as a courtyard for the space between the four buildings.
“We’ll get going on this in a couple weeks,” he said of the courtyard. “Grass and pavers, a relaxing area.”
The 10 apartments occupied now have a mix of tenants, according to Buell.
“It’s mostly people in their twenties and thirties but we do have a couple who have been married a long time,” he said. “They’re like urban pioneers.”
Buell isn’t worried about filling the remaining apartments; the existing 10 apartments were shown to 15 people before they were all spoken for.
“We spent zero dollars on marketing except for a single sign,” he said of their marketing plan which focused on Facebook, Craigslist and word of mouth.
A Troy native, Buell first came to the Schenectady area after a career shift — from journalism at the Troy Record, to politics before landing in real estate three years ago. He now owns 37 buildings and plans to continue developing in the Schenectady area.
“We’re very bullish on Schenectady,” he said of himself and Elizabeth Young Jojo, Sequence Development’s chief operating officer.
“I always thought all along I would live here. I’ve always wanted to be in Schenectady,” he believes the current draw to the blocks surrounding his new luxury apartments is seeping into other areas in the city.
After another year or so of work and he talks of hypothetical plans to move to Paris and retire — something he says most likely won’t happen but he continues to dream. Even if he does go the Parisian route, he plans on keeping his penthouse.
“You get a big-city vibe in a small city,” he said with his adoration for what he created. “With just a little extra money you can pull something off people will be excited about.”