The Live In Schenectady project that will add single-family homes along Barrett Street could be ready for occupancy by the end of the year.
The group of 15 investors is seeking site plan approval for the project from the city Planning Commission on May 18. The proposal is for 25 houses on properties along Barrett Street and Seminary Place.
If the commission approves the plans later this month, construction would start late spring or early summer, said David Buicko, CEO of the Galesi Group and a project investor.
“All the financing and the money is in place,” he said. “Once we get through the approval process we’ll start bidding it out.”
The group of investors put in a total of $1.5 million to build the two-story homes.
Phase one of the project includes 10 homes. The second phase will add 15 homes.
The second phase, which includes the demolition of four vacant houses, would start sometime after the first based on demand.
“To the extent that the first phase is very successful then you keep it going,” Buicko said. “We don’t know how deep the market is. We’ll end up tweaking it too. If this is not something the market wants then we’ll have to readjust.”
Investors in the project are Jim Connolly, former CEO of Ellis Medicine; Highbridge Development; Neil and Jane Golub; the Galesi Group; Antonio Civitella, CEO of Transfinder; NBT Bank; BBL Construction; Re4orm Architecture; Precision Industrial Maintenance; Schenectady Hardware and Electric; The Daily Gazette; Capital Region Gaming, an affiliate of Rush Street Gaming; Northeast Fine Jewelry; Jackson Demolition; and Union College.
There are seven different layouts proposed for the 25 houses. Each house will be two floors with a garage and some with outdoor terraces. They range in square footage from a little more than 1,000 to just under 2,000.
A price tag for the homes is unclear at this time, Buicko said. He described them as not low-income, but affordable.
“We want to make them economical,” he said. “We want them to be owner-occupied. We will provide competitive mortgages on them.”
The homes would be marketed under the city’s Home Ownership Made Easy in Schenectady program. Homeowners would pay full taxes on the properties, which are now off the tax rolls.
“We would look forward to having them be a part of our monthly open house program,” said Mayor Gary McCarthy. “It’s not limited to first-time homebuyers. We’ll be able to market the assets that we have here and the attractiveness of the community that is undergoing a dramatic change. It’s a good project.”
Buicko said he believes the design of the homes would complement the area and with the casino expected to open early next year that demand for them would be high.
The Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor is being built now off Erie Boulevard, which is a little more than half a mile away. The casino is projected to create 1,200 jobs.
“What we’re doing here blends in nicely,” Buicko said. “If you look at what Union did with their dorms and on Seward Place, it’s complementary. You can ride a bike and you can walk from the casino.”
The City Council approved the sale of the 19 properties on Barrett and Seminary to the Live In Schenectady group earlier this year for about $200,000. The money was used to reduce property taxes in this year’s budget by .5 percent.
Jeff Buell of Sequence Development is gearing up to begin the second phase of the renovation of four buildings on State and Lafayette streets.
With the Foster building rehabilitated and all units rented out, Buell is now shifting his focus to the neighboring 510 and 512 State St. and 204 Lafayette St.
Buell is also seeking site plan approval from the Planning Commission on May 18.
The three buildings include a total of about 30,000 square feet, where Buell is planning 20 to 23 apartment units. Plans also include a restaurant on the ground floor of 512 State.
“We want to get the approvals to start sometime this summer and get going on it,” he said. “We have signed a tenant for 512 that’s a restaurant. We’re really excited about it. We will have other commercial spaces too.”
Buell declined to name the restaurant at this time. He said it would occupy 3,000 square feet of space.
Despite the many restaurants in downtown, Buell said he believes the new restaurant would do well in that location because it would offer different options.
“I think more is beneficial,” he said. “You also want to make sure you’re not duplicating anything that’s already there. We were careful to do that. I believe between State and Union and off the little side streets there is a real opportunity for Schenectady to become a legitimate dining destination. Personally I think five or six more restaurants would be awesome because it will draw more people to the downtown.”
The commercial space in the other buildings would probably be marketed as office space, he said.
“Lafayette would be difficult for a restaurant,” he said. “You lose the walking and foot traffic and the vehicular traffic isn’t as strong.”
Buell said there are some design challenges with renovating the buildings and that he is seeking historic tax credits for the work. The building at 512 State was the former Schenectady Railway.
“There is some historical integrity left, especially in 204 Lafayette,” he said. “Some of the walls have to stay. That makes for an interesting challenge. There is a really grand staircase in 204 and the lobby is beautiful. There may be some stuff hidden behind the wall. It’s exciting and terrifying.”
Buell estimated it would take about a year to finish work on the three buildings.
The rent for the apartment units would be around $1,200 for a one-bedroom and $1,500 for a two-bedroom.
Buell said he believes the apartments will rent out quickly, noting that the Foster building’s 10 units were taken in six weeks after only 15 people looked at them.
He noted that the Rivers Casino would be bringing more people into the area to eat and live.
“If you look at urban living overall these are people who are paying higher rent than they would or could in suburbia,” he said. “They do it because then they have expendable income to eat out and do things.”
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.