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Hamilton Hill building demolished

Hamilton Hill building demolished

City acquired building in 2015
Hamilton Hill building demolished
Demolition crews tear down 543 Schenectady St. in Hamilton Hill on Thursday morning.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

SCHENECTADY -- Jackson Demolition's Jolly Green Giant -- a large claw-shovel designed for ripping apart large buildings -- was back in action Thursday, shredding a long-abandoned three-story brick building at the southern end of Hamilton Hill.

The city ordered an emergency demolition of the building at 543 Schenectady St. late Wednesday, after firefighters in a passing firetruck saw bricks had fallen onto the sidewalk on the Strong Street side of the structure.

The demolition came less than two weeks after the city demolished the Nicholaus Building at the corner of Erie Boulevard and State Street, one of the most prominent historic buildings in the city. Jackson Demolition, which is based in the city, also did that job.

The Nicholaus building became unstable after a building next door was taken down as part of a redevelopment plan in 2016, but the Schenectady Street building had been empty and deteriorating for years.

It is owned by the Schenectady Urban Renewal Agency. At one time, it had businesses on the first floor, with apartments on the upper floors.

"It's been empty for quite a few years," said Hal Bergeron, a neighborhood resident who was watching the structure's demise Thursday morning. "That building had the police community center in it back in the late 1960s."

The city acquired the building from a private owner through a tax foreclosure in 2015 and transferred it to the Urban Renewal Agency last year, according to Schenectady County property tax records. The building's age could not be verified Thursday, but Mayor Gary McCarthy said he believed it was built in the early 1900s.

On Wednesday, a portion of the structure's parapet blew into the street, causing some bricks to come loose and prompting the emergency demolition. Strong Street between Schenectady and Hulett streets was closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic after the bricks were discovered and remained closed during the demolition.

The city put out a bid Wednesday for the emergency demolition. Out of five responses, Jackson Demolition was the low bidder, with a bid of just over $150,000, according to McCarthy, who is chairman of the Schenectady Urban Renewal Agency.

"With any of these buildings, we look at hopefully for restoration, and with that building, you hoped there might be some possibility, but it sat for a period of time where the roof was compromised and water got into it," McCarthy said. "The interior was much more deteriorated than they expected."

The exterior mortar and brick was separating, McCarthy added.

"There really wasn't much option in terms of stabilizing, so demolition became the path we had to choose," he said.

Once the lot is cleared, McCarthy said the city will try to market it. A former private club and funeral home on the opposite Schenectady Street corner, also owned by the URA, is going through a separate planned demolition. McCarthy said he believes the lots will be more marketable once both are empty.

"It will change the whole field of view for those parcels," McCarthy said. "We will wait a little while and try to market them."

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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