SCHENECTADY — Demolition began Tuesday of four buildings on lower State Street, as the Mill Artisan District plan took a revised path to fruition.
The block of four adjoining two-story buildings — 102, 104, 110 and 122 State St. — initially had been targeted for renovation and inclusion in the craft beverage-themed project.
But preliminary work and interior demolition in the spring revealed deterioration much worse than was expected, said JT Pollard of Re4orm Architecture, developer of the project.
Three of the buildings were in bad shape, and one had settled so badly in the rear that there was a full foot of separation at the roofline, he said.
The State Historic Preservation Office determined there was no significant historic value to the structures, so the decision was made to demolish all four, he said. (The fourth was in better shape than the rest, but saving it alone didn’t make sense, Pollard said.)
The old blockhouse at the corner of Mill Lane and South Church Street remains on track for conversion into a restaurant, and the former firehouse at 134 State St. — most recently a Christian Science reading room — also is targeted for renovation as part of the project.
The Schenectady Planning Commission approved the revised site plan at its Oct. 18 meeting.
In April, Pollard spoke of the prospect of the renovated buildings adding old-time character to the project, with their exposed brick walls. The air inside was noticeably moldy, but he was optimistic the buildings' physical problems were surmountable.
“We went in there and did spend the money to do selective demolition and really try to figure out what we had,” he said Tuesday. “The buildings were in such disrepair. For three of the buildings, we were very nervous about even trying to save them.”
A rendering prepared by Re4orm Architecture shows the plan for 102-122 State St., where four older buildings now stand. (Provided)
The fourth building, 104 State St., was the exception, Pollard said -- well-built and in good condition. But the logistics of saving and renovating 104 State St., and then filling in the empty space with new construction, didn’t work for Re4orm.
The reconfigured Mill Artisan District plan has grown from $14 million to $24 million in projected cost and now includes the Stockade View Apartments, which originally was Breslaw’s Department Store. The apartment building is partly vacant, and Re4orm has moved remaining tenants off the two lowest floors into the upper floors, so the overhaul could begin.
The vision includes a brewery, distillery and cooperage; a center for food and beverage production and development; labs and training facilities for culinary education; Schenectady County Community College’s culinary and craft beverage lab space; an on-site incubator kitchen; tenant brewers; a restaurant; tasting areas and a Taste NY retail store.
City records indicate Pollard and city officials are discussing converting Mill Lane — a very narrow street that runs between State and South Ferry streets and dates to the city’s early years — to pedestrian-only status.
The Mill Artisan District received a commitment of $2.33 million in the state’s 2016 Regional Economic Development Council round of awards and is being considered for a similar grant of $2.9 million this year, due to the subsequent addition of the apartment building to the plans.