SCHENECTADY — An older downtown building with a newer facade is being stripped down and converted to its original layout to host a home decor store.
The two-story building of law offices at the corner of State and Lafayette streets is the final piece of the Foster Building project, an overhaul that evolved and grew into a $7 million odyssey after Sequence Development embarked on it in the summer of 2015.
Sequence CEO Jeffrey Buell said the company purchased 514 State St. in 2017 mainly as a practical matter, because it owned the four surrounding buildings. When his friend Nicolle Broughton saw it, she wanted to relocate her Troy shop there, and that set the wheels in motion.
Buell expects to complete renovations in July and Broughton expects to reopen Bluebird Home Decor there in August.
“We purchased this building on the corner here really because we needed the rooftop to put some units on … it was kind of an ancillary use,” Buell said. “But the other issue here is that it was the capstone to the block of State Street. It had a ’70s facade on it, it didn’t match anything we were doing.”
That would be four buildings totalling 72,000 square feet of apartments, assorted commercial space and offices. Occupancy has reached 100 percent, not counting the future Bluebird space. Tenants include Slidin’ Dirty and Buell himself.
Growing up, the 28-year-old Schodack resident spent a lot of time at antique shops and flea markets with her artist mother. This shaped her aesthetic sense, Broughton believes: She earned her college degree in fashion and textiles, then promptly opened a store that had little to do with either.
“By the time I graduated, I just had more of a passion for home goods and vintage,” she said.
Broughton describes Bluebird as a blend of vintage, new and handcrafted home decor items with “an industrial farmhouse vibe.” Weeks after she first opened the Troy store, Buell started browsing there. Over the course of Bluebird’s nearly five-year life, the two became friends, running buddies and fellow worshippers at the same church.
More recently, when Broughton was looking for a larger space for the store, she asked Buell to show her around Schenectady.
Jay Street was to be the focus of the visit, but she parked near 514 State and her eyes lit upon it.
“My gut just felt good about it … I’ve been following my gut since day one,” Broughton said.
Buell recognized it as potentially a good fit.
“Schenectady needs more retail, and they need destination retail,” Buell said. “What we’re trying to do with this block is connectivity and walkability. If I’m at Proctors or I’m at Johnny’s and I’m looking up the block … I know I have a couple of different uses up here, capstoned by retail.”
He added that Broughton has “the best eye and the coolest store in the Capital Region. There isn’t another store that’s like Nicolle’s store in this area.”
The potential existed in 514 State St. for a bright, airy retail space, but it was buried beneath layers of alterations made over the years.
The building’s expansive first-floor walls of glass were long gone, Buell said, possibly the result of a car jumping the curb and smashing into it decades ago.
The fill-in walls with their little windows have been demolished for replacement with glass. The original Douglas fir floors and 12.5-foot high stamped tin ceiling will remain in the renovated space.
“We ripped up the carpet and did a little scraping and it was like, ‘Oh my God, this floor is fantastic,’” Buell said.
“We got lucky,” Broughton said.
“We got super lucky,” Buell said. “We got lucky a bunch of times.”
He added: “The tin ceiling? This originally was going to be a Sheetrock ceiling and it was going to be about a foot lower. We took out the drop ceiling, and there was another drop ceiling above it! And above the second one was the tin, and it totally changed the vibe of what the store could be.”
The overhaul is budgeted at $150,000 and is receiving a $75,000 facade grant from the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority.
Buell’s construction crew is leaving intact some of the wear and tear inflicted decades ago on the tin ceiling and plaster walls: It will work well with the aesthetic of Bluebird Home Decor.
“I’m a firm believer in the character of imperfections,” Broughton said.