SCHENECTADY -- The ribbon was cut Tuesday on the first phase of The Community Builders’ redevelopment project in Hamilton Hill.
Completion of the $22 million transformation of the Horace Mann and St. Columba's schools, and the construction of eight new buildings along Stanley Street, brings 58 affordable-housing units to the city. That includes 25 rental units for seniors and 33 for families, according Jennica Huff, senior project manager for The Community Builders.
“We are here today to celebrate the successful construction, completion and opening of the Hillside View Apartments,” Huff said during the event.
All of the apartments, except one, have been rented according to Susan McCann, vice president of The Community Builders in the New York and New Jersey Region.
McCann confessed she was slightly scared about how they would make the project work, at first. But she pointed to Hillside View as part of the larger revitalization of Schenectady.
“It’s about making lives better for the people who live in this neighborhood now,” she said.
Schenectady County legislator Gary Hughes said the project was part of approximately $50 million of investment in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood over the past three years. That includes approximately $13 million for a new Boys & Girls Club being built in Quackenbush Park and $18 million for construction of the Joseph L. Allen Apartments on Albany Street.
Mayor Gary McCarthy called the project “transformational” for the city and the neighborhood. It’s one for which a lot of federal, state, local and private partners had to come together to make it successful, he said.
“Just on behalf of the city, I want to give everyone a pat on the back for making this possible and for people just being here today for this small recognition of what is a great and transformational project in this neighborhood,” McCarthy said. “And it continues the renaissance in the city of Schenectady.”
The project was also supported by New York State Homes and Community Renewal, which provided $12 million in low-income housing tax credits and a $736,000 low-interest loan through its Community Investment Fund.
Hillside View is a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, with 13 being set aside for veterans and homeless families. Included in the building are support services, funded by the Empire State Supporting Housing Initiative, according to a press release.
The project includes onsite laundry, two community rooms with a computer lab and internet access, and a common kitchenette, according to the press release. There are also recreational spaces, playgrounds and a community garden.
The former St. Columba’s School will now be home to the Electric City Barn, a "makerspace," which Huff said will fete its grand opening on Saturday. The Electric City Barn will have a woodworking space, digital media space and a textile and fashion design and production area, to give residents a place to share ideas and make things. That project received $85,000 in funding through an Empire State Development Grant.
According to a press release, the makerspace will be used by the Schenectady Police Department, Capital Roots and the Boys & Girls Club, all of which will provide services to residents, McCann said.
Daniel MacKay, deputy commissioner of the state Division for Historic Preservation, detailed the history of the two former school buildings, as he said both are on the state and national registers of historic places.
St. Columba’s School was built in 1923 in a collegiate Gothic style, while the Horace Mann School was built in 1908 in a classical styling. MacKay said he was pleased his office was able to help the buildings be renovated, with help from $4.5 million in state and federal rehabilitation tax credits.
“These two buildings serve a new purpose and new life for the Hamilton Hill neighborhood,” MacKay said. “It brings great joy for all of us who worked on this.”
Elizabeth Ciro, a former New York City resident who recently moved into the Hillside View Apartments, said she loves the different services offered at the facility. She also said she is helping teach some of the residents to speak Spanish, while also teaching some of the Spanish-speaking residents English.
“I’m very happy to see everything,” Ciro said. “I’m very happy to be here.”
The Hillside View Apartments was phase one of The Community Builders’ redevelopment project in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood. The $40 million Phase II will involve the creation of a 21-unit low-rise apartment building on Albany Street and more townhouses along Stanley Street.
McCann said the hope is to get shovels in the ground for that project in June. She said all the design drawings are done, and the building permits are in place, but they still have more money to raise for the project.
“Two years from now, if all went perfectly, we’ll be having a ribbon cutting,” McCann said.