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Developer to acquire, demolish downtown Schenectady ‘eyesore’

Developer to acquire, demolish downtown Schenectady ‘eyesore’

Former bank at 501 State St. would receive grant help to eliminate, redevelop
Developer to acquire, demolish downtown Schenectady ‘eyesore’
This building at 501 State St. would come down in a proposal being reviewed.
Photographer: PETE DEMOLA/GAZETTE REPORTER

SCHENECTADY — A hulking former downtown bank building will be torn down.

Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority and Redburn Development Partners announced plans to redevelop 501 State St. on Wednesday.

Redburn will acquire the property, tear down the structure and develop a mixed-use building on the footprint. 

“We’re going to try to have the building down by the end of the year,” said Redburn principal Jeff Buell.

Metroplex will provide a $295,000 grant toward project costs. 

While it’s too early to pin down an exact price tag, “It wouldn’t surprise us if it was north of $15 million,” Buell said. 

The building has been empty since Citizens Bank relocated to Broadway last year. The asymmetrical brick-and-cement structure was first built in the early-1970s and has limited use, said Metroplex Chair Ray Gillen.

"It’s very oddly designed,” Gillen said. “There’s hardly any usable space in the building. It’s very dated architecture.”

The blank brick wall facing State Street also “detracts from the energy and progress that has been made in downtown," he said.

Buell called the site an “architectural blunder” and hoped the project would bring further development to key side streets, including Clinton and Barrett. 

“There are many unexplored side streets in this vibrant city and we believe strongly we can play a role in encouraging exploration in a new and exciting manner,” Buell said. 

The 13,182-square-foot building is assessed at $1.28 million and owned by a Houston-based LLC, according to property tax records.

Redburn has been a leading engine of downtown revitalization. Earlier this year, the Troy-based firm completed work at The Fitzgerald Building at 148 Clinton St. 

The mixed-use building, which is located across from the former bank, contains a business incubator and apartments. 

Redburn has also renovated the nearby Foster Building, and previously announced plans to renovate 132-136 Broadway, former home to the Skypes Carpet store and the old Schenectady Gazette printing press and warehouse.

Buell, who previously estimated project costs at “$4 million to $5 million,” said that project is still on their list. 

“It’s taken a little longer than expected and we’re confident we’re going to figure it out,” he said.

Neighboring business owners expressed cautious optimism about the 501 State St. razing and redevelopment. 

“I’m OK with it as long as it puts back something that will resemble the downtown facade,” said Ron Suriano III, co-owner of Moisture Salon on Barrett Street. “In the long run, I understand where it’s going to help.”

But Suriano continued to harbor concerns about quality-of-life issues in the former bank building’s parking lot, which is unregulated and can be unruly at nights when bar patrons drink and loiter outside, often with music blasting from their vehicles, and leave the lot strewn with trash and empty liquor bottles. 

Suriano implored City Council to take action earlier this summer, and hoped the issues would not continue during the interim period.

“It’s still going to be accessible,” he said of the parking lot.

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