SCHENECTADY — A sweeping overhaul is proposed for a homely building at the end of the Jay Street pedestrian mall.
The two-story office building at 430 Franklin St. was built in 1957. It originally provided office space for IBM and Metropolitan Life but recently has been one of the largest vacant buildings downtown.
New owners Chris and Brooke Spraragen say the exceptionally sturdy construction makes it a great candidate for renewal and reuse, while the bland retro facade is ready for overhaul.
"We think it’s too good of a building to not fix up," Chris said.
They're currently removing asbestos and doing interior demolition. When they're done, it will be "The Benjamin" — 8,551 square feet of retail space and 8,556 square feet of office space named after their great-grandfather Benjamin Spraragen, who founded Schenectady Hardware and Electric in 1923.
The business is still run by the family, nearly a century later.
The Benjamin stands across the pedestrian-only street from the Open Door Book Store and The Whistling Kettle, which last year renovated and moved into another long-vacant building on Jay Street. In the other direction, City Hall is on the opposite side of Franklin Street.
Brooke said the location is ideal, straddling the planned Jay Street Connector linking pedestrians from Downtown to Mohawk Harbor.
"We looked at it as an opportunity," she said.
They don’t have a particular type of tenant in mind for the ground floor retail space or the second-floor office space, and can configure the interior as needed. The side facing Jay Street has its own entrance and seems ideal for a restaurant, Brooke said.
The building has the potential to be wide-open and bright: The space is taller now, with removal of the drop ceilings, and the waffle-cast concrete ceilings are strong enough that few interior walls are needed for support. Extensive use of floor-to-ceiling glass is planned to bring in natural light.
The property comes with an off-site parking lot. It needs to be repaved, but it will provide 28 spaces just around the corner on Clinton Street when it is done.
The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority is providing one of its largest facade grants for 430 Franklin St. — $175,000.
"It’s an important building we’ve had our eye on for a long time," said Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen.
Additional assistance is coming through National Grid's Main Street Revitalization Program.
A smaller, similarly outdated office and retail space next door at 432 Franklin St. recently was updated and beautified.
Farther up Franklin Street, the Spraragen family purchased 530 Franklin St. from Northern Rivers Family of Services in 2018 with plans to consolidate Northern Rivers into a portion of the space on a lease then upgrade a rent out the remainder.
A basement flood and the pandemic have slowed progress but the plans are still in motion.