Albany Times Union
November 2, 2017
By Madison Iszler
Schenectady - After sitting vacant for several years, the six-story Seneca Building in Schenectady recently underwent massive renovations and developers are hoping the improvements will help revitalize the city's downtown area.
The building at 118-120 Jay Street across from City Hall was gutted to make way for 16 one-bedroom rental apartments and 2,400 square feet of commercial space. The Community Preservation Corporation partnered with 118 Jay Street LLC, managed by Queens-based developers Noah Smith and Theodore Haber, to complete the $650,000 project. CPC provided a $450,000 construction loan and a SONYMA-insured permanent mortgage through a partnership with the New York State Common Retirement Fund.
"We believe that it was a critical asset for the community to restore," said Michael Skrebutenas, CPC's senior vice president and regional director. "Tenants want to be in a historic building, and buildings like this are what make our communities in the Northeast distinct. Part of our mission is to breathe new life back into communities, and we saw that happening in Schenectady."
Smith, a partner with CPR Property Group, bought the building for $160,000 in 2014 and renovations began about a year later. In 2015, a fatal fire destroyed the Gleason Building at 104 Jay Street and an adjacent building at 100-102 Jay Street.
New electric, gas and plumbing systems were installed but the developers kept and refurbished the original pine floorboards, radiators and porcelain bathtubs. They also added several features for tech-savvy tenants: an intercom system that can be accessed from a cellphone, digital rotisserie ovens with spits and washing machines that can be monitored from a computer with Internet access. New fire alarm and sprinkler systems were already in place, Smith said.
They also received a $24,000 grant from the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority to steam clean the building's facade and kept the original colors. The structure has a new name: 118J. Rent starts at $850 and includes gas, Wi-Fi and cable television service.
"We wanted to keep the building's historical character but add modern conveniences," Smith said.
Eleven of the 16 apartments have been taken, with tenants moving in Nov. 1., and a steakhouse, day spa and several other businesses have expressed interest in the commercial space on the ground floor, he said.
The former hotel building at 118-120 Jay Street dates to around 1900 and used to be the tallest structure in Schenectady. It has been vacant since 2014, when a restaurant on the ground floor moved out.
CPC has funded 385 multifamily and mixed-use projects in the Capital Region and is helping with a similar project in Troy, a multi-million renovation of a vacant manufacturing building at 444 River Street.