City's metroplex authority seeks developer who will take over Foster building

Section: Business,  Page: B8

Date: Saturday, March 13, 2010

SCHENECTADY -- For years, downtown boosters in Schenectady have viewed the Foster building with chagrin.

The former hotel was (and is) historic and potentially beautiful, but it sat empty and decaying -- even as much of downtown Schenectady revived around it.

The Metroplex Development Authority repeatedly tried to buy the building at 508 State St. but was rebuffed by its owners. Finally, exasperated officials at the economic development agency decided last year to pursue acquiring it through eminent domain.

That move, apparently, produced results -- and an agreement to sell the Foster building and three others to Metroplex for $250,000.

"It's the last piece of the puzzle on the block," said Ray Gillen, Metroplex chairman. "It's a key parcel."

The other buildings, which are smaller and less historically significant, are at 510 and 512 State St. and 204 Lafayette St.

Gillen said Metroplex hopes to turn the buildings over to a private developer for a retail and residential complex, in part because Schenectady officials are trying to boost the number of people living downtown.

"It lends itself very nicely to a residential project," Gillen said, "and we're talking to some developers."

The Foster, with an intricate terra cotta facade, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a block east of the stretch of State Steet where the Proctors complex is located.

Gillen compared the Foster to the Wellington Row buildings in Albany -- a dilapidated stretch near the state Capitol that is now undergoing redevelopment.

"It's a very significant, beautiful facade," he said of the Foster, describing the building as being one of the most significant endangered buildings in the region.

Metroplex has not yet closed on the purchase, but expects to in coming weeks.