City’s new center of attention

10-14-2010

City’s new center of attention

A reconstructed City Center, near completion, has critics as well as admirers
Times Union
By Chris Churchill

The reconstruction of the Center City complex is nearly complete, ending a three-year process aimed at transforming an important downtown corner.

The rebuilt Center City consists of two historic buildings and a new structure that replaces on built in the 1970s. The new structure, designed by local firm Re4orm Architecture, is five stories of glass and steel.

Reaction to the building has been mixed.

Critics say it towers over and dominates Jay Street, a pedestrian-only strip of small shops and restaurants. They also say the building’s striking architecture style doesn’t fit the historic context of downtown Schenectady.

David Buicko, Chief Operating Officer at Galesi Group, a Rotterdam firm that bought Center City in 2007, defends the building, saying its dramatic appearance is another example of a reborn State Street.

“How exciting is this?” Buicko said this week, standing in front of Center City and gesturing to the surrounding downtown. “We have traffic again Schenectady.”

Indeed, the city’s downtown is benefiting from a well-publicized wave of development that has remade its main drag with new restaurants and office space.

Center City, redeveloped at a cost of more than $30 million, is already contributing to the transformation. The complex is 70 percent occupied, home to a YMCA, an NBT Bank branch, and offices for MVP Health Care.

The new section of Center City is so far unoccupied, though on Wednesday it hosted the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp.’s annual fundraiser. Buicko said Galesi has received offers from tenants who want to subdivide the building’s upper floors, but it is resisting in favor of larger users.

“We’re going to be patient,” Buicko said. “It’s the best office space in the Capital Region.”

Galesi is hoping to attract a store such as Urban Outfitters to the building’s lower levels, which would give downtown Schenectady a kind of destination retail outlet it now lacks.