Redburn walks away from Schenectady landmark

By Tyler A. McNeil for Albany Proper

 This was announced Wednesday, the same day Zoning Board members were expected to vote on Redburn’s request to convert the property. 

“We figured that the numbers were against us,” Stockade Association Suzanne Unger, an opponent of the project, said about the Zoning Board vote. 

Jeff Buell, a principal at Redburn Development, told the Daily Gazette in a Wednesday statement that the company, which owns 26 properties (more than 100 apartments) in the neighborhood, is committed to “rebuild the city of Schenectady” for the long haul, but it “has become clear that neighbors in the Stockade want a restaurant and a hotel at this location, not new apartments.”

“While we doubt the financial viability of such an endeavor, we wish them luck in their efforts to save this building,” he added.

It’s a major twist in fewer than two days. As of June 29, Buell in an email response to Them & Us Media said: “Nothing has changed, we’d like to rehab the Inn and keep it a vital piece of the community.”

SA will hold a public forum for district residents regarding the building’s future on July 2. Neighborhood officials have pushed to keep the building as a hotel, a request Redburn wasn’t willing to entertain. 

“What a lot of people really were upset about was losing the Inn because that was a popular business and the last year was so disheartening because of the way the new owners were running it,” said Unger.

Redburn’s proposal was first blocked at a July 11 Zoning Board meeting after a 3-1 decision. Four votes were required to pass. Because the seven-member body barely had a quorum, commissioners under municipal law were able to schedule a revote. 

But Redburn’s proposal probably wasn’t going to get community support. At the last meeting, only two former owners and Schenectady Metroplex Authority Ray Gillen publicly supported it. About a dozen residents and leaders from both SA and the Schenectady County Heritage Foundation opposed Redburn’s plans to convert the building. 

Opponents argued that the previous owners mismanaged the property, leading to its eventual downfall. The Stockade Inn operated for about six months under control of Lake George attorneys Robert and Neisha Gregor. During that time, SA claimed that the owners were absent, phone calls weren’t returned for events, and the jazz band’s hours were cut significantly. 

In order for a property to obtain a variance, a greenlight from a Zoning Board to repurpose a commercial property, the owners must prove hardship inflicted by outside causes. 

The current owners have claimed that a January kitchen fire and COVID-19 ruined the business. The Gregors put the building up for sale in early January.

According to Buell’s testimony at the last meeting, Redburn was among a string of potential buyers looking at the property before the Jan.16 fire. With significant smoke and roof damage following the incident, the Gregors became open to negotiating a lower price with the developer. The company’s last offer was $545,000.

Through Schenectady County records, Unger later discovered that Jack McDonald, one of the building’s former co-owners, held a $575,000 mortgage for the Gregors. After McDonald supported the conversion at the last Zoning Board meeting, opponents called his undisclosed financial ties a conflict of interest. 

Buell responded to the allegation on June 29, claiming that the McDonalds’ support to sell the property from the current owner while holding the mortgage illustrates financial hardship. “The notion that the McDonald’s needed to hold such a high mortgage on the property is a strong indicator that no commercial lender would touch the Inn, and its operations as a small business are not financially viable now, nor have they been for many years,” Buell said.

The Gregors bought the property from the McDonald family for $975,000 in early 2019.

Had Redburn seized the property, it would’ve added to the developers expanding portfolio in Schenectady. It already owns notable properties like the Foster Complex, 508 State Street, and the Clinton Street Mercantile. Redburn bought 18 properties from longtime developer Robin White last year. 

Redburn Development has pulled out of plans to transform the 200-year-old Stockade Inn into a residential and office rental building after weeks of neighborhood backlash.

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This was announced Wednesday, the same day Zoning Board members were expected to vote on Redburn’s request to convert the property.

“We figured that the numbers were against us,” Stockade Association Suzanne Unger, an opponent of the project, said about the Zoning Board vote.

Jeff Buell, a principal at Redburn Development, told the Daily Gazette in a Wednesday statement that the company, which owns 26 properties (more than 100 apartments) in the neighborhood, is committed to “rebuild the city of Schenectady” for the long haul, but it “has become clear that neighbors in the Stockade want a restaurant and a hotel at this location, not new apartments.”

“While we doubt the financial viability of such an endeavor, we wish them luck in their efforts to save this building,” he added.

It’s a major twist in fewer than two days. As of June 29, Buell in an email response to Them & Us Media said: “Nothing has changed, we’d like to rehab the Inn and keep it a vital piece of the community.”

SA will hold a public forum for district residents regarding the building’s future on July 2. Neighborhood officials have pushed to keep the building as a hotel, a request Redburn wasn’t willing to entertain.

“What a lot of people really were upset about was losing the Inn because that was a popular business and the last year was so disheartening because of the way the new owners were running it,” said Unger.

Redburn’s proposal was first blocked at a July 11 Zoning Board meeting after a 3-1 decision. Four votes were required to pass. Because the seven-member body barely had a quorum, commissioners under municipal law were able to schedule a revote.

But Redburn’s proposal probably wasn’t going to get community support. At the last meeting, only two former owners and Schenectady Metroplex Authority Ray Gillen publicly supported it. About a dozen residents and leaders from both SA and the Schenectady County Heritage Foundation opposed Redburn’s plans to convert the building.

Opponents argued that the previous owners mismanaged the property, leading to its eventual downfall. The Stockade Inn operated for about six months under control of Lake George attorneys Robert and Neisha Gregor. During that time, SA claimed that the owners were absent, phone calls weren’t returned for events, and the jazz band’s hours were cut significantly.

In order for a property to obtain a variance, a greenlight from a Zoning Board to repurpose a commercial property, the owners must prove hardship inflicted by outside causes.

The current owners have claimed that a January kitchen fire and COVID-19 ruined the business. The Gregors put the building up for sale in early January.

According to Buell’s testimony at the last meeting, Redburn was among a string of potential buyers looking at the property before the Jan.16 fire. With significant smoke and roof damage following the incident, the Gregors became open to negotiating a lower price with the developer. The company’s last offer was $545,000.

Through Schenectady County records, Unger later discovered that Jack McDonald, one of the building’s former co-owners, held a $575,000 mortgage for the Gregors. After McDonald supported the conversion at the last Zoning Board meeting, opponents called his undisclosed financial ties a conflict of interest.

Buell responded to the allegation on June 29, claiming that the McDonalds’ support to sell the property from the current owner while holding the mortgage illustrates financial hardship. “The notion that the McDonald’s needed to hold such a high mortgage on the property is a strong indicator that no commercial lender would touch the Inn, and its operations as a small business are not financially viable now, nor have they been for many years,” Buell said.

The Gregors bought the property from the McDonald family for $975,000 in early 2019.

Had Redburn seized the property, it would’ve added to the developers expanding portfolio in Schenectady. It already owns notable properties like the Foster Complex, 508 State Street, and the Clinton Street Mercantile. Redburn bought 18 properties from longtime developer Robin White last year.