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Merchant to fix up Upper Union Street ‘eyesore’

Metroplex to provide $75,000 façade grant

Tuesday, October 8, 2013
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— A local business owner has purchased a large commercial building on Upper Union Street so he can fix it up and rent out the remaining space to small businesses and mom-and-pop-type stores.

The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority has agreed to provide a $75,000 façade matching grant for the building at 1611-1613 Union St., which owner Thomas Pai says has never really been up to par with the rest of the neighborhood.

“I don’t want to say it’s an eyesore, but it’s one of the only buildings on the block without a nice façade,” said Pai, who owns the neighboring Pai’s Academy of Taekwondo.

He purchased the more-than-10,000-square-foot building from WKK Inc., a Schenectady corporation. The building currently has three tenants — Michael’s Shoe Service, Save-Mor Cleaners and Players Choice Racquet Sports. There is 5,000 square feet of vacant space in the middle of the building that used to be home to Salamack’s Gift Store. Pai said he believes that by subdividing this space, it will be more affordable for smaller businesses to rent.

“It’s just too big for one tenant,” he said. “It needs to be split up in accordance with the rest of the flavor of Upper Union Street.”

Pai and his brothers own and operate Taekwondo schools throughout the region, including academies in Glenville, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, Rensselaer and Troy. Pai has operated his Taekwondo school in Schenectady since 1988.

Chris DiCocco, former chairman of the Upper Union Street Business Improvement District, said the renovation and façade grant will be “a capstone to a highly visible section of the BID.”

“This is tremendous news for Upper Union Street,” he said in a news release Tuesday. “We have had numerous property owners take advantage of the Metroplex façade funding, and it has paid dividends for the businesses, property owners and neighbors.”

Upper Union Street has undergone major improvements over the years, including repaving, new sidewalks and curbs, lighting and landscaping. Metroplex has supplied façade grants to many of the commercial buildings, making it one of Schenectady’s most attractive corridors.

Pai still needs approval from the city’s zoning, planning and building departments and expects renovations to begin no earlier than December.

“We welcome this additional investment by Thomas Pai in Upper Union Street,” Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said in the release. “We are excited about working together to improve the façade, which will be a great addition to all of the other improvements that have been completed on Upper Union Street.”

 
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