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Tuesday, September 25 Business

Clinton Street project opens this year, will aid local artisans

Development in downtown Schenectady has largely focused on bringing apartments, bars and restaurants to the area. Now, a new business venture aims to bring in the final piece of the puzzle — retail vendors.

Troy-based real estate developer Redburn Development Partners announced this week that Clinton Street Mercantile signed a lease to occupy the 4,500 square foot ground floor space at 144 Clinton Street.

"We believe in our role as placemakers, and that cities are really on the rise again. People want to live in downtowns," said Elizabeth Young Jojo, vice president of Redburn. "We can do our part to really make a difference in the streetscape when we do something like this. We provide a destination on a block that's a little beat off the beaten path."

The project is included in Redburn's $2.2 million renovation to the historic structure. Construction began three weeks ago as part of a plan to develop the ground floor for the retail space, as well as install 12 apartments on the upper floors of the building.

The building, constructed in 1913, has been the hub of numerous operations over the years. After serving as the headquarters of the Ter Bush and Powell insurance agency, it was also used as a business school, a bowling alley and in 1931 served as the home for city government while the current city hall was under construction.

Brandon and Michelle Whittall, owners of Clinton Street Mercantile, said the goal of their space is to serve as a retail workspace where local artisans can come in to craft, and then sell, their wares.

The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority is providing a $75,000 grant to improve the facade of the building. Metroplex also agreed to partner with the developers and work with tenants on growing their businesses and ultimately moving to a location of their own.

"So [vendors] will come here, work with Brandon and Michelle, build their customer base, kind of see what works on the product side of things," Jojo said. "And then when they're ready to make a leap into their own storefront, Metroplex has promised to come in, meet with them, see what kind of assistance that they can provide, and assist them in opening their own standalone storefront in downtown Schenectady."

The Whittalls also own a custom furniture restoration business, "Uniquely Yours." When they initially started that, they said they could have used a space to develop their business before owning their own store.

"We weren't really ready to be out by ourselves in the shop," said Brandon. "And it was like 'You know what, there's got to be other people that are on that cusp. Almost ready but not quite ready. And it was like, 'Well why don't we just try to get all of us together, and we'll just create it and then kind of be able to help send people out and build that?"

Clinton Street Mercantile will have space for 25 to 30 vendors, and they have about 12 spaces filled so far, with vendors ranging from artists to woodworkers and furniture restorers, Brandon said.

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The space will also feature a "creative room" where vendors can hold workshops or let their customers into the creative process, Michelle said, adding she'll be holding furniture painting classes.

The apartments will mostly be studios and one-bedrooms ranging from 600 to 900 square feet, Jojo said. She declined to say what rents would be.

The retail space, Jojo added, is expected to open by Nov. 1, while the apartments should be available by the end of the year.

Diego Mendoza-Moyers|Staff Writer

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