Making the old Nicholaus site special again – The Daily Gazette

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There are vacant lots all over the town of Schenectady that can dramatically improve their surroundings with just a little raking and mowing.

Then there are others — like the prominent land at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard on the site of the former Nicholaus Building — that are getting more attention — and more investment.

So, at first glance, it may seem a little too lenient for Metroplex to allocate $25,000 in economic development funds to improve the small piece of property next to the new Electric City apartment complex.

But the area’s prominence and the potential aesthetic impact it could have on the city makes the investment worth it – if done right.

At present, the corner stands out like a sore thumb from the rest of the area – an overgrown mess with overgrown trees surrounded by a chain-link fence. If you’ve been there, you might be inclined to cross the street rather than try your luck walking along that fence.

Building a structure on the site is probably out of the question, given the size of the land and past issues with the ground.

So the next best thing for visitors and residents to see when passing this major intersection is something green and pleasing to the eye.

So what should it be?

For $25,000, that should be more than grass and a park bench.

Perhaps there could be tables and vintage lighting to highlight the nook. Perhaps an awning or some hanging plants to break up the stark brick facade.

Perhaps the lot would be a good place for a statue of a prominent historical figure or event (or, dare we say it, Lady Liberty?). What to highlight the heritage of the city.

It could also include some sort of marker to pay homage to the historic Nicholaus Building that once stood on the site.

We know it’s a touchy subject given the controversy that led to the building’s demolition in the face of potential collapse in 2017. But the building was once a big part of the city’s historic and architectural character, and made something that vacant well beyond basic plantings would be a good occasion to remind.

Built in the early to mid-1800s, the once significant building once housed a famous German restaurant, among other tenants. Perhaps a tribute could be paid to this history, perhaps with reference to the restaurant or its owners’ German heritage, in the form of the style of seating or signage placed on the site.

Even the landscaping chosen for the site could reflect the character of the area while providing the necessary green space for that particular corner.

We’re sure a lot of people already have great ideas for the site.

This corner is too prominent and too rooted in the city’s past to leave it as it is or treat it as just a wasteland to be cleared.

Make the investment.

Make it a special place again in the heart of Schenectady.

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