Historic renovations advance at Albany’s first skyscraper

ALBANY – The city’s first skyscraper continues its slow, gradual ascent toward its former glory.

Just weeks ago, the protective wrappings around the clock tower at 100 State St. were removed, revealing a fully refurbished clock and potential signal of more progress to come.

The building, the work of famed Albany architect Marcus T. Reynolds, sits along the heart of State Street, squished between the state Comptroller’s building and offices at 90 State Street.

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Built in 1901, at 10 stories it was the tallest building in the city at the time, providing an expansive view of the Hudson River and Rensselaer County. In 1922, Reynolds added the clock tower and terra cotta cupola, essentially doubling the building’s height. It remains the 11th tallest building in the city.

The Heights Real Estate Company, owned by George and Tony Huang, bought the building from the Galesi Group in 2008 for $3.5 million. Since then,  its owners have slowly chipped away at the needed repairs, pouring millions more into the building.

The building’s property manager, Melissa Martino, said the company’s owners are deeply invested in bringing the building back.


“They truly believe in Albany, they want to put the money into Albany and renovate a historical building,” she said. “They’ve invested millions of dollars so far and they want to make sure that it’s a showcase like it once was. It deserves that attention and deserves that restoration.”

In the 12 years since they purchased the building, the restoration has come in fits and starts. The lack of progress is symbolized by the ever-presented scaffolding that sits outside the building. It’s become a fixture of downtown in its own right – a welcome refugee for smokers looking to avoid standing in rain or snow.

It’s also drawn the ire of the city, which has pushed and prodded the building’s property managers to finish the work and remove the scaffolding.

The city grew tired of repeatedly granting extension for permits and told Martino it needed to see more progress before signing off any further extensions, said Rick LaJoy, the city’s director of building compliance.

“The fact that you had roofing falling off means you need to do some work,” he said.

Martino said the plan is to have the scaffolding come down from the front of the building as early as the end of this year or spring 2021. The company’s permit for the scaffolding runs until next summer and LaJoy said he doesn’t plan on allowing an extension.

The recent work includes more than just the clock tower itself. Contractors repainted the entire building, put new roofs on, grinded away and replaced masonry and redid the parapets.

The clock restoration alone took months. Each piece was disassembled and shipped to American International Clock Repair in St. Louis. Then, Heights Real Estate installed an LED light display, capable of lighting up the tower in whichever colors it chooses.

“It just made sense to restore the clock and get that taken care of and then add the LED lights so it’s just unfolding little by little and then all of a sudden everything will be nice and shiny, hopefully sooner than later,” Martino said.

Once the outside is complete, Martino plans to work her way down from the 10th floor conference room, renovating each floor and installing new elevators.

The ultimate plan continues to be to use the building for office space, even as the city sees an influx of old and new buildings for apartments and condos.

“We’re going to keep it commercial at this time because there’s so many residential [units] popping up we don’t think that the need is there right now for that,” she said.

There’s no set timeline for when that work will be done but the Huangs have been committed to Martino’s vision for the property.

“They’ve been behind me 100 percent, if I ever wanted to do anything,” she said. “I’ve never had any pushback from the owners whatsoever on anything, so it’s been a real blessing that they are committed to spending that money on a building that needs so much.”

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