In the aftermath of World War II, Walter J. Socha began as a mason’s helper, moved on to develop a small masonry company doing sidewalks, stairs, and foundations, and then took the leap to become a single family home builder. In the ensuing years, Walter and his wife Sophie Socha formed Walter J. Socha Builders, Inc and built approximately 200 houses. Most were colonials and raised ranches located primarily in Clifton Park and Glenville. Two of the notable neighborhoods, still highly desirable, are North Crest Village in the Moe Road area of Clifton Park and Willow Glen in Glenville.
In the late 1960s, Walt Socha observed that the homes he built were selling for reasonable profits and were appreciating quite rapidly; however, the resale benefits were going to others. He further noticed that a great many people choose to live in dwellings that don’t require an extended commitment and the responsibilities of ownership, especially when such residences are comfortable, convenient and well managed. As a result, he concluded that by putting his know how into building and utilizing his wife’s administrative skills “behind the scenes” he could retain and maintain apartments and realize a more long term return on his investment.
But reaching his goal took time and tenacity. The land he wanted to build upon was largely farmland just off Route 50 in Glenville. The nearest residences were all of the single family variety. Opposition arose, portraying the prospect of the worst qualities of apartment complexes. But it was not Walt’s intention to bring to Glenville drab inner city like structures that would soon give way to abuse and disrepair. Indeed, he foresaw that “Indian Brook Apartments” would be a community asset, providing a new residential option to the community while contributing to its economic well being. Ultimately he had to resort to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to win the right to begin building in 1971.
The emerging success of the 96 unit “Indian Brook Apartments” led to the development of Shady Lane Apartments, a similar complex less than a mile south. Shady Lane in turn led to the development of Socha Plaza, an L shaped 37,000 square foot area of retail and service facilities that more or less separates Shady Lane from busy Route 50. Shortly thereafter, Socha Plaza South was completed in 1996 and offers 20,000 square feet in a state of the art 2 story commercial building.
Over the next 25 years land has been added piecemeal as it became available thus allowing Shady Lane to grow. Shady Lane has clearly increased in size now over 444 units but under the Socha’s stewardship, it is actually more attractive than when first built.
Indian Brook was sold in January of 2006. The decision was made to focus all attention on the properties that encompass Shady Lane Apartments, Shady Lane Professional Building, Socha Plaza South, and Socha Plaza.
Most of the time, Shady Lane Apartments have a waiting list for vacancies. Turnover is slow with numerous tenants having 20 or more years of residence.
The appeal of the complex to both tenants and area residents is understandable. Rental rates for the 950 to 1,350 square foot units are fair and have seen only marginal increases in recent years. 8, 12 and 16 unit buildings keep the architectural scale down to a comfortable aesthetic size for a residential area. The settings are safe, quiet and park like. Constant care and a sophisticated irrigation system keep the original trees, country club lawns and bountiful plantings flourishing. Building exteriors are kept in sparkling, like new condition at all times. “Walters son, now company president, Bill Socha states, “Dad trained us to look for the things that are wrong, not the things that are right”.
Today Walt Socha’s vision is a developer’s vindication. Shady Lane provides well kept homes to several hundred taxpaying residents. Socha Plaza centralizes a variety of desirable services and products on an accessible and well kept site. Property taxes contribute to the municipalities and school system while drawing little upon their resources.
Walter Socha passed in 2013 and his wife Sophie passed in 2016, leaving a legacy that has positively impacted generations. For years, they worked as a team. Her passion and inspiration carries on through day-to-day operations now handled by the third generation of the Socha family President and Walt and Sophie’s grandson Grant M. Socha, as well as Vice President/Treasurer and Walt and Sophie’s granddaughter Taylor N. Socha. Walt and Sophie’s son Bill Socha, who previously served as President, retired in 2020.