It’s hard to write this post without sounding like a total pessimistic hardass. In part 1 written a few days ago, I expressed my opinion on what I thought was a major stumbling block in the process of rehabilitating a property in the city of Albany. I have lived in Albany most of my life, and the house where I grew up on Orange Street is pictured within the report written by Albany’s Division of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance. While my old house has no historical implications, there are, however, some houses with major architectural significance around the corner on McPherson Terrace. Take number 4 McPherson as an example. It’s a two story, with a basement that probably can be used as another flat. The doorway as well as the windows on the second floor — all boarded up — are arched, with canopy windows on the first floor. It is brick with chipped paint and what appears to be a beautiful set of stone stairs. This must have been one hell of a nice home 70 years ago. I don’t know it’s history, or when it was abandoned. The report says that it is “Court Active” which probably means the city has been in contact with it’s owner. What is the owner supposed to do with this property? Yes, it is his/her responsibility; his/her responsibility to pay it’s taxes, and to maintain it so it is not an eyesore. Like many landlords in the the city, the property is bought, rented, and given minimal upkeep as long as that rent money was coming in. Finally, when it became too expensive to maintain, and it was impossible to rent, the owner just walked away. Now we come to the part of restoring this once beautiful home. Like many other homes in Albany, this is a rowhouse. Some rowhouses are constructed in a “string,” which means they share a common wall. What happens now? What happens if the house to the left or right is inhabited? The point I’m trying to make is, when your dealing with old homes, like the line in the movie, “you don’t know what you get.” One good thing about these structures, they were constructed one hell of a lot better then the homes constructed today. They usually have sound foundations, with main beams still capable of supporting what’s above. But, how much will these renovations cost, and who will do them. If you have some properties near Downtown or the Empire State Plaza, you will probably get some developer who will snap them up. And this folks, is reason number 2 that the Land Bank will not work. Developers like Columbia, will buy up some of the prime properties where they can put up some townhouses or condos, and sell them for a nice profit. This will not require any restoration. This will just involve demolition. Well healed developers will be able to get away with it. That is a guarantee. The person trying to rehab 4 McPherson, will have to deal with all the good things involved to build the place up to code, which is one costly investment. Not to mention having to deal with Historic Albany when you can’t find the right curvature piece on the roof facade. You are not redoing the basement in your house. This is serious, expensive, time consuming construction. There aren’t a lot of contractors capable of performing such work. I could go on, and on, but I won’t. The Land Bank is a great idea, but it is years away from even being a reality, if ever. We live in a city once defined by it’s ethnic boundaries. The people once the inhabitants within those boundaries are long gone. Albany is suffering from being 326 years old. You are definitely not going to fix it overnight.
And that is “The Daily Take”