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Industrial Evolution

Five historic buildings designated for reuse program

by Ann Morrow on July 17, 2014


The Preservation League of New York State has selected five historic industrial buildings for a collaborative Industrial Heritage Reuse program designed to breathe new life into upstate’s vacant and underutilized industrial properties. The press announcement yesterday (July 16) took place in front of the Rodgers Liquor Co. building on Broadway in Albany. In addition to the 1910 commercial building, the project includes the Sanford Clock Tower in Amsterdam, Lindy’s Hardware (most recently the Irish Mist pub) and the Mooradian’s building in Troy, and the Freight Station (formerly Grossman’s Bargain Outlet) in Schenectady. “These are all wonderful places,” said Mayor Kathy Sheehan, one of the event’s speakers.

New York State Preservation League’s Jay DiLorenzo on Broadway, photo by Ann Morrow

“There were a lot of buildings in the Capital Region we could’ve chosen,” said the Preservation League’s president, Jay DiLorenzo, “but we had a few criteria.” First, he said, was that the buildings had interested and sympathetic owners who wanted to see something happen with the buildings, “and who have the motivation to get something done in the near future, and who wanted to partner with us and our affiliates.”

Another distinction was that the buildings, which reflect the region’s era of industrial prominence, were eligible for listing on national and state historic registries, and for federal and state tax credits and grant programs.

“We are going to start seeing young professionals who want to live where they can walk, where they can meet others, go to a coffee shop, and these industrial buildings are sited in these communities,” said DiLorenzo after the presentation. “We don’t have to look any further than the Harmony Mills lofts in Cohoes to see how effective a tax credit can be when applied to vacant industrial buildings.”

Among the project’s partners is the Troy Architectural Program (TAP), which will create rehabilitation programs for the selected buildings, as well as to celebrate the heritage of their communities, and to illustrate the potential in a variety of industrial structures. Usually massive in size and deteriorated from disuse, these buildings can present significant development challenges.

“Information is the key,” said DiLorenzo. “These are not new construction projects that everyone understands how to do. These are unique, interesting buildings, and their materials may be unfamiliar to some people. How to restore them, the incentives available, potential building code issues, may be unfamiliar to property owners, so we want to give them all the information they need on the front end so they can make an informed decision.”

The Industrial Heritage Reuse program will also help owners with cost estimates, applying for funding assistance, and technical matters.

In a press release, the league stated its hope that through these efforts, owners of historic industrial buildings, and elected and appointed officials, will begin to see the structures as development-ready assets instead of liabilities. A symposium is planned for November to examine the results of the program.

“We see this as a pilot project for communities around the state,” said DiLorenzo.  “The studies will help us define what the best uses for these buildings are.”