Gloversville to demolish building

GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council has officially signed off on the city’s acquisition of the former Littauer Building at 12-18 S. Main St. from the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth. The city plans to demolish the partially collapsed structure later this year.

The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city’s acquisition of the former Littauer Building, formalizing the transfer of the property to the city from the CRG approved by the agency’s Board of Directors on Jan. 22.

The resolution approved by the Common Council states, “The buildings situated thereon are in an unsafe condition and need to be demolished … the city is prepared to undertake the demolition of same upon acquiring ownership and title to the property and it is believed it is in the public interest to do so.”

The property was originally acquired by the city along with 20-24 S. Main St. and 26 S. Main St. as part of an agreement reached in late 2017 with the former property owners, Two Great Guys. The agreement removed from Two Great Guys the burden of demolishing the partially collapsed former Littauer Building while providing the city access to two long vacant neighboring properties to encourage their redevelopment through marketing and sale.

Two Great Guys began a major renovation project within the Littauer Building while it was in the corporation’s possession that saw the majority of the wooden floors running through the upper stories removed, leaving the building structurally unsound with the bearing walls unbraced.

Ultimately, a portion of the rear west roof and fourth floor bearing walls collapsed on July 5, 2017. No injuries resulted from the vacant building’s partial collapse. The building was further damaged during a windstorm on April 5, 2018, when two large sections of roofing materials were blown off.

The city turned all three of the acquired properties over to the CRG in July 2019. The agency originally planned to demolish the structure at 12-18 S. Main St. before responses to a request for proposals came back over initial estimates, with the lowest bid returned at roughly $500,000.

The decision to transfer ownership of the property back to the city was ultimately made to allow the city to bond for the cost of demolition, an option that will allow the project cost to be repaid over 10 years at interest that are currently at historic lows due to the coronavirus pandemic. Half of the bond measure is expected to be repaid by the city while the remainder is to be repaid by the Gloversville Loan Fund which is managed by the CRG.

There are no fees or terms attached to the property transfer from the CRG to the city, the only associated cost will come in the form of the necessary deed recording fee and transfer tax.

Before plans by the city to raze the structure this spring can advance, the Common Council still must authorize a request for proposals seeking bids for the project to determine the cost and award a contract. The council would subsequently authorize the city to issue bonds to cover the finalized project cost.

Following demolition, the property will initially be converted into an open green space. Original plans to convert the property into a parking lot have been set aside owing to the substantial cost and recent reversals surrounding the planned redevelopment of the neighboring property.

The parking lot was expected to serve a residential and commercial redevelopment project at 20-24 S. Main St. planned by NVP Development LLC of New Jersey. NVP purchased that property and 26 S. Main St. from the CRG in October 2019 for $25,000 total.

NVP received special permit approval from the Planning Board in July for a project at 20-24 S. Main St. for the planned construction of commercial space on the ground floor level and approximately 14 apartments on the upper floors of the three-story interconnected building.

City zoning requirements in place at the time of the approval required the developers to secure access to approximately 50 parking spaces to serve the project, the bulk of those spaces were to come from the site of the former Littauer Building.

The city subsequently modified city code in October to reduce the minimum number of parking spaces required for residential projects to one off-street parking space per housing unit and to remove mandatory minimum off-street parking requirements for commercial, industrial and manufacturing projects, instead leaving the determination of adequate parking levels to the discretion of the Planning Board.

The city backed off plans to convert the Littauer Building property into a parking area following demolition after loosening parking requirements. But the Planning Board members during the Feb. 2 meeting noted that the previous parking requirements under city code were attached to the board’s approval of the special use permit for the site, during the same meeting that Building Inspector David Fox informed the board that NVP now plans to abandon the project and market the building for sale.

The city and CRG are now working with NVP to market and show the building to new developers interested in undertaking a similar rehabilitation project while simultaneously working with the state to ensure a grant awarded to the project could be transferred to the new property owners if the property is sold.

The planned project at 20-24 S. Main St. was awarded a $500,000 Main Street Anchor grant through the state Homes and Community Renewal agency in 2019 secured through a city sponsored Consolidated Funding Application. The reimbursable funds were expected to contribute to the total project cost estimated at $1.75 million. According to Mayor Vincent DeSantis, the state has indicated the grant may be transferrable to new property owners for another project that is substantially the same.

Despite reversing plans for 20-24 S. Main St. due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus, according to DeSantis, NVP plans to retain ownership of 26 S. Main St. and undertake a similar, yet more affordable renovation project. That project would see commercial space installed on the ground level and apartments on the upper floors of the four-story brownstone. NVP plans to operate a data center out of the ground floor space.

While the city is still hoping to see 20-24 S. Main St. sold and redeveloped in the near future, proposals for the site could face a roadblock from the Planning Board. The board members say previous parking requirements would remain a condition of approval if another mixed-use project featuring commercial and residential space is proposed at the site, meaning developers may still have to secure up to 50 parking spaces to advance a renovation project.

By Paul Wager