I received this message from the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation concerning a proposal to demolish historic buildings on Phila Street. As unfortunately has happened with other historic properties in town, the owners of 65 and 69 Phila Street have failed to maintain these structures in violation of state and local regulations and are now requesting demolition due to the condition of their properties. The Design Review Commission will review the owners’ applications for demolition on Wednesday, December 9th at 6:30 PM via Zoom.
8 thoughts on “Historic Phila Street Properties Proposed for Demolition”
It’s far worse than presented. My friends family owns the building next door to 65 Phila street and he says they’ve been intentionally letting the building fall into disrepair so they could eventually petition to demolish exactly as is playing out for a more profitable outcome. In the recent past, even with a collapsing roof, the owners purposely only replaced all new windows to make the bare minimum appearance of maintaining, while letting core problems push it towards collapse.
All buildings have lifetimes, and those are old buildings. They have no special architectural or cultural value, and it is time the blight is removed. The water damage is extensive, and sometimes landlords cannot make the numbers work if they have to renovate at a cost to exceed new construction. I hope they build something practical and attractive.
I agree with Cato. The owners want to subdivide the two lots and create three buildable lots. An easy feat, you say? Yes if your last name is Bonacia or Roohan. But the owners have a steep slope to climb, especially with Preservation Foundation getting involved. Tear them down, do the right thing. Build three nice buildings. I wish the owners luck.
Wow, Cato and Henry –why should the owners get rewarded for flaunting state and local requirements to maintain their properties??
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They should be forced to meet whatever the general legal requirements are for safety and maintenance, but they shouldn’t be beholden to some extra preservation-related restraints, especially in a city starved for housing. Saratoga Springs housing is increasingly becoming a luxury only attainable for the very wealthy or those lucky enough to have a residence passed down by family. Preservation restrictions and other NIMBY behavior is stifling growth citywide. History and charm are nice, but they don’t drive local businesses and weigh on property taxes.
The issue isn’t overly restrictive historic conservation. Yes downtown is in desperate need of affordable housing, which this clearly will not be if it’s subdivided into Bonacio properties meant to maximize profits. The issue is the owners have held the property for over a decade, purposely letting it fall into disrepair since they were denied demolition for a more profitable subdivide years ago. They could afford to let a downtown property fall into decay, wasting valuable housing to play the long game to eventually make bank on a subdivide.
Samantha Bosshart ran into technical difficulties trying to make a comment so I am putting it up for her:
These owners purchased one building in 1994 for $45,000 and the other in 2004 for $125,000. Both buildings are identified as contributing buildings to the Hillside Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The owners were aware they were located in a historic district at the time of purchase. Since the owners purchased the buildings they have made no attempts to improve the condition of the building, only willfully neglecting them for the purpose of redevelopment. Over the decades that these buildings have been neglected, there have been numerous offers from serious potential buyers to purchase the houses to rehabilitate them, including three different buyers since July, and the owners are unwilling to negotiate a sale. Other buildings that were once threatened with demolition – Universal Preservation Hall, Batcheller Mansion, Van Raalte Mill, and many of the city’s oldest buildings in Franklin Square (to name only a few of many!). Each one of those buildings were preserved by people who saw the value in the history and architecture of our wonderful community. The preservation of our community is part of why it is a desirable place to live, work, and visit. The actions of these owners have negatively impacted the neighbors and the values of their properties and cost the City of Saratoga Springs money not only by having to pay code enforcement officers and attorneys to constantly attempt to make the owners comply to the basic New York State Property Maintenance Code, but also by a loss of tax revenue since the properties have nearly no value – which if they had been rehabilitated would have contributed thousands of dollars to the tax base for meaningful investment to city infrastructure and schools. The owners could have spent time and money in the properties, but they rather chose to spend those resources ignoring local and state laws. These properties are eligible for federal rehabilitation tax credits and up until April 2020 were eligible for state historic tax credits, which combined could have resulted in an offset of 40% of rehabilitation costs. Sadly, these are not the only properties these owners own and have allowed to deteriorate. This is a self-created hardship. Why reward these owners who have intentionally dismantled our history for their personal financial gain?! – Samantha Bosshart, Executive Director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.
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There is a lot in Ms. Bosshart’s note and she obviously feels passionately about her work. The main points of your argument are that there are other people willing to rehab the existing structures and that the owners should not be allowed to profit from a demo-rebuild and should be forced to renovate. In reality, it looks like the owners have $200,000 into the property, and want to rebuild three $500,000 – $600,000 homes or equivalent rentals. If demo and rebuild costs are about $300,000 per property, then they may clear a $400,000 – $700,000 gross profit on the three houses. Not bad for a $200,000 investment.
While I personally think these properties need to be recapitalized, having thought about it, I defer to the Preservation Society and the city to manage the historic district, which is like a huge special purpose Homeowner’s Association. The city could always use eminent domain and sell to someone who will follow through with an intended use renovation.