DEAL MOVES PROJECT FORWARD

Convention Center board approves purchase of key Albany properties

JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B6

Date: Saturday, March 27, 2010

ALBANY -- The Albany Convention Center Authority board Friday approved the $5.9 million purchase of three acres connected to plans for the proposed $220 million complex and private hotel.


The board voted unanimously to allow the authority to make an offer on numerous small parcels, including five buildings, owned by City Square Associates/The Mercer Companies, a real estate management firm run by William Bantz.


Once the sale is finalized, the authority will have spent about $7 million to control about 75 percent of the downtown land it needs for the project, with about two acres remaining.


Much of the property is beyond the footprint of the proposed 300,000-square-foot meeting center but would be the site of a hotel and parking garage that were spun-off to reduce the public expense on the project.


The purchase would include four buildings along Broadway known as the E-Comm Square buildings.


The proposed price would also include long-term lease interests in parking lots held by City Square, one of them surrounding 48 Hudson Ave., a building that is believed to be the oldest existing example of Dutch colonial architecture built in the city.


The authority is also acquiring 50 Hudson Ave., a vacant building also owned by Bantz that was once home to the old city mission.


The acquisitions essentially give the authority control of an interrupted stretch of land from the west side of Green Street to Broadway, said Duncan Stewart, executive director of the authority.


The sales will take the land off the city's tax rolls, prompting Councilman Dominick Calsolaro to urge board members to work out a payment in lieu of taxes -- or PILOT -- agreement with the city lessen the budgetary impact.


The land with buildings alone are assessed by the city at more than $6.6 million, according to public records.


The board's chairman, Gavin Donohue, said he's discussed the tax impact of the land acquisitions with Mayor Jerry Jennings and Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin.


"There's a local component that we're sensitive to," Donohue said.


Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.