Press-Republican

December 17, 2010

Sale of Old Stone Barracks pending

Montreal developer in talks to buy base property

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — The pending sale of the Old Stone Barracks property on the Old Base has stirred community emotions.

A deal is in the works with a Montreal developer to purchase the 170-year-old historic property, which sits on 7.75 acres of land off Route 9 in the South End of the City of Plattsburgh.

The property is assessed at $775,300, but the sale price is reportedly $35,000, which has some in the community scratching their heads.

"To give it away at a fire-sale price is not the right thing," said Keith Herkalo of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association.

"But PARC will have to answer to that."

LITTLE INTEREST SHOWN

The Stone Barracks property has essentially been on the market since Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed in 1995, explained former Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corp. Chief Executive Officer Bruce Steadman, who recently left the area to take another post in New Jersey.

But because any development of the property would involve expensive compliance with state and federal historical regulations, interest was minimal.

"It could cost millions to make it viable, and that's a huge risk," Steadman said.

PARC tried several times to find a taker for the property, offering package deals including land and even operating funds, but nothing materialized.

"We tried to give it to the city and county, and they didn't want it," Steadman said.

'TOO RISKY'

For the past three years, PARC had been working with the Battle of Plattsburgh Association to try to hatch some kind of deal, but that, too, fell through.

Herkalo said the association had planned to renovate the building to include a visitors information center, museum, commercial space and a small cafe.

They were going to sell their existing assets on the base to help fund the project and had sought private investments and state incentives.

"But the banks were squeamish, and we lost our Empire State Development Zone tax incentives when they canceled that program, and that would have amounted to about $87,000," Herkalo said.

The Battle of Plattsburgh Association's deadline to make a deal with PARC ended Sept. 1, and, Herkalo said, they decided to drop their pursuit.

"It just was too much. It became too risky, and we decided to pull the plug."

BOARD DECISION

Steadman said PARC had received no other offers on the property in the past five years, and the PARC Board opted to sell it at cost to a developer who had the ability to make a project work.

"We couldn't give it away, so we decided the only way to get rid of it was to sell it to somebody with the resources to produce a good project that will generate tax revenue," Steadman said.

MONTREAL DEVELOPER

Bruce Schneider of BKS Properties in Montreal has entered a memorandum of understanding with PARC to work out a deal for the property. He is interested in turning the building into condominiums.

The pending sale price will be $35,000, according to several sources close to negotiations, but Steadman would not confirm that figure.

Steadman said a timetable will be built into any final deal ensuring that Schneider will undertake a project in a certain amount of time; otherwise the property and a deposit will revert back to PARC.

"He can't just flip it," Steadman said.

Schneider could not be reached for comment.

VISION NEEDED

Crossborder Development Corp., which was hired by PARC to market the property, hooked Schneider up with the property.

CDC President Mark L. Barie said Schneider has experience in dealing with old properties.

"Whoever buys it will have to put hundreds of thousands of dollars — if not seven figures — into it, so you need an investor with deep pockets and vision and someone who will be able to have the patience to get his return on the investment," Barie said.

"I believe Mr. Schneider has those qualities and he will respect the property and its historical significance and will build on that image."

time RUNNING OUT

Herkalo said he and others believe PARC could have done better.

"I don't think it speaks very well to give it to a Canadian investor who is laughing all the way back to Montreal with an early Christmas present," he said.

With PARC winding its mission down, Steadman said, it was time to move the property.

"If PARC had been staying on, we could have carried it a while longer, but we ran out of options."

E-mail Joe LoTemplio at: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com