Items tagged with 'real estate'

Troy farmers' market drops out of 1 Monument Square plan

From the latest batch of proposed renderings for the project.

The Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market has announced that it's withdrawing from the proposed plan to redevelop the 1 Monument Square site in downtown Troy. The market had been slated to occupy a street-level retail space in the mixed-used development, as well as make use of surrounding plaza space.

Said farmers' market board chair Seth Jacobs in a statement released Wednesday afternoon:

"Changes to the scope of the One Monument Square project greatly reduced the footprint the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market would have occupied while increasing the cost to the market, and it has become clear the available space would not allow us to offer the ideal experience to customers, nor to our vendors. We understand the developer has encountered major engineering challenges and site constraints as the project has progressed, and we respect that. However, it is our organization's goal to be fiscally responsible in order to ensure all who enjoy the market are able to have a positive experience for years to come."

The press release also included a statement from Joseph Kirchhoff, CEO of the Kirchhoff Companies, which has been working to develop the project with Sequence Development: "We know that our project when completed will be an outstanding addition to downtown Troy, enhancing the quality of life for both existing and future Troy residents. We will continue to support the Market at its downtown location and look forward to the Market vendors taking advantage of the public plaza created around the future One Monument Square building."

This news isn't that surprising.

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Erica and Christian's Albany Sears Kit Home

Open House Albany Sears Kit Home

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

If you'd walked by Erica and Christian's home before it was theirs, you may not have spotted this jewel. When they bought it six years ago, the front of the home was hidden from view by several large pine trees. The Craftsman home's beauty -- both inside and out -- needed some uncovering.

Erica and Christian have lovingly restored and updated their house. Today, its beauty shines through while also providing a warm and comfortable space for their active young family. They have taken a historical house and updated it to create a home that meets their family's needs.

Their neighborhood is another example of Albany's many unique little corners. Just blocks from their home they have a Little League park, a playground, and several restaurants. I spoke with Erica about their home, their neighborhood, and their reasons for living here.

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A quick look at the 733 Broadway residential conversion

733 Broadway

Some quick follow-up on 733 Broadway, the latest residential project in downtown Albany.

The loft-style conversion, the roots of which stretch back to 2005, is aiming for occupancy on December 1, according to Norstar Development.

Here are a few more bits, along with some pics...

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Checking back with The Albany Barn

What's happening in there?

The Albany Barn is a weird landlord.

"We kind of like it when people leave," says Barn president Jeff Mirel, "as long as they stay in the neighborhood."

The Barn, of course, is not an actual barn. It's the former Saint Joseph's Academy in Albany's Arbor Hill neighborhood.

More than two years ago it was converted into a mix of HUD-subsidized live/work apartments for artists and studio/theater/office space for art, performance, and community-building activities. The goal: creative placemaking that the Barn's leadership hopes will help the neighborhood with a constant influx of new art and ideas.

"This is a stepping stone for artists," says Mirel of the Barn's assistance to artists, which also includes help with marketing and business. "Success is not required -- trying to achieve is. We say 'Yes, go out into the world, let us serve someone else.'"

Ideally, Mirel says, Barn artists will plant roots in the neighborhood, hiring locally, training young people, and being a part of creating a vibrant area. Meanwhile other artists will move into their affordable spaces at the Barn, so there is always an influx of new artists.

So, that's the plan. After nearly two years, how's it going? And what's next?

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Living with kids in a Center Square row house

Open House Center Square composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Dave Hopper

As a child growing up in suburbia, I daydreamed about living in the city: walking to museums, living in a bustling neighborhood, sitting on a stoop a la the characters on Sesame Street. It all seemed so exciting and very different from my quiet street.

Gail* and her family have found that raising kids in an urban setting really is fun. The family, including two young children, makes the most of everything their neighborhood has to offer -- and in Albany's Center Square, there's plenty to see and do. They have found a vibrant community and eagerly shared their experience with downtown living.

I spoke with Gail about her reasons for choosing urban living, how it works for her family, and what it's like to raise kids in a 116-year-old row house.

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Where the "weekend house" is

campfire at a lake

Updated with maps that now include Connecticut.

The question this week about good weekend getaways + the gawking at various "weekend" houses around the region on Airbnb = us being curious about where seasonal/vacation/weekend homes are located in this part of the country.

So, we looked it up. (Because, of course, there's information on that.) And we map a map. (Because, of course, we can't help ourselves.)

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Reading through the Impact Downtown Albany playbook

impact downtown albany zones

The plan identifies four zones downtown.

The "playbook" for the Impact Downtown Albany project is out. It's aimed to be a set of specific ideas and steps the city can take to continue the redevelopment of downtown Albany -- touching on topics such as residential and retail development, taxes, parking, pop-up events, and branding.

"Impact Downtown Albany was designed as a game changer," said Sarah Reginelli, the president of Capitalize Albany, the city's economic development arm. "It was designed as a tactical approach to downtown revitalization."

The report was produced for Capitalize Albany by a team of consultants over the last two years. Capitalize Albany released it this week so that it might help the Capital Region's bid for one of those $500 million Upstate Revitalization grants from the state.

"Downtown has wonderful assets already, downtown has a strong momentum," Reginelli told us Thursday. "Part of it is changing perceptions of downtown and understanding that this momentum has been occurring and that there is potential here for people to reach out and grab."

We read through the report. And there's approximately three tons of stuff in it. So, if this topic interests you -- go skim through it (pdf). But here are a few chunks of it that caught our eye...

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A look at the latest plan for the 1 Monument Square project in Troy

1MonumentSquare 2015-June Monument Square crop small

One of the exterior options presented.

The latest iteration of the third major attempt to redevelopment the 1 Monument Square site is down to a one building.

The development team aiming to build a residential/restaurant/farmers' market project on the prime spot in downtown Troy presented its latest plan Tuesday night to the Troy Planning Commission. And the commission gave the site plan a preliminary approval.

So, let's have a look.

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A family home in the country

country house composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

Many of the previous Open House homes belong to fairly new owners -- people beginning their life in that home, or those who had spent a couple years making the home their own. Martha and her family have owned their Columbia County home for 14 years, a time during which the house was lovingly restored, her three children grew up, and now the family is beginning the process of letting go of this home and preparing for the next chapter.

Despite growing up in the Capital District, this is a part of Columbia County that I had never been to until about 10 years ago. It is breathtaking. The rolling hills, the open space, the vast sky -- it is a gorgeous part of our region. Martha's house is perched on a hill and has a splendid view of the surrounding countryside.

The story of Martha's family and their home is a look at the choices a family made about where to live at various points in their lives, the labor of love that home ownership involves, and the relationship between a home and the land it sits on.

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Constructing a new future for Sheridan Hollow

Habitat for Humanity Sheridan Hollow project

The most interesting real estate project in Albany -- and maybe the whole Capital Region -- is in Sheridan Hollow. Yep, that Sheridan Hollow, the neighborhood that has so often been bypassed, overlooked, and otherwise left with the short end of the stick throughout the city's history.

So what's happening? Habitat for Humanity Capital District and a group of partners are in the process of building a new core at the heart of the neighborhood.

Here are a few reasons why that's so interesting...

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Visions, concerns, aspirations for the St. Joseph's church building

st josephs albany exterior

The church building dates back to 1860.

There's a Ten Broeck Triangle neighborhood meeting this Thursday focused on the future of the vacant St. Joseph's church. A flyer mentions that the two guest speakers will be Christopher Spencer, the direct of planning for the city of Albany, and David Laccetti, an architect with Design Code Management Systems, who's "currently studying and evaluating" the vacant church building.

Meeting blurbage:

Each presenter will speak to us about the future development of St. Joseph's Church and take questions and answers from the audience. Residents are also encouraged to share their visions, concerns, and future aspirations for the St. Joseph's Church and our neighborhood with them.

St. Joseph's is a grand building and notable city landmark. It's also been the subject of multiple failed attempts over the last two decades to find a new use for it. The most recent high-profile attempt: the proposed brewery project that met strong neighborhood resistance in late 2012/early 2013. In May of 2013 the Historic Albany Foundation, which had been holding the building for preservation, handed the church back to the city.

The Capital Region has a bunch of church buildings that are no longer serving as churches. Some have found new, adapted uses. Other sit vacant or have suffered worse fates. It's a hard problem because the large spaces can be difficult/expensive to adapt.

The neighborhood meeting is Thursday, April 16 at 7 pm at the Ten Broeck Mansion. It's sponsored by the Ten Broeck Triangle Preservation League.

(Thanks, J)

Earlier on AOA: No brewery for St. Joe's -- so now what? (2013)

Monthly house payments by Capital Region place

chart 2013 Capital Region property tax + mortgage payment medians clip.png

A handful of places pulled from the list -- the highest (Bethlehem-Bethlehem Central), the lowest (Corinth town-Corinth Central), and a few in between.

Some follow-up on that post a few weeks back about comparing Capital Region property tax rates: Matt emailed us hoping we could send along the numbers because he was curious about the monthly payments -- mortgage + taxes -- for the median home in each municipality around the area. That sounded interesting to us, so we bounced a spreadsheet back and forth and came up with a different look at the topic.

The results aren't exactly surprising, but it does highlight some things differently.

For example: The city of Schenectady tops the chart for property tax rate (per $1k value). But looking at the monthly payment for the median house there, Schenectady is way, way at the bottom of the list at just about $919 (of which about 45 percent is property taxes).

Based on the monthly payment figure, we were also able to make a rough guess at about how much a household would have to make each year to afford the median house in each place. Example: Bethlehem, in the Bethlehem Central School District, topped the list at about $82k. (Caveats? You bet. They're explained inside.)

OK, let's have a look at the whole (new) list...

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Dome sweet dome

berne geodesic dome houseHouse gawking: Check out this geodesic dome home in Berne. The house is listed for $299k with Anne Lafferty Realty:

Outstanding Geo-Desic-Dome Home located on 17.4 Acres...This contemporary home is known for its heat efficiency and has a unique layout which includes Large Eat in Kitchen, Living Room, Media Room,Possible 4 BR's or 3 BR plus den/office, 2 Baths, Laundry Room and Full Basement with Bar and an additional office/play room as well as storage and work area. Nature Lover's Paradise great for Hunting, Cross Country Skiing, Fishing and more...minutes from Thacher Park, Cole Hill Forest, and Thompson Lake.

The idea of using the geodesic dome as a building approach is about a century old -- and it was popularized by Buckminster Fuller in the 1950s. And while they didn't exactly catch on as a mass market design, the idea's persisted because the domes are lightweight, strong, and can be very energy efficient. From a How Stuff Works article about the domes:

The benefits seemed obvious. Spheres enclose a maximum of space with a minimum of materials, and they don't require interior supports. Their aesthetic appeal for many people is undeniable; the high ceilings and open feeling can make them attractive, and it's easy to build lofts inside for partial second-floor space.
The spherical design results in highly efficient and effective air circulation in both summer and winter. Less surface area makes these buildings less susceptible to temperature changes, and thus, inexpensive to heat and cool as compared to rectangular homes. The aerodynamic exterior means cold and warm air flows around the structure instead of forcing its way into the interior.

[via @nicorreia]

photo: Anne Lafferty Realty

Leaning toward renting

door open welcome mat

Home sweet (rented?) home. / photo: Flickr user Joelk75 (CC BY 2.0)

Last week we wrote about one of the residential conversions in progress in downtown Albany. As is so often the case, a prominent thread in the comments was the rental price. And then chris capped things off with this comment:

Hey, when people start buying houses again this place will be half-empty and they'll have to drop the rent. Have patience...

We were thinking about how chris framed the situation -- essentially, people are leaning away from buying houses right now and toward renting -- and wondering if we could get a better sense of the situation.

Are there numbers on that? Of course. Did we look them up? Of course. Are we now going to share some of the numbers with you, with graphs? Of course.

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The Shell House

roxbury shell house

Farther field: This house in Roxbury -- in the northern Catskills -- caught our eye over at Upstater. It's basically a giant shell with windows on one side -- along with three bedrooms, and 2.5 baths. It's currently listed for sale at $349,000.

The house was designed by architect Seymor Rutkin, who talked with Architectural Record about the house in 2004:

Since the creation of a shell shaped house is not the customary brick-and-mortar type construction found normally in the Catskills, Rutkin found it difficult to obtain a general contractor comfortable taking on the job. So, he took it upon himself. Working closely with manufacturers from the Monolithic Dome Institute, Rutkin was able to design an air-form shell to his exact specifications. The shape of the house is formed within Rutkin's reusable air shell. The form was sprayed on the interior with foam insulation. Next, steel reinforcements were attached to the interior side of the insulation and sprayed with concrete. Once the air form is removed the exterior of the concrete shell is sprayed with what Rutkin refers to as its "protective skin."

The home has been available for weekend rentals in the past.

In other news: The Monolithic Dome Institute sounds like something from Lost.

photo: Keller Williams Upstate

"What would it take to turn this into..."

960 Broadway Albany back

960 Broadway in Albany, viewed from from North Pearl Street.

Maybe you've stood outside one of the Capital Region's many old, underused industrial buildings and thought: "What would it take to turn this into (insert thing)?"

Well, The Preservation League of New York and the Troy Architecture Program have provided some answers to that question. Specifically, they've provided some detailed answers -- about building condition, code issues, variances, and costs -- for what it would take to transform a handful of buildings in Albany, Troy, Schenectady, and Amsterdam.

The reports are the product of the Preservation's League's Industrial Heritage Reuse Project, which is aiming to find new uses for historic former industrial buildings. (As mentioned last summer.)

One example: 960 Broadway in Albany's Warehouse District, which a developer would like to flip to restaurant and residential space.

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The Nipper building is for sale

Nipper building in Albany

For sale: 991 Broadway in Albany, AKA the Nipper building. List price: $3.975 million. Here's the listing brochure from Carrow Real Estate Services.

A tip of the hat to the Biz Review's Mike DeMasi, who was the first person we saw to point this out -- he reports that Arnoff Moving and Storage, the current owner, is looking to move to a more efficient facility. [Biz Review]

The Nipper building -- well, to be more specific, the large dog sitting atop it -- is the most prominent landmark in Albany's Warehouse District, a neighborhood that's heading in more of a restaurant/residential direction. And, at least on the surface, the 125,070-square-foot main building at 991 Broadway looks very much like it could be a candidate for redevelopment -- century-old warehouse spaces tend to make good residential conversions, the building has a courtyard cutout in the middle, and there would be ample space for parking.

The listing is very much pushing this idea: "Landmark Warehouse District Residential Redevelopment Opportunity," "Walk to Dining, Entertainment & Exciting Nightlife."

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The Gallery on Holland

A quick update another apartment project in Albany: The rendering above is for "The Gallery on Holland," a 125-unit apartment building planned for 25 Holland Ave (near the intersection with Delaware Ave). The building will be 7-stories and include 160 interior parking spaces.

This project has been in planning for at least a year -- here's some backstory from August 2013 as reported by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist. It's set to replace the 3-story brick apartment/dorm building currently on the site. The project's been held up by a sewer line issue that required acquiring additional property. Last week it got demolition approval from the city planning board, and it needs one more OK from the city Board of Zoning Appeals before moving ahead. [TU]

The company behind it is Richbell Capital (RBC), which also built the Paddocks of Saratoga. RBC managing director William Hoblock said if the BZA approval comes through and everything lines up as now planned, demolition could start this winter, and the project could be completed by 2016.

Apartment boom
There's currently a bit of an apartment boom (if that's the word) in/around Albany:
+ This 25 Holland project is just about a half mile from the Park South mixed-use project that will include more than 265 residential units.
+ On the city's border with Menands is the loft conversion of the old Albany International headquarters (it was also before the planning board last week).
+ Multiple projects downtown -- completed or planned -- like the Monroe.
+ There are new apartments planned for South Allen Street near St. Peter's
+ A range of smaller conversion projects such as 27 Western (completed) and 960 Broadway (planned, it was before the planning board last week).
+ And today JCE reported two projects planning privately-owned student housing (which are apartments, more or less) near UAlbany's uptown campus. [TU]

This fits into what's apparently a national upswing in apartment construction. [Businessweek]

image: Dominick Ranieri Architect

A good real estate agent for Center Square?

Google Map of 42.654297,-73.764425

Center Square Resident emails:

I am looking for suggestions about a realtor for Center Square in Albany. I am looking into possibly selling my house. There are lots of realtors, however I would like to get some suggestions from people who have had a realtor sell their house in Center Square.

CSR's question touches on a topic we've been kind of curious about: Are certain real estate agents better/worse at selling/helping to buy in specific neighborhoods? Or, to put it another way, can a real estate agent's experience with a neighborhood help you sell your house faster, or find the right house, or get a better deal there?

For a neighborhood such as Center Square -- which is is a bit unusual for the Capital Region, given the neighborhood's housing stock and density -- it seems plausible that agent experience could theoretically make a difference.

So, got a suggestion for CSR? Please share! And if you have thoughts about the specific agents/specific neighborhoods topic, we'd be interested to hear them.

Earlier on AOA: A good real estate agent for selling a house?

The Industrial Heritage Reuse Project

960 Broadway from Pearl

A candidate for conversion to a restaurant and apartments.

The Capital Region has a bunch of former industrial buildings -- some a century or older -- that are currently vacant and under used. And a new project is aiming to map out a future for these buildings.

The Preservation League of New York introduced the Industrial Heritage Reuse Project Wednesday outside a century-old building on Broadway in North Albany that once housed a liquor distributor. That building, along with four others in the Capital Region, will be the subject of analysis looking at how to jumpstart the redevelopment of those buildings for new uses.

"We feel these buildings are assets rather than liabilities," Preservation League president Jay DiLorenzo said on the sidewalk along Broadway.

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Advice on renting out a house?

green monopoly house flickr woodleywonderworks ccChris emails:

We're thinking about moving out of state and renting our house in the town of Bethlehem. Can any of your readers recommend a property manager who can be trusted to select good renters and generally do a good job of managing?

Just to expand a bit on the question from Chris, we're curious if people have thoughts/advice on renting out a house in general: property management company vs. no property management company, selecting tenants yourself vs. leaving that to a manager, and so on.

Got a suggestion for Chris? Please share!

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks (CC BY 2.0)

Hidden City House & Garden Tour 2014

center square garden tour 2014The annual Hidden City House & Garden Tour in Albany's Center Square neighborhood is returning June 26. Tickets are $15 if purchased between now and June 19 -- $20 after that.

The self-guided tour, organized by the Center Square Association and the Historic Albany Foundation, allows people to get a peek at some of the historic homes and gardens in Center Square (you probably couldn't have guessed that from the name). This year's tour also has a new angle: birds. Event blurbage:

In addition to the traditional house and garden tour, some host houses will pledge to maintain native plants, eliminate artificial fertilizers, and provide food and cover for wild birds. Demonstration sites along the tour route, run by Audubon Society Fellow, Laura McCarthy, will showcase the joy of urban birding and backyard birds.
Other highlights of the tours include a charming garden on Jay Street that features a specimen tree peony, climbing roses, a pergola with a heritage hops vine, and many other plants. A mature garden on Lancaster Street boasts a fountain, climbing roses, and old magnolia trees bearing scars of a former wisteria vine.

The tour is Thursday, June 26 from 5-8 pm. Tickets are available online via the link above.

Saratoga Secret Garden Tour
The annual Secret Garden Tour in Saratoga Springs is July 13 this year. Organized by Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, the tour offers a peek at "creative urban spaces, lush suburban gardens, fabulous water features, and more."

The tour is Sunday, July 13 from 11 am-5 pm. Tickets are $20 and available at the link above. If tickets still remain on the day of the tour, they'll be $25.

HAF advertises on AOA.

photo: Center Square Assocation

Renting vs. buying?

green monopoly house flickr woodleywonderworks cc

Jessica sends us a message:

I'd be curious to see what people thought of renting vs buying in Albany. Which one is cheaper, maybe a poll of how many rent vs buy?

The renting vs. buying question is complicated, in large part because each person and situation is different. And while it isn't necessarily a local question, local factors do play a big role: housing prices, rents, taxes, and so on.

There are a lot of savvy people here -- so, got some advice or ways to think about this question for Jessica? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Best Capital Region small town, village, or suburb for settling down?
+ Capital Region median home prices 2013
+ A good real estate agent for selling a house?
+ A good real estate agent?

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks (CC BY 2.0)

Rare Form Brewing Company

Rare Form tap room

Rare Form's tap room/brewery space, which was being prepped on Tuesday.

The new Rare Form Brewing Company in Troy is set to open its doors this Friday. The startup craft brewery is the result of a long-running plan by married couple Kevin Mullen and Jenny Kemp, who moved to the Capital Region after stops in Denver and Seattle.

Rare Form's opening also marks the ongoing transformation of its block at Congress St and 4th Street, which over the next few months four new storefronts are planned -- the sort of change that has a lot of people optimistic about the future of Troy.

We stopped by this week to get a look at what's in the works, and talk with some of the people involved.

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Peter and Alan's Troy brownstone on the park

open house troy washington park composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

Peter and Alan live in a brownstone along Troy's Washington Park. Dating back to 1840, the park is one of only two privately-owned urban parks in the state. The buildings that surround it are stately and beautiful.

This corner of Troy is the kind of place to stroll around on a warm evening: lovely architecture, people walking along the tree-lined streets, and just a few blocks over from the Russell Sage campus. It's an idyllic place that most people don't wander into, but it's an area worth exploring.

The homeowners themselves are gracious and excited to share their corner of the Capital Region. As they joke, if you live in Troy, there's a good chance you've been in their house...

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Suzanne and Erik's North Chatham homestead

open house Chatham Farmhouse composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by David Hopper

Suzanne and Erik's home story is one of transitioning from urban to rural, from a large house to a smaller one, from a life of convenience to a life of homesteading.

A year ago, the couple and their two young boys moved from their large home near Schenectady's Central Park to a smaller home on several acres in the northern Columbia County countryside.

I had a chance to visit with the family -- as well as their 19 chickens and 4 alpacas -- and hear about what it's meant for them to live in a rural part of the Capital Region, where their land is as important to them as their home itself. The family brings a unique perspective, with Suzanne's background as a biologist and Erik's background in engineering. They take a passionate, thoughtful, and intentional approach to their home and the land surrounding it.

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Takk House

takk house main space

Hiding in downtown Troy.

By Lauren Hittinger

One of the most interesting buildings in Troy has been hiding for years.

I've walked by 55 Third Street in downtown Troy dozens, if not hundreds, of times before I happened to get a tour a while back from then-owners Steve Rein and Niki Haynes. And I was completely blown away. The old Knights of Columbus building is so cool, filled with old Troy details and fabulous little nooks throughout. So when I heard it was going to be turned into an event space by its new owners -- Heidi Benjamin and Frank Sicari -- I was definitely interested to learn more.

I recently toured the space again and chatted with Benjamin and Sicari about their plans for this surprising building.

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The "Glamour" of that house

The video embedded above is for the song "Glamour" by locals The Lucky Jukebox Brigade. It's a good song, and the video has a twist at the end. Have a look.

You'll notice a bunch of local spots in the video. And also, there's that house. The seafoam green! The wallpaper! The kitchen! It's like waking up in the late 1950s.

Curious about the house, we emailed the band for the scoop. From The Lucky Jukebox Brigade's Deanna DeLuke:

The house is local! We are keeping the specific location private because it is a residential home, but I can tell you that the kitchen cabinets and counters are original from when the house was built in the early 1950s, and the hallway wallpaper (in the shot where they are walking down the stairs) is from the 1960s. The bedroom was updated maybe 10 years ago. It has been in the family since the 1950s, passed from one generation to the next, and they have taken excellent care of it to keep all the vintage pieces in such pristine condition!

"Glamour" is currently available as a single. The band is working an album, Familiar Fevers, for this summer.

The Lucky Jukebox Brigade is playing at The Low Beat this Friday, March 28. Local funk Oobleck is also on the bill. It should be a good time. Show's at 9 pm, it's $5.

Follow up: O'Briens Public House at The Trojan Hotel

O'Brien's Public House interior

The crowd on St. Patrick's Day.

Some quick photo follow up on the Trojan Hotel project in Troy: Terry and Donald O'Brien recently opened O'Briens Public House in the building. We stopped in for a few minutes on St. Patrick's Day to get a look at the renovations.

The O'Briens bought the Trojan Hotel building on Third Street in downtown Troy last summer. The building was in rough shape when they got it. Their plan is to renovate the building one section at a time. The pub, occupying a space on a floor just above street level at the front of the building, is the first part of the building to open.

The renovated space looks good -- and the change from last summer is remarkable. Here are a few photos, with some then-and-now comparisons...

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Checking out the (nearly) finished Albany Barn

The Albany Barn live/work loft apartments are now fully occupied

So now that all of the 22 live/work apartments at The Albany Barn are occupied, who lives there? And what does the space look like?

Kristen Holler, The Barn's executive director, says the mix of artists is just what they hoped for. "We couldn't have gotten a more diverse group if we planned it that way. The youngest resident is 23 and the oldest is in his 60s. There's a good mix of men and women and different types of art."

One of The Barn's residents is Dana Owens -- illustrator, Smallbany creator, and founder of The Machine Artist Co-Op.

Owens gave us a look at his new place recently, and shared some thoughts on what it's been like for him at the Barn so far.

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Best Capital Region small town, village, or suburb for settling down?

chatham clock towerAmelia emails:

We are looking at starting the home search and wanted input from AOA. Where is the best small towns, villages and quaint and charming suburbs in the capital region to settle down and start a family? We are looking at staying approximately 20 minutes around Albany and want a more liberal town with low taxes. Is there such a thing?

Having a detailed wish list is a good idea, but the thing about picking a place to live is that you'll almost always end up having to make trade-offs. Want charming? That often means paying more. Want small? Maybe that means living farther out. And so on.

We've come to think that having a wish list is a good way of prioritizing what you want -- and what you're willing to compromise on. Because there will be compromises.

So... got a suggestion for Amelia? Please share! Non-redeemable bonus points for a short explanation for your suggestions. And even if you don't have a specific place in mind, suggestions on how to go about figuring out the right place can be helpful.

The new plan for redeveloping the Monument Square site in downtown Troy

monument square 2014 market rendering cropped

The proposed plan includes permanent space for the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market.

The city of Troy formally announced today that it's picked a proposal for the redevelopment of the former city hall site on Monument Square downtown. And the proposed $27 million project includes a lot of potentially interesting bits: residential, retail, commercial space -- and maybe most interesting of all, a permanent home for the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market.

Here's an overview of the plan with renderings, details, and whatnot...

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A good real estate agent for selling a house?

Thumbnail image for real estate sign porchVal emails (emphasis added):

A couple of years ago you did an Ask AoA about real estate agents. The majority of responses were from buyers - I'd love to see Ask AoA recommendations of realtors representing sellers, preferably ones familiar with Albany.

Real estate agents are just like any other profession, and some agents have different skills or strengths compared to other agents. And we get the feeling, anecdotally, that some agents are a bit more aggressive in strategy and pricing for selling a house.

So, got an agent to suggest to Val? Please share! And non-redeemable bonus points for a quick explanation about why that agent is good for sellers.

Way up there in Saratoga Springs

The 87 Railroad Pl building in downtown Saratoga Springs.

Noted: A condo in downtown Saratoga Springs is currently listed for sale at $2.85 million. From the Sotheby's listing for the penthouse condo at 87 Railroad Place:

A one of kind opportunity exists in downtown Saratoga Springs. 4 Bedrooms, 6 Bathrooms, 8,000 square foot penthouse condo with decks and million dollar views of downtown and the Adirondack Mountains. Two blocks from Broadway - the heart of the city. Walk to restaurants, shops and the historic Congress Park. Extraordinary den, media room, game room/exercise room. Private entrance. Private lobby. Private 5-car garage! This is the ultimate in luxury living in one of the country's top 100 downtown areas as said by Forbes Magazine.

At $2.85 million, the condo's price per square foot works to be a little more than $356. For some context, the median sale price for homes in Saratoga Springs over the past year is $309k -- and the average price/square foot is $205, according to Trulia.

The fact that there are fancy-pants condos in downtown Saratoga Springs isn't a surprise -- all those new buildings are hard to miss. But we have to admit we are a bit surprised by some of the numbers. A quick check of the real estate listings reveals 12 downtown condos currently listed for sale at prices of $1 million or higher -- 87 Railroad, 268 Broadway (1, 2, 3), 38 High Rock (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), 54 Phila. List price range: $2.85 million to $1.02 million. Sure, some of them might not end up selling for that price, but even at discounts of 10 or 20 percent, some of them would still be $1 million-plus.

We're kind of curious about who's buying these condos (and what they do). Because, you know, that's a lot of money. It's kind of amazing to us there's somewhat significant market demand here for housing with that sort of price tag.

Anyway, if it's hard to find a buyer for that first condo -- the 8,000 square-footer -- maybe it should be dropped into the running as a potential casino site. It's just about big enough.

Capital Region median home prices 2013

capital region median home sale price 2013-2005

Capital Region median home sale price 2013-2005.

The Capital Region housing market approached its pre-recession level in 2013, according to data out today from the Greater Capital Association of Realtors.

The median price for homes sold in the Capital Region was $195,000 in 2013, up more than 1.5 percent compared to the year before according to GCAR's numbers. And it's the first time the median sale price has risen above the pre-recession crest of $193,000 in 2007.*

The local market also posted 9221 closed sales in 2013, up almost 12 percent from the total in 2012. GCAR says 2013's total was the highest since 2007.

Another sign of a rising tide in the housing market: The average number of days it took to sell a house was 90 in 2013, the lowest number since 2008, according to GCAR. (That figure was 98 days in 2012, and 102 in 2011.)

(* That's not accounting for inflation. Depending on how you account for inflation, the price would have had to be around $216,000 to equal the 2007 mark.)

A more detailed look at the numbers is after the jump.

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The First Prize for a casino? And how big is the prize for casinos?

First Prize Center.jpg

You know the sign.

Two bits of interesting casino-related news today:

First Prize Center
A company called Capital Gaming LLC has signed a contract to buy the First Prize Center on the Albany/Colonie line, the Biz Review's Mike DeMasi reports -- the company is interested in redeveloping the site into a casino.

The First Prize site, a former meat packing plant, has been the subject of multiple attempts and rumors over the years. The location has potentially great interstate access -- it's right next to I-90 and Everett Road (map).

For what it's worth, voters in the city of Albany and the town of Colonie both narrowly voted against the state casino amendment.

What sort of demand for gambling?
Maybe some perspective and caution from New Jersey: Revenue at Atlantic City casinos dropped below $3 billion in 2013, the AP reports -- it's the first time that's happened in 22 years. And it marks the seventh straight revenue decline for AC casinos since Pennsylvania opened casinos. [via @MahoneyReport]

There's potentially a lot of casino competition in the Northeast over the next decade. There's Atlantic City, there's Pennsylvania, there are the Native American casinos in Connecticut and New York, Massachusetts is adding casinos, and of course, so is New York.

That's a lot of casinos chasing more or less the same pot of money. How many ways can the pot be split before it's no longer worth chasing the money?

Earlier on AOA: Focusing on support for a possible Capital Region casino, town by town

And a new term for the building, too?

kiernan plaza albany inauguration event 2014-01-01 small

One more pic from Wednesday's Albany inaugural ceremony at KiernanPlazaNanoCollegeSmartCityThingStation, though it's really more of the building than the ceremony.

As you know, Kiernan Plaza is the former Albany train station, and it's now part of the NanoCollege -- slated to become the "Smart Cities Technology Innovation Center." The announced tenants so far are: SEFCU, the engineering firm CHA, and Windstream (a telecom company).

Anyway, it's a beautiful building. And every time we get a chance to gawk at the inside, we wish there could be a way to open it up to the public more often -- either for events or some sort of other use. Maybe someone can leverage some synergies to make that happen.

Here's what the interior of the station looked like in the 1930s, via the Albany Group Archive on Flickr.

After the jump: The photo above, in large format. And a circa 1904 exterior photo of the station.

Earlier on AOA: Gawking at Kiernan Plaza

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Cuomo admin has OK'ed Albany convention center

proposed Albany convention center Eagle and Howard 2013-11-25

A rendering for the Eagle Street side.


So, this is news: "A government official involved in the project's negotiations" tells the Biz Review's Adam Sichko that the Cuomo administration has approved the scaled-down version of the Albany convention center. That's a big deal because buy-in from the Cuomo admin would open the way for the release of about $70 million in money that's already allocated/promised/set aside for a convention center project.

The new scaled-down plan was introduced in November. It would site a 82,000-square-foot facility at Howard and Eagle in downtown Albany. The Albany Convention Center Authority has touted the new plan -- about a third the size of the of the originally proposed project -- as a "hub" between the Empire State Plaza and the Times Union Center, with all three connected by a covered walkway.

The ACCA said the $66.5 million project could be paid for with the already-allocated money. It estimated that it could be completed by July 2016.

The Cuomo administration confirmed the approval in a press release later on Tuesday. The release included a name for the facility -- "Albany Capital Center" -- and a start date for construction -- June 2014.

Oh, and there's important bit tucked into the administration's announcement:

Furthermore, the land accumulated by the Authority for the first proposed location would be conveyed to the Office of General Services (OGS) and would be made available for appropriate development through a Request for Proposal managed by OGS and Empire State Development (ESD), with the goals of expanding the local commercial tax base and the creation of jobs and opportunities

That land is the chunk on the south side of downtown Albany near the bus station. Earlier this year an idea was floated for the land to be used for an aquarium/science center/something or other. The fact that the state will directly controlling the land prompts a lot of questions -- including what state officials consider "appropriate development" for the site.

Earlier on AOA: Renderings, a footprint map, and more details about the new convention center proposal

image: ACCA/CHA

Alicia's charming Schenectady home

open house upper union composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Dave Hopper

One of my favorite things about living in the Capital District is all the corners of our area to discover, even after living here most of my life.

Alicia lives in an area of Schenectady that I'd driven through in the past, but never knew much about. The Upper Union neighborhood is charming and grand -- wide boulevards lined by old trees, stately homes, and a mix of residents who have spent their lives there and younger people moving in. When I visited Alicia on a Saturday afternoon, the voice of the announcer at the Union College football game could be heard echoing off the houses.

Alicia's home reflects the history of the area -- a neighborhood built around the beginning of the 20th century, in part for General Electric executives and Union professors. Alicia has honored the home's past and at the same time created a vibrant and welcoming space.

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The proposed -- and scaled-down -- Albany convention center

proposed Albany convention center Eagle and Howard 2013-11-25

A rendering for the Eagle Street side. That entrance is style is called a "porte-cochère." / image: ACCA/CHA

The Albany Convention Center Authority revealed a bit more about the revised plan to build a scaled-down, $66.5 million convention center at Eagle and Howard streets in downtown Albany. An ACCA slide deck about the project is embedded after the jump -- it includes some renderings and details. Also there: an clickable map with estimated building print.

This new plan replaces the original proposal for much larger facility on the southern end of downtown Albany. That plan fizzled over the last few years under concerns about cost and whether the project could float financially over the long term.

The authority is touting the new project -- about a third the size of the of the other project -- as a "hub" between the Empire State Plaza and the Times Union Center, with all three connected by a covered walkway and 2) feasible under the approximately $70 million already allocated/promised/set aside for the original convention center. It projects a timeline that includes a possible completion date of July 2016.

There are still a handful of questions and uncertainties about the project. This article from the Biz Review's Mike DeMasi covers a lot of them, along with other details about the project.

And what of the south side downtown land gathered for the original project? JCE reported in the TU today that the authority is planing to issue a request for proposals for a mixed-use project on the site.

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For sale: Helderberg Castle

Helderberg Castle real estate listing

You know, the problem with most modern castles is that they're so... intact. They're a classic fixer-downer situation. Not only do you have to buy the castle, but you have to spend all that time and effort and money turning it into a proper castle ruin.

That's not the case with the "Helderberg Castle" in New Scotland, which is up for sale. From the RealtyUSA listing:

Historic Helderberg Castle on 4.5 acre lot, chance to own a unique piece of history. Nestled privately in the Helderbergs, this property features fantastic old limestone ruins, hand built in 1935 by Bouck White. Property has church ruins, tower ruins,main home ruins - with 2500sf home situated atop stone ruins of 2 other buildings. Property also has 1500sf 2 car garage w/ workshop w/ electric and woodstove. Home has lrg bedrooms, porch, stone alcove, deed spring rights with neighboring property.

See, it's a ruin-ready castle. Here's a photoset, and satellite view of the property. List price is $179,000.

And, as with any good castle ruin, the Helderberg Castle has a colorful history. As the property listing notes, it was built in the 1930s by Bouck White, whose Wikipedia entry describes him as "a Congregational minister, an American socialist, a Jesusist, an author, a potter, and a recluse." From a short bio of white by Paula Lemire:

[B]y 1932, he was back in New York and running a pottery studio in an Albany carriage house. In 1934, White bought six acres in the Helderberg Mountains. He was attracted to the lonely cliff by a belief that it was where Hiawatha supposedly experienced visions that lead to the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy. White had long claimed Mohawk ancestery, saying, "I don't know how much of the blood of Hiawatha is in my veins, but my heart is Indian."
White constructed a "castle" using the plentiful limestone. He worked as independently of technology (which he distrusted as much as wealth) a possible. He described his building style:
"The stones are not hacked or broken to form a window opening of some perceived pattern; they are build a window of any form whatsover...A new resource for the architect is here emerging, provided their clients be animated by a spirit of natural beauty."

A few weeks ago, YNN's Geoff Redick had a story about the castle being for sale, which includes some more bits about its history. As the listing agent said then: "There's not one thing that's, uh...normal about this house. I don't even know how to put that, I really don't!"

[via Upstater]

Earlier on AOA:
+ For sale: castle overlooking Lake George
+ Sold: Amsterdam Castle
+ The crumbling castle

photo: The Capital Team / RealtyUSA / CRMLS

The Frear Building in Troy is again open for (retail) business

frear building ekologic composite

The clothing design and manufacturing company 'e ko logic is known in the fashion world and sells its pieces in shops from France to Japan.

And it's located right here in the Capital Region -- in Troy -- and has been for the last decade. Though that wasn't necessarily easily to tell. Why? We'll let owner/designer Kathleen Tesnakis explain:

"Before I was in a very funky old building, on the second floor, that you weren't sure you wanted to walk up into." And beyond that funkiness, 'e ko logic didn't have a retail space.

That situation changes starting today when 'e ko logic formally opens its new retail and manufacturing space in the Frear Building. The clothing company's presence there is part of an ongoing transformation of the downtown Troy landmark back towards its roots.

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KC and DW's Pine Hills modern

open house pine hills modern composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

When I spoke to Paul about his home back in May, he told me that I had check out the home of his friends KC and DW and hear about their love for Pine Hills. I'm so glad that he connected us, because the charm and style of KC and DW's home made me want to move right in.

In a lot of ways, it's the kind of home you think of when you think of Albany's architecture and old houses. But KC and DW have filled their lovely old home with bright colors and modern touches that exude energy and creativity -- much like the vibrancy of the Pine Hills neighborhood.

KC and DW love their home and enjoy their neighborhood, but they also grapple with some of the same challenges that Albany faces as a city. They shared their experiences living in the Pine Hills neighborhood -- the things they love, the things they hope will change, and their favorite parts of their classic Albany house.

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2013 Showcase of Homes

The Washington on Broadway in downtown Saratoga SpringsThe 2013 Showcase of Homes starts this weekend in Saratoga County, and runs each of the two weekends after (September 21-22, 28-29; October 5-6). It's basically a self-guided tour of big/extravagant new houses.

We checked this out a few years back. It was basically like walking through HGTV. It also made us wonder what people are doing with all that space in their bathrooms. Anyway, if the home design/remodeling/House Hunters thing interests you, there's usually some quality gawking.

There are 14 homes on the tour this year. And unlike in some previous years, the homes are mostly grouped together geographically, near Saratoga Springs. In fact, one of the homes on the tour is a condo in the new building on Broadway in Saratoga, "The Washington" (on the right).

Tickets for the tour are $20, and are good for each weekend. There's also a "Comfort of Homes" event this Friday from 5-10 pm in which eight of the homes will be open and samples of comfort food from various restaurants -- including Maestro's, Prime, and Capriccio Saratoga -- will be available. Tickets for that are $25 -- or $40, including a tour ticket. Proceeds benefit Northern Saratoga Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together Saratoga County.

For sale: castle overlooking Lake George

highlands castle bolton landingFor sale: a 6,000-square-foot castle in Bolton Landing overlooking Lake George.

List price: $14.8 million.

The "Highlands Castle" has 6 bedrooms, 5.5 baths, an eat-in kitchen (what self-respecting castle doesn't?), and sits on 7+ acres, according to the Roohan Realty listing. Taxes are just $9,377.

Here are a bunch of photos from the castle's website.

The castle has an interesting story -- both back and current. In the late 70s, the owner -- John Lavender -- says he promised his son that he'd build a castle -- and actually followed through, completing the home in the mid 1980s. In recent years they've been renting it out for events. But as he TU's Chris Churchill detailed back in July, Lavender has been in a tiff with neighbors and the town over renting out the home. Lavender told Churchill that if he wasn't able to work something out, he'd have to sell.

[via @Sorti_ca]

Earlier on AOA:
+ Sold: Amsterdam Castle

photo: Roohan Realty

Renata and Mike's Troy fixer-upper

open house renata composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

Renata and I met many years ago, when we worked at a Girl Scout camp together. Renata was the camp's arts and crafts director, and her artistic talent shines through in the Troy home she and her husband Mike are renovating.

The couple's love for their home and neighborhood is evident. The house is full of details that can only be found in historic homes: tin ceilings, detailed trim, beautiful woodwork, and perfectly-worn wood floors.

Unlike previous homes that have been featured in the "Open House" series, Renata and Mike's home is in the earlier stages of renovations, and they have some great stories about the process (just wait until you see what they found in their walls). I love how their creative vision has shaped their approach to their home, and how their artwork fills the space.

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Re-modernizing the DeWitt Clinton

dewitt clinton location albany 1926

State and Eagle before The DeWitt Clinton was built in 1927.

The Cuomo admin and Columbia Development announced today plans to renovate the vacant DeWitt Clinton Hotel building at State and Eagle in downtown Albany (streetview). (You know the building -- it's the one that looks buttoned up, but in a "I forgot what I was supposed to be doing" kind of way.) In its new life, the DeWitt Clinton will be a 204-room "Renaissance by Marriott Hotel." Press release:

The Renaissance Albany will have the feel of a boutique hotel and will include the building's original breathtaking lobby. Located at the corner of State and Eagle Streets, the Renaissance will offer intimate meeting space for private events, 204 rooms, a full-service restaurant open to the public, a lounge and coffee shop. It will be the first time the region has had a full service Renaissance by Marriott Hotel.

The $48 million project's not all that surprising. Columbia is already re-building next door at Wellington Row, the hotel is literally right across the street from the Capitol, and the proposed downsized Albany convention center thing would be just behind it.

Anyway, part of the press materials today included a photo of the DeWitt Clinton site from before the DeWitt Clinton was there (above, large format). We were struck by the circa 1926 photo, which shows a drug store on the corner and an excellent old-school traffic signal. Attached to the building and its adjacent (now-gone) neighbor, a big sign that read:

Upon this site and adjoining Corner through to Howard Street

That modern hotel lasted about 50 years, until the building stopped operating as a hotel in 1975 (it's had various other uses since then). And now it will be modernized. Again.

Cat guest: Albany Archives dug up a great story about the opening of the DeWitt Clinton in 1927 -- the first guest to stay there was a cat. Really.

The big plan for residential and retail redevelopment in Albany's Park South

park south redevelopment

The plan is clear the two blocks between Dana Ave and Albany Med for new development.

Albany Medical Center announced today that it's ready to move ahead with the second phase of the redevelopment of Albany's Park South neighborhood.

The plan for this next stage -- a $110 million project focused on residential and retail -- will wipe clear two whole blocks of the neighborhood for new buildings. And it holds the potential to fundamentally transform the surrounding neighborhood.

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10 Thurlow Terrace

10 Thurlow exterior angle

"The Castle"

Perched on the north edge of Washington Park in Albany, 10 Thurlow Terrace is one of the city's unique properties. The home looks like a castle on the outside, and the interior is filled with beautiful woodwork (there are photos at that link).

And now it's close to finding a new life. The owner of 10 Thurlow and the Castle Island Bilingual Montessori school are working on a deal in which the school would move into the historic home.

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A new life planned for the Trojan Hotel

trojan hotel building exterior

The Trojan Hotel building in Troy -- part of which has stood on 3rd Street downtown since the 1800s -- was sold this week. The new owners: Terry and Donald O'Brien, who have a lot of plans for the building -- including a pub, a bar, and an apartment for themselves.

We were invited to have a look at the building today, so we stopped by to take some photos of the historic building and talk for a few minutes with the O'Briens.

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At home in the Mansion Neighborhood

open house kirchman mansion neighborhood composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

I was connected with Laurie and Jeremy Kirchman through a friend of a friend of a friend. But when I entered their downtown Albany house it felt like I'd known them and their home for years. Laurie, Jeremy, and their two young sons live in the Mansion Neighborhood, which I'm now fully convinced is one of Albany's best kept secrets.

Their home is a historic row house, bursting with original details -- from the molding that adorns the high ceilings to the unusual wide-planked floors.

Their yard has a secret garden quality: a rambling shared space that includes hops, which were used to produce their home-brewed beer (and which they happily share with visitors - lucky me!).

The Kirchmans have found and created an Albany lifestyle that combines urban and rural, small-town and city living. I spoke to them about their home, their neighborhood, and their life as Albany residents.

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Sold: Amsterdam Castle

Amsterdam Castle Exterior

Buy it for the castle, love it for the taxidermy.

We heard today that the Amsterdam Castle -- which actually is a former armory, but looks like a castle -- finally sold. Soon-to-not-be-the-owner-any-longer Susan Phemister confirmed during a phone conversation.

She says the new owners are "very nice people who plan to live in the castle and continue to run it as a bed and breakfast." The building is currently closed while the Phemisters move out and the new owners make some renovations.

The Phemisters bought the 36,000-square-foot place in 2005 and, after a lot of renovation, opened it as a bed and breakfast and event space (it has a 10,000-square-foot gym). In the years since they put it up for sale a few times, most recently last year. But as Susan Phemister explained to the NYT this past April: "The market for castles in upstate New York dried up completely." At the time, the list price was $895,000. [Daily Gazette] [NYT]

And now it's sold. Phemister couldn't disclose information about who bought the castle -- the new owners are "very private," she explained to us -- but she says she wishes them the best and hopes they can enjoy the good will and interesting experiences that come with owning a castle.

So, what does one miss about living in a castle?

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In progress: the Albany Barn

Saint Joes Hall exterior.jpg

At North Swan and 2nd.

Remember that Albany Barn project at St. Joseph's Academy in Arbor Hill? The one that combines subsidized apartments for artists with rehearsal suites, studio space and offices for arts groups and not-for-profits? Well, the apartments are starting to take shape, and later this month the Barn will be opening the building for a night of tours and a fundraiser with the Chefs Consortium.

We got a tour of the building recently, and some details on how plans are firming up, from project founder Jeff Mirel and Albany Barn executive director Kristen Holler.

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Paul's old school condo in Albany

open house paul gallo composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

Have you ever walked or driven through a neighborhood and wondered what it's like to live there? I've always been interested in our area's neighborhoods and why people choose to live where they live.

Paul Gallo gave us a glimpse into his Albany home within a historic repurposed building. You've probably seen Paul's beautiful photography on local websites, blogs, and on display around the area. With his interest in old buildings, it's not a surprise that he's chosen to live in one of Albany's beautiful historic buildings.

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HAF: We're handing St. Joseph's back to city of Albany

st josephs albany exterior

Standing on this hill since 1860.

The Historic Albany Foundation announced today that it will be handing back St. Joseph's church in the Ten Broeck Triangle to the city of Albany. The preservation org has owned the building since 2003, and the deed back is via a "reverter clause" from that deal 10 years ago.

"Our first and primary goal was to stabilize the building," said Susan Holland, HAF's executive director, today. And Holland said they've accomplished that, raising more than $700,000 along the way for the work.

So why hand it back to the city?

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Variance for North Albany concert venue denied

The rear of the building, from Common Place. Here's the streetview of the front.

Updated with more info about the BZA decision

The Albany Board of Zoning Appeals has denied a request for a variance to use a warehouse in North Albany as a concert venue. The BZA voted down the use variance request for 28 Thatcher Street 5-0.

Chris Pratt, one of the partners behind the project, says they're not backing down and are planning to make changes to their application and re-submit.

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"The market for castles in upstate New York dried up completely."

Amsterdam Castle Exterior

It's actually an old armory. But it's castle-like.

The New York Times follows up on the Amsterdam Castle -- which is still for sale:

In the end, people can find a million reasons not to buy a castle: Some have complained that there is not enough parking, others would prefer a castle that is deep in the woods. The fact is, the only reason to buy a castle is that you have a terrible yearning to live in a castle. "It's the supercool factor," Ms. Phemister said.

The list price for the castle is now $895,000 -- down from $1.25 mill last fall. The Phemister's bought it for $800k in 2005.

Akum and her family stayed in the castle in 2011 (lots of photos) -- the family operates a bed and breakfast there. It's sort of a come-for-the-castle-stay-for-the-taxidermy situation.

(Thanks, Jessica R)

Buyers and sellers

nys real estate sentiment siena sri

Is now a good time to buy a house? What about a good time to sell a house? The graph above is from a report today from the Siena Research Institute on "real estate sentiment scores" in New York -- basically how people around the state feel about residential real estate.

The short story: After being a buyers' market for years, people think the real estate market is now shifting toward a state in which neither side necessarily has the upper hand.

The slightly longer story, from a statement by SRI director Don Levy:

For the second consecutive quarter, the assessment of housing values in every region of the state is positive and predicted to increase by New Yorkers. Even more importantly, sellers, who for so long were seen as hostages of the financial meltdown now, while not yet universally in the catbird seat, are seen as in a much stronger position and headed upwards. Buyers are still able to get value, but they are no longer able to demand concessions from every seller. All numbers, strong overall market grade, strengthening sellers and modulating buyers, point towards robust real estate health.

And the somewhat longer story is in the report linked above.

In the Capital Region core in 2012, the number of closed sales was up between 10-18 percent in the four counties, and median sale prices were 2-4 percent. But median prices were roughly the same as they were in 2008.

Speaking of real estate decisions: GlobalFoundries' HR director told a Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce gathering Wednesday that schools are the most important factor when relocating GloFo employees look for a place to live. [Biz Review]

graph: Siena Research Institute

UAlbany presidents residence for sale

UAlbany President's Residence

The exterior this past January.

Now on the market: 5 Englewood Place in Albany -- also known as the UAlbany presidents residence. List price for the mansion on the edge of Washington Park: $625,000.

From the listing:

Absolutely stunning home. Original details abound: working pocket doors, moldings, hand hewn beams and the list goes on. Beautiful gourmet kitchen with 6 burner Viking range, KitchenAid double wall oven, a huge Bosch refrigerator, and granite galore. Nicely appointed and updated bathrooms. The outdoor space is just as impressive with in-ground pool, huge 1.55 acre yard and mature gardens. This home is in excellent condition and is a must see.

There are a bunch of photos at the listing page, many of which highlight some beautiful details (the stairway is pretty great). The house is 6,000 square feet, with 9 bedrooms and 4.5 baths, according to the listing. The agent is TL Metzger's Sam Critton.

The house has been the UAlbany presidents residence since 1998, when it was bought by the University at Albany Foundation for $650k. The university news item at the time notes the home was designed by Robert W. Gibson, the architect who designed the Cathedral of All Saints near the Capitol.

Current UAlbany president Robert Jones doesn't live in the house -- he and wife are living in a condo at 17 Chapel in downtown Albany (immediate past president George Philip did live there). Back in January Karl Luntta -- UAlbany's director of media relations -- told us Jones and his wife decided to live downtown just because of "personal preference." And the University at Albany Foundation was "determining how [the property] can serve the university and exploring all options for the property." (We have a request in asking what prompted the sale.)

Also for sale in the neighborhood: The nearby "castle" at 10 Thurlow Terrace (map). List price: $1.15 million.

(Thanks, Sarah)

The Confectionery in Troy planning expansion

confectionery proposed rear entrance

The proposed renovation to the rear of the Confectionery -- it would make make use of additional space on an adjacent property.

Thoroughly updated at 1 pm

The owners of the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery in Troy have bought an adjacent building -- 207 Broadway -- and are planning to expand the wine bar.

Vic Christopher -- who owns The Confectionery with his wife, Heather LaVine -- says they plan to turn a small building in the back of the 207 Broadway property into a private party space, along with another bathroom and a garden. It would also provide a second entrance for the "landlocked" Confectionery building. The goal is to have the expansion finished by mid summer.

Christopher says they've been turning down large groups because the just didn't have the space for them. The expansion will allow them to host groups of 20-50 people without compromising the cozy feel of the current space.

The Confectionery expansion is part of a larger plan for 207 Broadway.

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Office for rent, with easy access to train

rensselaer train stationReal estate listing of the day: the entire fourth floor of the train station in Rensselaer. From the CDTA brochure (the transit org operates the station):

There is approximately 8600 RSF of Class A office space available, which encompasses the entire 4th floor of the station. The space is available in its entirety or it can be subdivided into 2 suites, one with 3150 RSF and 5450 RSF respectively. This Class A space provides flexibility due to its current configuration, which includes executive offices, group working areas (bullpens), separate restrooms and lobby, regular offices, a large boardroom, a kitchen and an open mezzanine overlooking the main concourse of the station. The entire floor is encompassed with full height glass providing a great view of the main concourse

The space is $15/square foot, parking included.

Station architectural note: The train station's 17-foot dome is "handmade and
constructed entirely of copper."

(Thanks, Peter!)

Earlier on AOA: Gawking at Kiernan Plaza (the former train station, in Albany)

A concert venue for North Albany?

The rear of the building, from Common Place. Here's the streetview of the front.

Interesting: Chris Pratt, one of the owners of the Barrel Saloon and the Pearl Street Pub, has applied for a zoning variance to turn a warehouse at 28 Thatcher Street in North Albany, just off Broadway, into a music venue. From the application:

... This venue will hold live concerts for local and national acts such as Country Music acts, Rock Music, Bluegrass, and many other various styles of music and entertainment. The venue will only open for such shows and close no later than an hour afterwards. The hours of operation depend on the start times of shows and duration. The front of the space, see attached floor plan, will have a bar area where patrons can purchase beer, wine, and liquor. All events will be fully staffed with security and will follow all SLA requirements for on-premise alcohol consumption.
At this time there are six restaurants/bars in close proximity. This area has grown in the past two years to become more of an entertainment district. This venue will only enhance and compliment that.
The business model we will be using is that of the Helsinki Music Venue, located in Hudson NY or the Upstate Concert Hall, Located in Clifton park NY. This is a live music venue that will accommodate national up and coming acts that might be too large to play a local bar establishment but too small to the play the Palace Theater. The capacity will be somewhere between 700 to 800 people depending on city code.

That capacity would put this venue somewhere between Upstate Concert Hall (about 1000) and The Egg's Swyer Theater (450). It'd be a bit bigger than Revolution Hall (500, though it doesn't host concerts any longer).

Steve Barnes talked with Pratt about the plan (and a plan for a new lounge on Pearl Street) -- and touched on the denial of Sneaky Pete's application for a night club space in the neighborhood a few years back.

The application is on the agenda for the March 13 Albany BZA meeting.

The Harriman campus, PILOTless

harriman office campus sculpture

Real estate fact of the day: the two parcels that make up the Harriman State Office Campus are assessed by the city of Albany at a combined value of $674.4 million.

Of course, the property is tax exempt because it's owned by the state. A trio of local state legislators -- Neil Breslin, Pat Fahy, and John McDonald -- announced today they're pushing legislation that would require the state to provide the city of an annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the campus for 10 years that would be worth 1.75 percent of the assessed value -- roughly $11.7 million.

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No brewery for St. Joe's -- so now what?

st josephs albany exterior

Standing on this hill since 1860.

So what's next for St. Joseph's Church now that Ravens Head Brewing is moving ahead with the Cohoes Armory instead?

That's a tough question, says Bill Brandow, president of the board at the Historic Albany Foundation, which took ownership of the building from the city back in 2003 and has been looking for a buyer ever since. Brandow has been involved with the building in one way or another for about 14 years, and says dozens of prospective buyers for the property have come and gone -- but Ravens Head was the most promising to come along so far.

Does he think it was the building's last chance? Not necessarily. Is he optimistic about finding the right use for the building? No -- at least, not under the current circumstances.

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Ravens Head: Cohoes Armory is a done deal

The Cohoes Armory, via Google Street View.

The Ravens Head Brewing Company's selection of the Cohoes Armory for its start-up brewery/restaurant is a done deal, Ravens Head co-owner Brennon Cleary says. The company's offer on the building was accepted Monday, and the closing is expected March 15.

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5 Englewood Place

UAlbany President's Residence

Interesting bit plucked from a recent Biz Review interview with Robert Jones: the new UAlbany president and his wife have chosen to live in downtown Albany, at the 17 Chapel condo conversion.

That got us curious about the UAlbany presidents residence at 5 Englewood Place in Albany, near Washington Park. The university's foundation bought the house in 1998. And immediate past president George Philip had lived in the home.

So, what's the plan for 5 Englewood? Karl Luntta, UAlbany's director of media relations, tells us the University at Albany Foundation is currently "determining how it can serve the university and exploring all options for the property." No decision has been made, yet. The residence is almost 6,000 square feet, and includes 7 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, according to its listings on Trulia and Zillow.

And why did Dr. Jones and his wife choose to live downtown? Just "personal preference," according to Luntta. (Jones cited 17 Chapel's proximity to the Palace and Capital Rep in the Biz Review interview.)

The new president's compensation package with the school includes a $60,000 housing allowance.

Earlier on AOA: A survey of living options in downtown Albany

The UAlbany School of Business advertises on AOA.

Ravens Head Brewing focusing on Cohoes Armory

View Larger Map

Ravens Head Brewing -- the startup brewing company/brewpup that had been hoping to set up at St. Joseph's in Albany -- has put in an offer on the Cohoes Armory, the Business Review reports.

The news isn't a surprise. Ravens Head's application for a zoning variance for St. Joe's had prompted strong concerns from some residents of the Ten Broeck Triangle neighborhood. And co-owner Brennon Cleary had told AOA earlier this month that the group behind the brewery project regarded the former church as "already dead", in part because the cost of acquiring parking for the site was pushing the total price tag of the already-$3 million project too high. The Cohoes Armory was on their list of new target properties.

Cleary told the Biz Review that they're still working out details for the armory, but they're "very confident" about the property.

The Cohoes Armory is currently listed for $239,000 by Trinity Realty Group, and includes 22,000 square feet with "[an] apartment, offices, storage/production areas, storage loft, loading dock, and room for trailer access." A Craigslist item for property mentions "ample parking." The building appears to be in an area zoned for mixed-use that allows for restaurants and bars (p. 58). (St. Joseph's is in an area zoned for residential, thus the need for a zoning variance -- on which the Albany BZA has not ruled.) Update: Cohoes' director of community and economic development tells the TU the project fits with its plan for the neighborhood and it can fit under existing zoning.

The armory dates back to 1893. Its architect was Isaac Perry, who not only designed a handful of armories around the state, but also supervised a phase of the state capitol construction.

Earlier and elsewhere:
+ Ravens Head Brewing considering alternatives to St. Joseph's
+ TU: Church pub called a foul brew
+ TU: Council opposes church pub plan
+ Analysis from local brewer George de Piro
+ Is St. Joseph's Church a brewery in its next life?

Capital Region median home prices 2012

real estate sign porchThe number of homes sold in the Capital Region took a big jump in 2012 compared to the year before, according to stats out this week from the Greater Capital Region Association of Realtors. The number of closed sales across the region increased 15 percent, the first increase in years.

Median prices were also up, but the increase was smaller. The median price across the region was up 4 percent, to $192,000.

Here's GCAR's report for 2012. The average number of days it took for a house to sell last year was 98, down from 102 in 2011. And this past December, "inventory" -- the number of homes for sale -- hit its lowest point since 2008, as did "months of inventory."

GCAR also provides breakouts for individual counties and a group of cities/towns. We've collected those 2012 numbers in an quick-scan table post jump.

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The rent is...

A few average rents by type of apartment.

The average asked rent for apartments in the Capital Region in fall 2012 was $1,248 ($0.93 per square foot) -- up more than 6.5 percent compared to same period a year before, according to the Albany-based Sunrise Management & Consulting. The average rent was up more than 10 percent compared to two years ago.

Here's the methodology. It's important to note these are asked rents, and don't take into account discounts. Also, the firm notes that the survey includes mostly large complexes (50 or more units).

[via Biz Review]

data source: Sunrise Management & Consulting Fall 2012 Multifamily Rental Market Report

Ravens Head Brewing considering alternatives to St. Joseph's

st josephs albany exterior

Ravens Head Brewing has yet to hear whether the Albany BZA will approve a required variance for its proposed brewery/restaurant at St. Joseph's, but Ravens Head co-owner Brennon Cleary says they're preparing to move on.

Cleary says in his mind, and in the minds of his investors, the project at St. Joe's is "already dead," but they're going to ride out the process.

"I'm not willing to say I'm done," says Cleary, "but I'm not very optimistic."

And that outlook has Cleary and his partners looking at other options.

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Finding Craigslist on a map

craigslist apt map screengrab

A screengrab of the apartment listings map for part of Albany.

Check it out: The Albany Craigslist is now offering the option of displaying apartment listings -- as well as a few other types of items -- on a map.

It looks like the feature could be helpful if you're trying to find listings in specific neighborhoods. Though it's a bit hard to tell how precise the mapping is -- many apartment listings on Craigslist don't include specific address info (unless it's gathered on the backend and not shared publicly). Update: Based on Albany Landlord's comment, it sounds like that's how it works.

Craigslist apparently started testing this function in San Francisco and Portland this past summer, and the started gradually rolling it out in October. We only noticed it on the Albany version this week. [TPM] [The Next Web]

A map view of listings has been conspicuously absent from Craigslist for years. And in that time, another service -- PadMapper -- filled the void. Craigslist sued PadMapper over it this past summer, alleging it and a partner company had violated Craigslist copyright by scraping its listings. [The Verge]

It's a bit of a turn for Craiglist to be the disrupted instead of the disrupter. But it appears that it's been trying to evolve lately. In addition to the maps, it also added image previews for many of its listings, which make it a lot easier to skim through, say antiques, or whatever.

screengrab: Craigslist

Follow up: 27 Western

looking into unit at 27 Western

Let's have a peek inside...

Follow up gawking: the developers for the 27 Western residential conversion project in Albany emailed us recently to let us know the project was almost finished -- and asked if we'd like to have a look.

As we mentioned back in August, we're always curious about these sorts of re-purposing projects. In this case it's a former school building being turned into apartments.

So, yeah, let's have a look...

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For sale: Amsterdam Castle

Amsterdam Castle Exterior

Not actually a castle -- but close enough.

The Amsterdam Castle -- a former state armory converted to a bed and breakfast -- is for sale. From an article in the Daily Gazette by John Enger:

"I'm ready for my next project," [owner Susan Phemister] said. "Maybe a church."
She works in Manhattan as the vice president of planning for Thomson Reuters.
"I finish projects for a living," she said. "It's my passion."
But it's hard to sell a such a large property.
The castle was briefly on the market a few years ago with an asking price of $2.5 million and "I didn't get anywhere," she said.
This time around, they're asking for half of that, $1.25 million.
For that price, the buyer will get everything -- all of the furniture, decorations, even the sheets on the king-sized four-post beds and the bison head on the wall.
"We'll just pack our clothes and leave," she said.

Akum stayed in the castle last year with her family. As she wrote then:

Let's be clear: The Amsterdam Castle bed and breakfast is technically not a castle. It was built in the 1890s as the headquarters for Amsterdam's New York National Guard company. But your kids won't care about such details. Does it have a tower? Yes. Tall, narrow windows? Yes. A scale and grandeur that most private homes could never approach? Yes. And yes, there's a throne. That the throne sits in the middle of the indoor basketball court just makes the place even more awesome.
The Castle has that combination of quirks and elegance that makes a great B&B. And as a family getaway, it's in a class all its own.

Her post includes a bunch of photos from the place -- it looks really fun.

Map: vacant buildings in Albany

The zoomed-out view distorts things a bit -- zoom into an area to get a better sense of the share of buildings that are vacant.

Map of the day: Here's a map of vacant properties in the city of Albany, drawn from a recent vacant building report published by the city.

The map is courtesy of Tim Varney, who put it together after taking a look at the report and concluding it was something less than user friendly. He passed it along to us today: "You guys seem to like this sort of thing." (Tim, you know us well.)

Tim also made a map of the "buildings no longer vacant" list from the report. Both maps are after the jump in large format. (We've also embedded the report post jump.)

The map is not all that surprising. It really highlights how much an issue vacant buildings are in the city and how acute the issue is for some neighborhoods. It's been a controversial topic -- both in measuring the scale of the problem, and about how it should be tackled. [TU]

There are currently 809 vacant buildings in Albany, according to the report from the city's Division of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance. It says that as many as a third of those buildings "may require demolition at some future point" because they're "upside-down" -- the cost to renovate is much higher than the expected return on the investment.

(Thanks, Tim!)

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The big box gets smaller

walmart neighborhood market

A Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago.

The Capital Region has one of the world's largest Walmart stores -- and soon, it will have one of the smaller ones, too.

Walmart announced today that the Mansion Square project in Niskayuna will include a "Walmart Neighborhood Market" -- a scaled-down supermarket version of the chain's traditional mega-mart. It will be first such store in the state. [Biz Review] [TU]

A Walmarket (we made that name up) offers "fresh produce, meat and dairy products, bakery and deli items, household supplies, health and beauty aids and a pharmacy." The company's website says the stores were designed as "a smaller-footprint option for communities in need of a pharmacy, affordable groceries and merchandise." The stores are about 38,000 square feet, which is roughly the same size as one of the small Price Choppers and about twice the size of the new Trader Joe's. (It's a little bigger than the new Honest Weight and the planned Whole Foods at Colonie Center.)

There are about 200 of these stores around the nation, and the chain appears to be pushing the format. Among the places they've recently opened: Georgia, Miami, and Orange County (California). [Atlanta Business Chronicle] [Miami Herald] [Orange County Register]

The idea of another Walmart doesn't really do much for us, but this smaller version could be a good sign.

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The next life of the Latham Circle Mall

shoppes latham circle rendering

A conceptual sketch of the "Shoppes at Latham Circle."

The Latham Circle Mall has already lived a few lifetimes. It was built in 1957 as an open air mall, and then converted to an indoor mall two decades later. Today, well, it's more or less dead.

But reincarnation may be just ahead. A development group is proposing to demolish a large part of the Latham Circle Mall and build again as the "The Shoppes at Latham Circle" -- with retail, restaurants, entertainment and -- gasp -- maybe a supermarket.

Here's the outline of the plan...

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For sale: an island

glenotia island map crmls

Check it out: an island in the Mohawk River between Scotia and Schenectady is for sale. From the listing for "Glenotia Island" by Denise Polsinelli with CM Fox:


List price: $91,900.

The Daily Gazette's Michael Goot had an article about the property today -- it was used for recreation in the first few decades of the 1900s, but there's been little activity there since a foot bridge to island was removed in the early 1930s.

The Images of America: Glenville book by the Schenectady County Historical Society has a few photos from back in the day. And here's what appears to be an old map of the area -- the island is marked as "Isle of the Mohawks", which was its name before being tagged Glenotia (Glenville + Scotia). In fact, it still bears that name on some maps. (Also, judging from satellite photos, we wonder if it's more peninsula than island now.)

27 Western Ave

27 Western Ave

The former school building is at Western Ave, Robin Street, and Washington Ave -- it faces Robin.

We've been watching the activity at 27 Western Ave in Albany recently. The property -- which is across from Washington Park, adjacent to the downtown UAlbany campus -- is a former school. It's currently undergoing a residential conversion project.

Always curious about these sorts of re-purposing projects, we talked with the development company. And here's what's up.

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The DelSo is now Google official

delso google maps

If Google says so, then it must be true.

Check it out: the southern part of Albany's Delaware Ave neighborhood is now tagged as "DelSo" on Google Maps. There are even boundaries on the map.

This is remarkable to us because:

1. As far as we can tell, that name is just a few years old.

2. And it can be traced back to one person: Silvia!

So how does an informal neighborhood name end up in Google Maps?

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Bigger isn't necessarily better

elisabeths small house

Small house. Big dog.

By Elisabeth Draper

In 2008 my husband and I bought our first home: a two-bedroom, one-bath, 1929 Dutch colonial in Albany. In an age of bigger is better, we went the opposite route; our house is a mere 900 square feet.

As first time homeowners we were somewhat intimidated by the responsibility and demands of home ownership, but a small house we could handle. Many of our friends also bought homes around the same time, but those places are considerably larger. Their homes are similar in size to many of the suburban homes highlighted during AOA's Real Estate Week. To us, our friends had found their "forever homes." Most have at least four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, master suites, two car garages... they're in it for the long haul. When we bought our house we knew it was a starter home.

But now that we've added a 90-pound dog and a new baby to the mix, we've realized something: there are benefits to small house living.

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New lives for old churches

new lives for churches composite
By Casey Normile

Many Capital Region churches have closed in recent years due to dwindling congregations, parish mergers, or financial difficulties. And when the congregations go, they leave behind some grand buildings. So what happens to these empty churches?

The issue has been in the news a lot lately because of the controversy surrounding St. Patrick's in Watervliet and a proposal on the table to turn St. Joseph's in Albany into a brewery.

But there are lots of old churches in the Capital Region that have already found new lives. Here's a look at a few.


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The ___est neighborhoods in the Capital Region

diversity map screengrab schenectady closeup

Schenectady leads the Capital Region in racial diversity. (The deeper the shade of green, the more diverse the neighborhood.)

Location. Location. Location.

It's a cliche, but it doesn't make it any less true: location is among the most important factors in real estate. It can significantly affect the value of a house -- and significantly affect how much you like living there.

Of course, physical factors like roads, trees, and access to services are a big part of location. But so are the people in your neighborhood.

To get a better sense of some general demographic characteristics about Capital Region neighborhoods -- age, ethnic diversity, income, education, and so on -- we pulled data for all 210 Census tracts in the four county area.

Here are some of the ____-est neighborhoods...


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A home where you don't have to turn on the heat

Passive Solar -via Dennis Wedlick.jpg

The Capital Region's first Certified Passive home.

By Siobhan Connally

Writer Susan Guthridge-Gould and her husband, photographer Chris Gould are a little passive aggressive.

Which is to say they are aggressive about passive. Their passive home.

The Columbia County couple is building one of the first certified passive dwellings in the region. They're keeping a record of the process on their blog,

What is a passive house?

Lets start with what it's not. It's not to be confused with a solar house - or any other practice of green-construction that uses a complex equation of sustainability and technology to reduce its carbon footprint.

A passive house has only to meet two main requirements:

+ Use 90 percent less energy than a conventional home

+ Achieve that goal through its design and construction rather than mechanical technology.

In other words the house has to rely on its placement in the environment and an air-tight construction to keep it warm in winter and cool in summer.

So... does it work?


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What $350,000 buys you in the Capital Region

real estate week 2012 350 composite

It's Real Estate Week on AOA.

Flip through real estate listings enough and you'll notice pretty quickly that the same amount of money will buy you a wide variety of homes -- for all sorts of reasons, location being among the most important. Two very similar houses can end up selling at prices tens of thousands of dollars apart.

To get a better a sense of what goes into the price of a house -- and how much house you can get for your dollar -- we talked with three local real estate agents to better understand why some recently closed house sold for the prices they did.

What are you getting for your money? And what could you get for a little bit more?

We've already looked at $175,000 and $225,000. Let's finish with a look at a handful of houses in the $350,000 range around the Capital Region...


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What $225,000 buys you in the Capital Region

real estate week 225 comparison composite

It's Real Estate Week on AOA.

Flip through real estate listings enough and you'll notice pretty quickly that the same amount of money will buy you a wide variety of homes -- for all sorts of reasons, location being among the most important. Two very similar houses can end up selling at prices tens of thousands of dollars apart.

To get a better a sense of what goes into the price of a house -- and how much house you can get for your dollar -- we talked with three local real estate agents to better understand why some recently closed house sold for the prices they did.

What are you getting for your money? And what could you get for a little bit more?

Let's look at a handful of houses in the $225,000 range around the Capital Region...


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What $175,000 buys you in the Capital Region

real estate week 2012 175 comparison composite

It's Real Estate Week on AOA.

Flip through real estate listings enough and you'll notice pretty quickly that the same amount of money will buy you a wide variety of homes -- for all sorts of reasons, location being among the most important. Two very similar houses can end up selling at prices tens of thousands of dollars apart.

To get a better a sense of what goes into the price of a house -- and how much house you can get for your dollar -- we talked with three local real estate agents to better understand why some recently closed house sold for the prices they did.

What are you getting for your money? And what could you get for a little bit more?

To start, we looked at a handful of houses in the $175,000 range around the Capital Region...


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Living in downtown Albany

real estate week downtown albany living composite

It's Real Estate Week on AOA.

In a lot of cities -- New York, San Francisco, Chicago -- apartments and condos in the heart of "downtown" are totally normal. But in Albany that hasn't been case. For a long time its downtown has emptied out after the work day. Sure, there are crowds along the entertainment strips like Pearl Street. But the city's downtown has had very little residential stock -- and, as a result, very few of the open-after-work services and amenities that go along with residential: coffee shops, retail, a grocery store.

Over the last couple of years, though, a handful of developers have gutted and rebuilt the interiors of historic buildings, turning them into luxury apartments and condos.

And here's the thing that surprised us: there appears to be strong demand for those units. Every one of the existing apartment buildings we checked out was full, and many of those still under renovation have a waiting list.

So, what's changed? And what does all this downtown living look like?


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Albany International building in Menands under contract to developer for residential conversion

albany international building menands pond

The main building stretches along Broadway -- it straddles the Albany/Menands line. And there's a pond.

The Albany International Corp is under contract to sell its century-old facility in Menands. The company says it agreed to the contract in March and expects to close the deal this summer.

An Albany International spokesperson, Susan Siegel, said the sale is for the entire Menands property, which spans the Menands/Albany line. She could not confirm or deny the other party in the deal.

AOA talked with developer Uri Kaufman today and he confirmed that he is the buyer. Kaufman said his plan is to transform the Albany International complex into a residential development with "a couple hundred apartments." He said his company is currently doing due diligence on the deal. He said the purchase price was not yet public.

Kaufman has pursued a handful of mill/factory conversions in this region over the last few years -- most notably the Harmony Mills apartment conversion in Cohoes, which completed a second phase last year. He's also currently involved with the Victory Mill in Saratoga and the Marshall Ray Building in Troy. [Biz Review]

All of these projects rely on a series of tax credits and grants. Kaufman says he expects they'll be able to line up the necessary credits for the Menands property after closing. "Absolutely," he said today, "tax credits are everything." [Daily Gazette 2009]

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Tips and advice for contesting a property tax assessment?

monopoly houseSean emails:

As a new homeowner, I've been hearing rumors about a certain day / week in May where folks can go downtown and challenge their property tax amount. Would the editors or other AOA readers have any knowledge about this upcoming event, any tips for when to go (I imagine it's a zoo...) and what to come prepared with for the best possible outcome (i.e. lower taxes!)?

We're guessing the day Sean is referring to is Grievance Day, typically the fourth Tuesday of May in cities and towns in New York State (May 22 this year). You can submit the forms necessary to "grieve" the assessment of your home before that day (probably the best course). The day in question is when it's possible to make an oral argument before the board of assessment review, if you decide to do so.

OK, so let's use the city of Albany as an example. It recently posted the official notice that's it's completed its tentative assessment roll for property tax purposes. The assessment information is online -- it's as simple to look up as plugging in your address. From the city's website:

Complaint forms and a publication containing procedures for contesting an assessment are available at the Office of Assessment & Taxation Room 302 in City Hall. It is a prerequisite to review an assessment that the official complaint forms be used and that said forms be filed with the undersigned or the Board of Assessment Review on or before May 22nd, 2012.

The board of assessment review will be hearing grievances May 22 from 9 am-1 pm and 6-8 pm in city hall.

Of course, some details will vary from one municipality to another. Here's a NYS website with info on how to contest your assessment.

So... Have you ever contested an assessment? If so, got any tips or advice for Sean? Please share!

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks

Capital Region property tax rates

oldest house in schenectady maybe

Schenectady has the highest property tax rate in the Capital Region, according to the Empire Center report. The property taxes on this house -- the "oldest" house in Schenectady -- assessed at $247,600 in 2010: $10,078. [Zillow]

The Capital Region has the lowest median effective property tax rate in the state, according to a report from the Empire Center. This area's median rate was $23.14 per $1000 last year. Western New York had the highest rate at $35.58 per $1000.

The Empire Center's analysis did not include New York City or Nassau County, which it says impose rates in a way that makes them hard to compare. And in this case, the Capital Region extends beyond the four core counties to also includes counties such as Warren, Washington, and Greene.

Within the Capital Region's core there are wide differences. The effective total property tax rate in the city of Schenectady is $40.75 per $1,000 of property value. In the town of Edinburgh it's $7.70 per $1,000.

We pulled all the numbers for municipalities in the Capital Region's core. They're sorted after the jump.

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A good real estate agent?

real estate sign porchIn the market for a house, Kelly emails:

My husband and I are hoping to buy a house in Albany this summer. We are looking for recommendations for a good real estate agent, particularly one who specializes in working with first-time home buyers. I'm hoping AOA's readers can help us out. Thanks for your consideration.

There are a lot of real estate agents out there. And from our experience, some are definitely better than others.

So, know of a good agent? Please share! And if you do, please include why you like that agent.

Capital Region rents

capital region rent distribution small

The distribution of rent prices in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area in 2010, according to Census Bureau estimate. Here's a larger version.

After seeing that the Capital Region had one of the lowest apartment vacancy rates in the nation last year, we were curious about rents here -- how they're distributed and how they stack up against other metro areas. [Biz Review]

Bring on the charts and graphs...

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Capital Region median home prices 2011

real estate sign porchThe median sale price of single family homes in the Capital Region was basically flat in 2011 compared to 2010, according to numbers from the Greater Capital Association of Realtors.

The median price for sale price for a home in the greater Capital Region was $186,032 in 2011. It was $203,511 in the Capital Region's four core counties. Both of those medians were down about 1 percent from 2010.

GCAR (as it's known) recently posted its annual market report for 2011. It includes stats for individual counties, cities, and towns in the Capital Region -- we've broken those out into a table after the jump.

While prices were basically flat for the region as a whole, the average time it took to sell a house increased. GCAR says the average number of days on the market until sale was 101 days in 2011, up from 92 in 2012. (For some perspective, the average was 79 days in 2007. It's been rising each year since.)

Onto the table...

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A ShopRite for Slingerlands, and a tech park

vista technology campus sign

Right now there's not a lot there besides dirt.

Thursday was the official groundbreaking for the Vista Technology Campus in Slingerlands. A lot of the attention was focused on one of the tenants already signed up: ShopRite. That makes three stores now officially announced/open for the area (there's a fourth planned for Colonie). ShopRite continues what appears to be a strategy to go to head-to-head with Price Chopper -- the Vista ShopRite is pretty much be right across the road from the Slingerlands Chopper. [Spotlight] [YNN]

Planning for the Vista site has been going on for a few years -- but Thursday's announcements would seem to indicate it's picking up momentum. It's a potentially significant development project. The site includes 150 acres of land planned for development. And the developer -- Columbia Development -- says its plan includes up 1.4 million square feet of office, research and manufacturing facilities, medical office, and retail space.

A few quick thoughts about all this...

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New city of Albany homeownership program

Thumbnail image for spanish-style houseThe city of Albany and group of the city's largest employers today announced a new package of incentives to encourage people to buy homes in the city.

The incentives include zero-interest and forgivable loans for down payments and closing costs, and in some cases grants for home improvements.

If this gets more people to live in Albany, great. The city could use more homeowners (as do many of the Capital Region's other urban centers) -- as long as those people really can afford to buy a house . And if it gets more people living closer to where they work, even better -- a short commute pays off in all sorts of ways.

Highlights from the program after the jump, along with the full press release.

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Showcase of Homes 2011

showcase of homes 2011 map thumbnailThe 2011 Showcase of Homes starts this weekend in Saratoga County. It's basically a tour of crazy big/extravagant new houses.

We did this a few years back, and it did prompt a fair amount of who-needs-a-bathtub-with-25-jets questioning. But it was the closest we'll ever come to walking through HGTV -- and it was kind of fun to gawk at how the other 10 percent live. (That said, wouldn't it be great to see this kind of series in the Capital Region's urban areas -- a sort of Showcase of In-fill Development?)

This year's tour includes 19 houses. It runs for the next three weekends. Tickets are $20. Proceeds benefit a group of charities, including Habitat for Humanity.

The Taghkanic House

taghkanic house exterior

"It is big and modern, but it is not precious at all."

Moyra Mulholland doesn't throw stones.

Mostly, that's because she's a nice person -- but there's also this: she lives in a glass house.

Moyra and her family live in the Taghkanic House, a more than a little awesome, award-winning, 8,800 square-foot glass and steel structure built into a hillside near Hudson.

On September 4, Moyra -- a makeup artist who's worked with stars such as Nicole Kidman and Ashley Judd -- will open part of her remarkable home for a garden party to benefit The Aids Council of Northeastern New York.

Last week she invited us in for a look.

(Many photos after the jump.)

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The plumbing hall home is for sale

plumbing hall home composite

As the owner joked with Akum: "It's not a large space, it's a big space."

As Patrick pointed out earlier this week, the former plumbing hall in Albany that's been converted into living space is for sale. The asking price: $199,000.

Akum profiled the home back in March. It's an interesting space -- and, not surprisingly, the current owner sounds like an interesting guy.

The building is also the TU's "House of the Week" today.

Where to buy a house in Albany?

spanish-style house in AlbanyStephanie emails:

I just moved to the area for the next few years, and I am looking to buy a house. However, I do not know what the good areas are around in Albany!
I am looking for something that is equidistant from SUNY Uptown campus and downtown Albany. I would love a safe area, that is nice or up and coming. I would want to sell in a few years, so the market value would need to stay the same (or preferably!) improve. Additionally, any advice on where to begin looking for houses would be great. Can anyone help me? Please?

Have a suggestion for Stephanie? Please share!

The 7th Ward House

431 Delaware exterior

What's the story with 431 Delaware?

The last few months we've been noticed a string of interesting events -- music, food, that kind of stuff -- at 431 Delaware Ave, a former church in Albany.

But it was sort of funny -- every time we talked with someone about the place, it was like "Oh, yeah, I heard about that... Hey, what's up with that place?"

Well, wonder no longer. Here is what's up with that place.

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Renting a house?

monopoly houseCrystal asks via Twitter:

Dear @alloveralbany, any tips on where one can find HOUSES for rent in the #518? I'm so over apartment living. xoxo, @CAPowCAPow

Mike followed up Crystal's question with a response that was basically "Why rent, when you can buy?" -- she says they're still saving up a down payment.

So, any suggestions for Crystal? Please share!

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks

For sale: the "oldest" house in Schenectady

oldest house in schenectady maybe

When you're 284-years-old, what's a decade-or-two age difference.

oldest house in schenectady maybe markerThe "reputed oldest house" in the city of Schenectady -- the 284-year-old (or so) Yates House in the Stockade -- is for sale. The list price: $389,000.

Apparently there's some question as to whether the Yates House is actually the oldest house in Schenectady. The Brouwer house on North Church Street might be a few decades older. Researchers from the Cornell Tree-Ring Lab concluded the Yates House was built sometime in 1727 or 1728, based on core samples take from beams in the basement. (In the same study they report the oldest part of the Brouwer House dates to 1730.)

The Yates House has been added on to many times. It's now 3,462 square feet with four bedrooms and a "large eat in kitchen," according to its real estate listing.

Update April 13: The Times Union talked with the owner of the house.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Getting reacquainted with Schenectady's Stockade
+ The oldest building in Albany?
+ The oldest house in Saratoga Springs

Community office space at 747 Madison

747 Madison

The recognizable pink building.

Updated with contact info.

We've talked a bit in the past about the push for coworking spaces in the Capital Region.

Well, yesterday we got a look at a space in Albany that points in that direction. It stops short of the ultra-flexible, hive-like coworking concept, but it's more flexible than a typical office rental.

The space is in the 747 Madison building in Albany. We met up with property manager Stephanie Means for a tour.

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Little house on State Street

303C State Outside

We're pretty sure this is the smallest house in Albany.

The other day we noticed that what is arguably the smallest house in Albany is for rent.

303C State Street is a sturdy looking, cute little brick place that kind of puts us in mind of where the first third little pig lived in the fairy tale.

It's one big room with a good size sleeping loft. It's got charm, but it's definitely not meant for pack-rats.

Owner Adam Ladopoulos, who also owns the State Street Mansion Bed and Breakfast, gave us the 5 cent tour this morning.

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For sale: Kirsten Gillibrand's house

gillibrand house for saleKirsten Gillibrand's home in Hudson is up for sale -- the list price: $1.48 million. [NYT]

Check out this snip from the listing on the real estate agent's site, titled "Gatsby & Spectacular Hudson River Views":

Mesmerizing sunsets and all day long stunning views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains welcome you to a surreal magical landscape that you might think you once stumbled upon in a childhood dream ...this once in a lifetime slice of heaven is the perfect backdrop to make memories generation after generation. Beginning with the private drive guarded by towering shade trees through which the light bounces off Ol' Man River, informal and formal gardens, patios and porches greet you with each gentle rolling slope of the velvet lawn as it rolls down over the river.

There are a handful of photos on the listing page.

The house is listed as having 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, a "gracious" kitchen, a "delightful guest cottage," and a barn/4 car garage on 13 acres.

Here's the Zillow listing for the address, which appears to have incorrect info. (The "zestimate" is listed as $717,000.)

KG's office told NYT that the senator and her husband "plan to buy a house closer to family in the Capital Region." [NYT City Room]

Hmm... so what would be a good spot for the Gillibrands? We could see Slingerlands -- big houses, a bit rural, close to Albany and only about 20 minutes from ALB.

photo: Halstead

Good mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, etc?

a houseFollowing up our mention of this being a good time to think about refinancing your mortgage (seriously you could potentially end up saving many tens of thousands of dollars), -S asked:

My case. If somebody has experience with that process, or pointers, I'd really would like to hear about it. Thanks.

This is a good question because it's the sort of situation where some people might have a hard time getting started. Who do you call? What do you ask? And even on a refinance, there are a lot of separate costs (attorneys, appraisers, and so on).

So... know of a good local mortgage broker or bank? Have a good experience with a local real estate attorney? Please share! You could help -S -- and a lot of other people -- save a lot of money.

The local housing market is... something

Median sale prices. Just a reminder: it's one month of data, so take it with a grain of salt.

The number of closed home sales was down 38 percent in July compared the same period last year, according to Greater Capital Association of Realtors.* But get this: the median sale price was up five percent -- to $199,000 (year to date prices are up slightly, too).

The steep drop in the number of sales probably is a result of the federal tax credit that ended earlier this year -- a lot of house buying was probably crammed in before the deadline.

There are still a lot of houses out there, though. GCAR reports the market has 12.5 "months supply of inventory." And the number of days on the market for the average house is 86 -- that's up about five percent over last year.

By the way: If you already own a house -- and think you'll be there for at least a few years -- it might be a good idea to look a refinancing. Rates are extraordinarily low right (you can get a 15 year mortgage for around 4 percent). Refinancing could save you a lot of money in the long run (even with New York's high closing costs).

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New York has the highest closing costs

highest closing costs 2010

The ten most expensive states (counting LA and SF separately). Arkansas had the lowest average costs at a little more than $3,000.

The closing costs for a $200,000 loan in New York State average $5,623, according to a survey by Bankrate. That's highest in the nation. (Yes, shock. This is New York.)

New York's average is way ahead of #2 Texas (yeah, not everything is bigger in Texas). The Lone Star State's average was $4,708 -- 16 percent less than the Empire State. In fact, New York's total was 50 percent higher than the national average. (Arkansas had the lowest at $3,007.)

Here's how Bankrate figures the costs break down in New York.

Of course, closing costs make it more expensive to buy a house -- but they also add to the price of refinancing your mortgage. And right now mortgage interest rates are at record lows. (Here are some tips for saving on refinance closing costs.)

[via Business Buzz]

graph based on figures from Bankrate

How much, where?


One the left, home prices as a percentage of median income. On the right, household median income.

Here's something that might help you kill time until you can leave work get a better picture of the Capital Region.

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is an online mapping tool that lets you apply all sorts of filters to local maps -- housing affordability, median household incomes, autos per household, transportation costs and so on. The maps are based on census data.

The index is a project of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, which promotes "more livable and sustainable urban communities." That viewpoint shows up in some of the explanations on the site.

[via Jen]

screengrab: CNT

Optimism for the Capital Region housing market

consumer real estate sentiment 2010 July

positive = optimism | negative = pessimism

People in the Capital Region are optimistic about the housing market here, according to a Siena Research Institute report out this week. In fact, people are more optimistic about the housing market here over the next year than in any other part of the state.

Also, SRI reports that sentiment here is strongly leaning toward this being a buyer's market right now. That's not really surprising. The median sales price for single family homes in the Capital Region is now about the same as it was five years ago, according to the Greater Capital Region Association of Realtors. And while the "months supply of inventory" has been down recently, it's still relatively high compared to the last five years.

The strong optimism for the future is a little harder to figure. Is it a result of GlobalFoundries? Or maybe a byproduct of the fact the housing market here never really went in the tank like it did other places?

A quick explanation of the graph above: SRI surveyed more than 2,000 people to derive the "consumer real estate sentiment scores." Positive numbers indicate optimism, negative numbers pessimism. Zero is the point at which there's an equal amount of optimism and pessimism. SRI says anything beyond 50 (+ or -) is considered "both rare and extreme." (There's more detailed explanation at that first link.)

Earlier on AOA:
+ The slow climb toward economic recovery
+ Capital Region June unemployment rate better than last year

graph: Siena Research Institute

Surge of home sales near the deadline

Updated: We've noticed a few discrepancies between these numbers and those being reported elsewhere. We're checking to figure out what's up. The general trends still hold true, though.

So, it looks like the federal first-time homebuyer credit prompted a bunch of people to buy a house in the Capital Region.

The Greater Capital Association of Realtors reported today in its monthly stats release that pending sales in April were up almost 46 percent compared the same month the year before (and 24 percent from two years ago). And the number of closed sales was up 14.5 percent. (Buyers just needed to have a contract to qualify for the credit.)

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Home sales spring forward

Here are the February median home sales prices for the four core counties of the Capital Region, as reported by GCAR.

Both sales prices and the number of closed sales were up compared to February 2009. Prices were more or less the same compared to January 2010 -- except in Rensselaer County where they were up about 9 percent (these monthly snapshots of the market should be taken a few grains of salt because of smaller pool of data).

The "months supply of inventory" (the number of active listings available to the average monthly pending sales for the last twelve months) for the Greater Capital Region (which includes Schoharie and Washington counties) was 9.7 -- which is still pretty high when compared to five years ago (page 10).

It'll be interesting to see how things shake out as we head into the prime home buying season. We've noticed "for sale" signs popping up all over the last few weeks.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Median home prices by city for 2010
+ Our housing market is overvalued?
+ Lots of houses

Of dead malls and empty big boxes

old Old Navy Crossgates Commons

What do you do with an old Old Navy?

Matt recently passed along a link to a site called Dead Malls. It's pretty much what it sounds like: a site that lists "dead malls" -- malls that have closed or, as is often the case, stagger on with few stores and little traffic (undead malls?).

The site includes a handful of entries from the Capital Region. Here's a clip from a remembrance of the Mohawk Mall in Schenectady (it's been transformed into Mohawk Commons):

Right in front of Bradlee's there was a small fountain. This, as my Cousins would say, was the place to be. It was where all the "cool" teenagers would hang out. During the 80's it was a place where the good girls from Niskayuna would go to meet the bad boys from Schenectady (very John Hugh's Teen Flick). My cousin said that it was a great place to hang because the arcade was close and you could grab a slice and the Orange Julius stand was close by (which unfortunatly didn't survive the early 90's remodel). The McDonalds that was near Bradlee's was pretty cool too, they had a "Tree Table" which was a large fake tree with a face that used to talk that had a counter around it. You could eat and listen to some crazy tree talk and tell stories.

This got us thinking about empty big box stores -- a growing problem in many places. Julia Christensen, an RPI grad, has studied how communities re-use these spaces (one example: a K-Mart turned into a Spam museum -- we kid you not). As she told The Infrastructurist last year, there are real estate companies that are starting to specialize in developing new uses for these properties.

Back from the dead?

The Spotlight News reports that the owner of The Latham Mall -- which is on the list of "dead" malls -- is "in discussions with a single-entity tenant that could buy up all the vacant space in the shopping center." That's fueled speculation about who this tenant could be.

And is there something sprouting in one of the empty spaces at Crossgates Commons?

And there's something new going into the old Circuit City space at Crossgates Commons. (Thanks, Andrew, Chris and Laura!)

(Thanks, Matt!)

Median homes prices for January

Prices by county

Here are the median home sales prices for the Capital Region in January, as reported by the Greater Capital Association of Realtors.

Interestingly, or maybe oddly or maybe coincidentally, the average number days on the market was down in every county -- except Saratoga, which also registered the highest jump in median price. (Monthly numbers should be taken with a grain or two of salt -- especially in January, when a few sales one or way the other can shift a small pool of sales.)

GCAR's CEO notes in a press release that homes on the lower end of the price spectrum continue to sell more quickly than homes on the higher end, perhaps because of the first-time homebuyer tax credit.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Median home prices by city for 2010
+ Our housing market is overvalued?

Troy is underrated

kim m block

Kim's block in North Central

By Kim M

A few weeks ago after a post about median home prices around the Capital Region, Kim M commented that she thought people undervalue Troy. We were interested to hear more about why she thought that, so we asked her to write a post about it.

I love Troy. If you don't know that about me then we've never met.

Sometimes I feel like a crazy evangelist for Troy, but I just can't help myself.

Because Troy is underrated.

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Our housing market is overvalued?

spanish-style houseVia Kim M comes a follow up of sorts to this week's post about median home prices in the Capital Region. An analysis for CNN Money figures that the Albany market's home prices are "overvalued" by five percent. (Only 89 of 299 markets surveyed were figured to be overvalued.)

The same methodology was used to conclude that the market here was overvalued by 19 percent in 2006. The sale price in the Capital then was $189,900, according to GCAR. The median sale price at the end of 2009 was $192,500. (It would appear that GCAR and CNN Money are using different definitions for this market. CNN Money has the median price for this area pegged at 198,900.)

By the way: the Capital Region had one of the nation's lowest rates of home foreclosure in 2009.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Lots of houses
+ What's the price of a little extra style?

Cold snap, New York rail funds request stops short, low number of home foreclosures, surgical robot unveiled

Today's weather forecast includes a steep temperature drop, the possibility of strong wind gusts and some snow. [NWS]

Chuck Schumer says New York State is in line to get $151 million from the $6 billion the feds have pledged for high speed rail. Part of that money will go toward constructing a second track at the bottleneck between Rensselaer and Schenectady. It will also pay for signal upgrades and engineering studies. New York State had been hoping to get billions, not of this money. [Post-Star] [Daily Gazette $] [CBS6] [TU]

The state Department of Taxation and Finance is looking to step up its tax collection enforcement efforts. [TU]

Friends and family of Joe Bruno have been writing letters urging the judge presiding over his case to go easy on his sentencing. [TU]

Schenectady's sewer maintenance supervisor was the city's highest-paid employee in 2009 -- mostly because of overtime. [TU]

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Median home prices by city

capital region median home prices 2005-2009

Median home prices for the Capital Region, by year (stats from GCAR)

The Greater Capital Association of Realtors (GCAR, to its friends) recently started including breakdowns of home sales data by city in its monthly stats release. GCAR released the December numbers yesterday, so there's now data for all of 2009. We thought it'd be interesting to see how the median home prices in various cities and towns in the Capital Region stacked up for the year.

You might surprised by which city's median price increased the most. (Yep, there actually were a few increases.)

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Lots of houses

housing inventory

The Capital Region's supply of homes for sale, as measured by "months of inventory."

We were skimming through the latest package of Capital Region home sales stats from the Greater Capital Association of Realtors when the above graph caught our eye. It depicts the trend in "inventory" in the Capital Region.

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Shooting in uptown Albany, Paterson lashes out at media, concerns about pollution at Cohoes factory, GloFo tapping local firms

Albany police say man was shot outside his apartment on Manning Blvd in uptown Albany last night (map). The man reportedly was sitting in car when he took multiple shots in his upper body. A neighbor drove him to the hospital. The APD says it hasn't identified a motive. [TU] [Troy Record] [Fox23] [CapNews9]

The Albany cop car involved in last week's crash that killed a man in a civilian car on Madison Ave did not have an installed video camera. In fact, none of the APD's cars have cameras even though chief James Tuffey said more than a year ago that the squad's fleet would be getting them. [TU]

The median price for single family homes in the Capital Region was down 10 percent in July compared to the same month last year (median prices are down 5 percent for the year). The number of closed sales was about the same, though. That has real estate agents speculating that the market has reached its bottom. [GCAR] [TU]

David Paterson said on Friday that media has treated his administration unfairly because of his ethnicity. Later in the day Paterson said he hadn't accused the media of being racist, but rather said "certain media outlets have engaged in coverage that exploits racial stereotypes." In his original comments, Paterson the press would next go after Barack Obama for the same reason -- and apparently that assertion didn't go over well with the White House. [Daily Politics] [Daily Politics] [NY Post]

A Democratic state senator from Staten Island says David Paterson's impaired vision is making it hard for him to be an effective governor. [SI Advance]

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Albany housing market: slow and steady

albany home values

This chart tracks the last 10 years of Zillow's home value index.

The Albany metro area is one of the five best places to buy a home, according to Zillow. A rep for the real estate info site told Good Morning America that Albany is "a good value." And it's a solid market because of government and higher education jobs.

That steadiness might not have looked so great earlier this decade when home values were surging in other parts of the country. But as you can see from the chart above, slow and steady seems to have worked out OK.

For a little bit of perspective, we pulled the numbers on home values from the last 10 years for a handful of metro areas from Zillow and compared them to Albany. The results -- in a big graph -- after the jump.

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Another gap in the state budget, foreclosure rates stay low, authority moves to buy Albany's oldest building, big plans for bus rapid transit

The state Division of Budget is projecting that New York will be short $2.1 billion during this fiscal year. The reason: less-than-expected revenues from both income and sales taxes. The projected gap will probably bring the legislature back into session in September. [NYS DoB] [NYT] [TU]

A state appeals court has ruled that Richard Ravitch can serve as lieutenant governor until the legality of his appointment is argued in court August 18. One catch: he's not allowed to preside over the state Senate or cast tie-breaking votes in the chamber. Ravitch says he been working on budget issues in the administration. [Daily Politics] [Biz Review] [Fox23]

A handful of state governors will be in Saratoga this weekend for eating, drinking, horse racing and partying a conference hosted by David Paterson. [Daily Politics]

Albany police say a man -- dressed as a woman -- stabbed a stylist at a salon on North Lake in yesterday. Police say the man then ran off with the woman's purse before being arrested. [CapNews9] [CBS6]

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Special state Senate session a disaster, landfill expansion could be approved soon, home prices holding steady, new music venue for Saratoga

Yesterday's special state Senate session was a mess. Among the absurdities: Democrats entered the chamber early in some sort of attempt to call "first!"; each side held its own concurrent session (with their own gavels) and tried to call the other out of order; no one knows if any of the voted-on bills were legally passed. [TU] [Daily Politics] [CapCon] [NYDN] [NYT]

David Paterson has called the Senate back for another session today -- with the same-sex marriage bill on the agenda. The inclusion of that bill could prompt Democrat Ruben Diaz Sr. to switch allegiance to the Republicans, giving them a majority. [Daily Politics]

Jerry Jennings' chief aide says the city's application to expand the Rapp Road landfill could be approved by the DEC as early as this week. At its current size, the landfill is projected to be full later this year -- six years ahead of schedule. Common Councilman -- and mayoral candidate -- Corey Ellis called for "a comprehensive audit of the Rapp Road landfill by a truly independent body" yesterday. [TU] [Ellis press release]

The median price for homes in the Capital Region more or less held steady last month compared to the same period last year -- though the number of transactions was down. Median prices were up in Schenectady County, flat in Albany County and down in Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. Homes priced under $200k are apparently selling well. [Daily Gazette] [GCAR/Post-Star] [TU]

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Saratoga blockbuster

A big chunk of downtown Saratoga is up for sale.

Mark Straus, the owner of now-closed furniture store Mabou, is selling off five multi-use buildings on the 400 block of Broadway. Tenants of the buildings include Mrs. London's, Wheatfields and Silverado.

The asking price for all five combined: $14.5 million


The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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