State holds first open house in hopes of selling Schenectady Armory
SCHENECTADY Steve Keohan looked around the Schenectady Armory arena Wednesday and saw possibilities.
What he saw in the former New York National Guard headquarters and basketball arena were softball infields.
Keohan, of Keohan Management, toured the armory at an open house held by the state Office of General Services ahead of a scheduled July auction of the complex.
“It comes down to renovation costs,” Keohan said, standing in the large armory arena Wednesday morning. “How much is it going to cost to fix the roof? How much is it going to cost to turn this into an indoor field, turf? And really that’s it.
“The structure itself is great. It’s a beautiful structure, a lot of space — a lot of unusable space, though.”
The state is making its latest attempt to sell the 65,000-square-foot structure at 125 Washington Ave. The auction is scheduled for July 24 at 11 a.m. at City Hall. The minimum bid is set at $180,000.
In the meantime, the state is trying to interest buyers by, among other efforts, holding open houses.
Wednesday was the first of two open houses. The second is set for July 13 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Keohan Management was one of three or four groups to come through the building during the first hour and a half of the open house.
A state spokeswoman said as many as 10 groups looked at the building.
Among the selling points this time around is a minimum bid that has been slashed in half. The last effort to sell the property came in May 2011, but the auction was canceled because there were no registered bidders. The minimum bid then was $395,000.
Another selling point is the renewed activity in that area of the city.
Schenectady County Community College’s 264-bed student housing has sprung up in a former parking lot next-door. That is set to open in August.
“We’re looking at this because of the location,” Keohan said of the armory. “Right off the highway, right in Schenectady. Schenectady needs something like this. There are a lot of young athletes going 20 to 30 miles away to train.”
If financially feasible, Keohan sees the large arena turned into two regulation indoor softball infields, with a screen in between.
Younger children could even have an entire indoor field, with parents and spectators able to sit in the balcony.
There’s also space in the basement for more training opportunities.
But all that could only happen if the problem areas are fixed. The roof, Keohan said, definitely has some damage that must be repaired.
One of the first places his group went was the basement to look at the heating system. They had questions about how the system worked and whether parts of the building or all of the building could be heated.
Prospective buyers need to come to next month’s auction with a certified check or a bank draft for 10 percent of the minimum bid.
The winning bidder will have to pay the balance at the time of closing, officials have said.
The 21⁄2-story armory was built in 1936 and is on the state and national registers of historic places. It has a 75-space parking lot.
A number of potential owners have considered and rejected moving into the space. Schenectady County Community College, which played its basketball games there before the guard moved, studied the idea and found that the building would be prohibitively expensive to renovate. SCCC’s basketball teams are now playing and practicing at the Center City YMCA.
Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium also looked at the site and OGS canceled an auction scheduled for November 2009 so museum officials could explore the possibility of purchasing it. But museum officials found it would be too expensive to renovate.
A consultant hired by the museum said renovation costs could run as high as $10 million. Instead, the museum decided to expand at its existing site on Nott Terrace.
The Hilton Center for the Arts in Rensselaer has also expressed interest in the building to use as an arts incubator. Executive Director Jean Francois confirmed Wednesday by phone that her group is no longer interested.
Francois cited parking as the biggest issue for the Hilton Center, with 75 spaces for a building that size not enough for the organization.