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Architect: Saratoga Springs house should be fixed, not torn down

Monday, October 1, 2012
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— The historic home at 66 Franklin St. “still retains its integrity and can be restored,” according to an architect and a structural engineer who inspected the old building this summer.

Joseph Boff, the owner of the house in the Franklin Square Historic District, maintains the structure is beyond saving and wants to demolish it.

Boff is seeking permission from the city Design Review Commission to level the 1871 Winans-Crippen house. The commission has authority over the house because it is listed as a contributing structure to Franklin Square Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The commission will meet Wednesday evening in City Hall to review a draft environmental impact statement on the proposed demolition and discuss associated issues.

Professional engineer Donald Friedman and architect John Waite of John G. Waite Architects, with offices in Albany and New York, inspected the interior and exterior of the vacant house on Aug. 27.

The inspection was ordered by City Court Judge Jeffrey Wait at the request of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. The Preservation Foundation wants to see the old building saved and restored.

Waite conducted an architectural investigation while Friedman conducted a structural investigation.

The purpose of the inspection was to determine if there had been any changes in the structural condition or its weather-tightness since Friedman’s last visit in 2011.

“There are no significant changes visible to the condition of the building in the last 18 months,” Friedman said in his report to Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.

“The building poses no danger to the public in its current state,” Friedman says in his report.

“The building still retains its integrity and can be restored. There are no major technical problems that would preclude restoration,” says a section of the report written by architect Waite.

“Many buildings that were in much worse condition and with less historic building fabric have been successfully restored to serve long and useful lives,” Waite wrote in the report summary.

Attorney Anthony Ianniello of Clifton Park, Boff’s lawyer, said the Freidman-Waite report is “a very ambiguous, general report” and does not address city code enforcement issues.

A city code enforcement officer has said the building is unsafe and the city Department of Public Safety sought a court order to demolish the building well over a year ago, Ianniello said.

“It’s not less unsafe. No one could ever say it’s less unsafe,” Ianniello said about the Preservation Foundation report.

“Boff is never going to restore the property,” he said.

It would cost more than $2.5 million to “reconstruct or replicate” 66 Franklin St., according to Boff’s draft environmental impact statement required by the Design Review Commission.

The significant adverse impact of the demolition would be “the irreversible loss of a cultural/historic resource,” according to the impact statement.

The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is offering a $50,000 incentive to someone who buys the property from Boff and renovates the house.

The house, called the Winans-Crippen House after its early owners, was designed by John D. Stevens, who also designed the now-gone United States Hotel, once situated on Broadway, according to the Preservation Foundation.

 
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