Saratoga County

Developer buys Spa City’s famous ‘pink palace’

A developer who wants to tear down a former Skidmore College dormitory at 32 Union Ave. and replace
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A developer who wants to tear down a former Skidmore College dormitory at 32 Union Ave. and replace it with upscale condominiums has purchased the six-story dorm for $1.12 million.

Richard “Rick” Higgins, the president of Norstar Development USA, said Monday that what Skidmore students called “the pink palace” and the college called Moore Hall has been purchased from the college by his development company, which has offices in Albany and Buffalo.

The building was called the pink palace because its exterior has a pinkish color.

In the spring of 2006, Norstar unveiled plans for two Victorian-style buildings that would replace the old dormitory, which was opened by the college in the late 1950s when Skidmore’s campus was in downtown Saratoga Springs. Skidmore moved to its current campus on North Broadway in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Zoning changes and site plan approvals for the townhouses were obtained from the city for the condominiums but these approvals have lapsed, Higgins said.

“We have been waiting to purchase it,” Higgins said.

He said the condominium project is on hold because of the current economic downturn. Another Norstar project, the Capital Grand condominium project on Broadway in Albany, is also on hold because of the difficult economy.

“You have got to take the economy into consideration,” Higgins said.

Higgins said his company will have to obtain new zoning and site plan approvals from the city and the state Attorney General’s office. He said his company could start marketing the condominiums “maybe next spring.”

The sale of the old dormitory was first announced Monday by CB Richard Ellis in Albany, a real estate brokerage that completed the real estate transaction. Higgins confirmed the sale on Monday afternoon.

Higgins said his company will re-evaluate the condominium plans and how and when to approach the marketing of the project.

However, he said he expected no major changes in the design of the Queen Anne-style townhouses. The 18 units in two buildings would each be 2,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet in size, with “first-class amenities,” including internal elevators and underground, secure parking.

The condominiums would be one block from historic Congress Park and walking distance to the Saratoga Race Course on Union Avenue.

In April 2006, when Norstar and architect George Olson of Saratoga Springs presented conceptual plans for the condominiums to neighbors, the reaction was generally positive.

The neighbors said they would rather have the Victorian-style buildings, which would be similar to other buildings on Union Avenue, than the aging, high-rise dormitory.

“It can’t be worse than [Moore Hall],” said Bill Dockum of nearby White Street. “The original concept looks good.”

At that time, company officials said the main condominium units would cost more than $500,000 each.

In the spring of 2006 about 160 students were housed in Moore Hall. That fall, the college completed construction of student townhouses in the North Woods area of campus. Upper-class students moved into the apartments and students who had lived in Moore Hall moved back onto campus.

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