Schenectady County

Schenectady County officials to seek new Draper School plans

County officials will begin marketing the former Draper School building after the Disabled American

County officials will begin marketing the former Draper School building after the Disabled American Veterans failed to produce proof of financing to transform the increasingly derelict property into special housing.

In early February, the county’s Metroplex Development Authority asked the organization to offer the proof within 90 days and to formally take title to the property within 120 days. But the veterans remained uncommitted to either deadline, prompting Metroplex to look elsewhere for redevelopment options.

“We’re showing the building to other developers,” Metroplex chairman Ray Gillen said Tuesday.

Gillen said state DAV commander Tom Reiter indicated that his organization was able to proceed with their plans. The DAV had planned a $25 million project to renovate the school into 120 apartments for combat veterans over the age of 55.

The redevelopment of the long-dormant building that housed the International Charter School of Schenectady was announced in December 2011, when county officials made a deal with the DAV to foreclose on the building and partially clear the $163,226 in back taxes that accrued over a three-year period. Metroplex authorized $50,000 to be used toward payment of the outstanding taxes, the veterans agreed to match the amount with $60,000 and the county Legislature agreed to waive the remaining liability.

At the time, Reiter was optimistic that the project would begin shortly and indicated the organization already had a developer in line to start the renovation. But in the months that followed, the veterans made no discernible progress to pay the match and take title to the property.

Contacted in February, Reiter said that his organization was still highly interested in the site but declined to discuss when the veterans would take control of the property. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Metroplex is now taking steps to ensure the property is secure. Gillen said the authority has lined up a contractor to “button up” the building better at a cost of $37,000 — funding that will come from the county’s Capital Resource Corp.

“If you’re going to have a chance to redevelop that building, you have to preserve it,” he said.

The property is still technically owned by the defunct charter school, which no longer exists. First Niagara Bank, the financial institution that held the charter school’s mortgage, has since written off the loss and yielded its lien on the property.

County officials won’t foreclose on the property, since there’s no developer to take title and no clear project to rehabilitate the building in sight. Gillen said Metroplex lawyers are now exploring the bizarre legal limbo surrounding the property.

The 94,000-square-foot building is located in a densely populated neighborhood — something that sparked complaints from surrounding homeowners when the charter school started occupying the property in 2006. Some residents living near the structure complained about the quality-of-life impact the school had among the surrounding homes.

The charter school, however, was short lived. After only two years, state officials declined to renew the school’s charter, citing poor academic performance.

The charter school staff essentially abandoned the property after its final classes concluded in June 2008. Since that time, the structure has suffered from burst pipes, squatters and repeated vandalism, including a small fire.

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