A Schenectady institution is for sale.
The Price Chopper Community Room, across from the Price Chopper supermarket on Eastern Parkway, is listed at $449,000. Those who use the free space were informed last month they will have to find a new location by the end of the year.
“We will honor all reservations that have been made through the end of 2013,” company spokeswoman Mona Golub said.
She sent a personal letter notifying every organization that had used the room in the past three years, even those that had used it just once.
In its heyday, 50 to 60 groups used the building every year, mostly for free. The tradition began with a group of dedicated bridge players who asked to rent space for their games. They still rent a portion of the building, called the Bridge Studio.
They sublet their space to the Schenectady Wargamers Association, which began holding regular games, complete with armies of miniatures that needed the sort of space most living rooms could not provide.
Soon others began asking if they, too, could meet at the building. Price Chopper decided to open a room for them to use for free, and dozens of neighborhood groups signed up.
In the former Central Markets storefront, people planned neighborhood watches, organized playground fundraisers and created task forces to take on local problems. But when Price Chopper moved its back-office operations to its new headquarters on Nott Street, the groups were all warned the end was coming.
Many found other places to meet. Only a few stuck it out, including the bridge players, the wargamers, several neighborhood associations and a new landlord group, Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change.
In March, groups said they had been told, “This will not go on forever.” But Golub said then that there had been no recent discussions on whether to sell the building. She said Price Chopper encouraged groups to find other locations because it was more difficult to run the free room without Price Chopper workers in the back office. Staffers had to be sent to unlock the room for each meeting.
Last month, Price Chopper decided to put the building on the market.
“We’re hoping the building sells,” Golub said.
The building, at 1643 Eastern Parkway, which measures about 20,000 square feet, is on a busy street, but some nearby commercial buildings are shuttered and have been vacant for years.
When rumors of selling the building surfaced months ago, wargamers Treasurer Eric Paperman said he would love to buy the building with other members of his club. But this week he said he had been advised against buying a building. Others who owned their own meeting place told him it was better to rent.
“Leaving aside the question of money, we still have the issue of the time and effort of being owners of a building with commercial tenants,” he said.