The Union Street Bed and Breakfast, site of advertised sex parties, was sold Monday and the new owner plans to covert the Victorian mansion to medical offices on the first floor while retaining the apartments on the second and third floors.
The sex toys and the elaborate dungeon in the basement will disappear, closing another chapter in the mansion’s 111-year-old history, although the owner plans to retain the large American flag that hangs off the front porch at 1362 Union St.
Dr. Tom Qualtere bid $180,000 for the 6,000-square-foot, 14-bedroom house at an auction authorized by owner Bob Alexson. Qualtere has until Oct. 31 to close on the sale.
He placed a non-refundable down payment of $7,500 with Alexson at the end of the auction.
Qualtere will expand his psychiatric practice into the first floor, redoing four bedrooms there into patient rooms. He is director of the Psychiatric Group of Albany, a practice with eight psychiatrists and three nurse practitioners with offices in Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady.
“It will be ideal from a parking standpoint and for accessibility,” he said of his new purchase. “We will keep the bed and breakfast, and we hope that will be self-sufficient.”
Qualtere said the building’s history does not bother him, saying, “It’s time to move on.”
The neighborhood, which is zoned commercial, contains other physicians’ offices and beds and breakfasts.
He plans to retain his current Schenectady office at 1405 Union St. for now, he said.
The B&B gained notoriety in 2006 when neighbor Dana Swalla complained to city officials that Alexson held all-night sex parties at the mansion. Alexson said the parties were private affairs held in his home and not subject to city interference. He lives in the basement, he said, and did not operate the facility as a sex club.
The city tried several ways to close down Alexson. In May, city Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden signed a cease-and-desist order, saying that an investigation proved Alexson was running an adult business by hosting publicly advertised swingers’ parties in a part of the city not zoned for such enterprise. The order gave him six months to “wind down” the parties before city officials took action on what they considered a violation of Schenectady’s zoning laws.
The threat was the latest in two years of tough talk from the city that did not lead to any action. Van Norden said Monday that nothing was in the works to force Alexson to leave and that city officials were not involved in Alexson’s decision to sell.
He was not particularly overjoyed by the sale, saying the B&B was no longer a problem.
“It seems like it was pretty calm the last year,” Van Norden said, but added, “Certainly if it brings that point of contention to rest, good, so we can focus on other matters.”
Alexson said on Monday the city’s cease-and-desist order had nothing to do with his decision to sell. “I always said by the time I was 50 I would go to Florida,” he said. “I will miss my friends, I won’t miss the politicians. I have never seen anyone so interested in what I do in my bedroom as around here.”
Alexson said his mother and two brothers live in Florida and that he has several job offers pending there.
Swalla did not attend the auction, nor did she answer a knock at her door. Another neighbor reluctantly answered questions about the B&B but refused to provide a name, saying she wanted to stay out of the issue.
“Honestly, the notoriety wasn’t a huge issue for us. I understand from other people there were loud parties at night, but we never heard anything,” the neighbor said. “For resale purposes, it is better that it is gone.”
The neighbor was happy to hear of Qualtere’s plans for medical offices. “That is the whole of Union Street,” the woman said.
Alexson remained undaunted by his battle with the city and Swalla. “There will be another party Friday. You want to come?” he asked the reporters covering Monday’s auction. “I will have a big party right before we close.”
Randy Passonno, president of Collar-City Auctions Realty and Management, who conducted Monday’s auction, said 10 people registered to bid on the property. Several made bids by phone, preferring anonymity. Qualtere attended the auction.
Bidding began at $300,000 and quickly dropped to $140,000. The price then climbed slowly in increments of $5,000 until Qualtere placed the final bid of $180,000. Collar-City is to receive a 12 percent commission on top of the sale price.
Qualtere said he learned of the auction when he drove by the sign announcing the sale. “I am happy with the price. After looking around, the price was reasonable,” he said.
Alexson had initially offered the property for sale at $269,000 but could not find a buyer. He said his plan was always to go to auction if he did not get his price up front. “It’s a good price,” he said of Qualtere’s bid. “We always list it higher than what we get.”
In 2001, Alexson paid $79,000 for the former adult home. The property’s annual taxes are $9,293 and its annual rental income when fully occupied is about $107,000, he said.
Nine tenants live at the house currently. Qualtere said he does not want to disrupt their lives by evicting them. He added he plans to make the house handicapped accessible.