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What you need to know for 12/14/2017

Saratoga Springs officials worried about empty building

Saratoga Springs officials worried about empty building

City officials are growing concerned because the former Borders bookstore at the corner of Broadway

City officials are growing concerned because the former Borders bookstore at the corner of Broadway and Division Street has been vacant for more than a year now.

The prominent building is considered one of the best locations in the city’s downtown.

“A vacant building does become a local problem after a period of time,” Mayor Scott Johnson said Monday.

He said the building’s owner, Myron M. Hunt Inc. of Buffalo, might need to start “redefining” the way it plans to rent the space.

Chris Hunt of Myron Hunt said Monday the company would prefer to lease the entire space — 25,000 square feet space on two floors — to a single tenant.

“We’ve been in discussion with a number of possible tenants,” he said during a telephone conversation. “We would like to get someone to use the entire building. There has been plenty of interest.”

He admitted, however, that the company’s preference for a single tenant may not work out. “We are in discussions with two possible tenants,” he said.

Hunt would not characterize the type of tenants with which his company is having discussions.

Local residents were surprised and disappointed in February 2011 to learn that the bookstore would soon close its doors. It was part of a wave of closures by the national retailer as it struggled to survive bankruptcy.

The Broadway store opened in 2000. But company officials described it and eight other bookstores it was closing in New York state as underperforming.

In the summer of 2011, Borders closed all of its 642 stores across the country in a liquidation action, including the Borders stores in Clifton Park and the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland.

Many local residents said it appeared the Saratoga Springs Borders was a busy, successful bookstore.

“Borders was a good draw to our buildings,” said Jeff Clark, president of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association.

He said restaurants and retail shops on Broadway thought Borders brought people downtown. He said the restaurants and shops would see people coming into their businesses carrying Borders bags.

“It is definitely a concern to the DBA” to have such a good location on Broadway vacant for more than a year, Clark said. “We hope to get a really good store [into the Borders location].

“We would like to have a presence there to bring more folks downtown,” he said.

Johnson said last spring when Borders closed that the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association would be working together to do whatever they could to fill the empty space with a suitable retailer.

The Borders lease would have expired in 2020. The owner was asking $16.17 per square foot last summer to lease the property.

Tom Frost, the local architect who designed the Borders, said Myron Hunt wanted the building designed so that if Borders eventually moved out, the second floor of the building could be separated from the first floor if necessary.

An additional set of stairs was included in the building that allows the second floor to be accessed from the outside so the building could have a retail store on the first floor and offices on the second floor.

The Borders building replaced what many city residents called the Red Barn, named for a long-gone fast food eatery. A pizza restaurant was the last business in the old Red Barn building before it was demolished to make room for Borders.

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