If it was a good idea in 2011 for the Saratoga County Industrial Development agency to provide sales and other tax breaks for a project that would reuse an abandoned mill in the tiny village of Victory — and it was — it’s an even better one now. That’s because the developer, Uri Kaufman, would pay significantly more local property taxes than under his earlier proposal. And because, with the GlobalFoundries chip plant finally ramping up to full operation and the possiblity of another one being built, the project looks quite viable. There should be plenty of demand for the 98 luxury apartments, as well as the 100-child day-care facility.
The IDA rejected Kaufman two years ago, with some members saying they didn’t want to subsidize a for-profit developer or approve a project that wasn’t strictly industrial development. These were not very convincing reasons, since the Saratoga and other IDAs have done this in the past. And not very good policy, since the project was (and still is) exactly the kind the village needs: one that saves a beautiful, historic building in an already-developed area and puts it to a new, valuable use — in this case, housing for high-income tech workers. It is the essence of smart growth.
Kaufman has a history with these types of projects, which rely on local tax incentives as well as federal ones for historic buildings. They’re complicated deals that don’t always work out, such as his plan to restore the old Chalmers Knitting Mill in Amsterdam: The Common Council got tired of waiting for Kaufman to deliver and had the building demolished. On the other hand, his restoration of the old Harmony Mills Complex in Cohoes as loft apartments has been an unqualified success and a boon to that city.
Kaufman is asking the IDA for a lot: a mortgage tax exemption worth an estimated $250,000 and a sales tax exemption on building materials worth $920,000. But he would also be putting $26 million into the project, and is now offering to pay some significant taxes during a 10-year period: $15,500 for the first two years and $147,500 annually for the next eight. Local officials and residents favor the proposal.
The building isn’t about to be used for manufacturing again, and no other projects have been proposed. If Kaufman walks away, the mill would simply deteriorate further and probably, like the Chalmers Building, have to come down. That would be a giant cost — anywhere from $1 million to $3 million — and giant waste of an opportunity. The IDA should approve Kaufman’s proposal.