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What you need to know for 04/28/2017

Schenectady land bank makes first home sale

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Schenectady land bank makes first home sale

Schenectady’s land bank has sold its first property.
Schenectady land bank makes first home sale
Land Bank house located at 1006 Strong St.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Schenectady’s land bank has sold its first property.

The organization, officially known as the Land Reutilization Corporation of the Capital Region, sold the home at 1006 Strong St. for $5,000. The new owners plan to occupy the residence once it is renovated.

The property, which had been in foreclosure, was given to the land bank by Deutsche Bank National Trust Company last July. The bank also provided $15,000 to offset carrying costs.

“We reviewed it and had it inspected by city inspectors, and we decided that it was a good candidate to have someone renovate instead of tear it down,” said Robert Hoffman, the land bank’s chairman and chair of the Schenectady County Legislature’s Committee on Neighborhood Revitalization and Housing.

Renovations will run between $40,000 and $50,000 on the two-family home, he estimated.

“It had good bones, but it needed every single wall and ceiling redone because it had sat there empty with no heat for a while,” he said. “Everything was peeling and cracking and I think pipes had been stolen out of the basement.”

The new owners, a husband and wife with an infant, currently live on State Street. They plan to renovate the first unit of the house within six months and will move in while working on the second unit, said Steve Strichman, executive director of the land bank.

The land bank held two open houses at the Strong Street property and specifically sought out an owner-occupant.

In existence since 2012, the land bank operates in the county and city of Schenectady and in Amsterdam, with a goal to revitalize neighborhoods. A land bank owns property as a not-for-profit, which means the property is off the tax rolls. Since the corporation is not required to pay taxes, it can afford to hold property longer, Hoffman explained.

The organization is initially focusing revitalization efforts along the Eastern Avenue corridor. After acquiring the Strong Street property, its second acquisition was a vacant building at 870 Eastern Ave., which is slated to be demolished.

“We intend to tear it down along with Latimer’s Tavern next-door, which is also next-door to another vacant lot that the city owns, and through some cooperation with Metroplex and the city, we hope to end up with all three lots vacant,” Hoffman said.

About two weeks ago, land bank officials held a neighborhood meeting to discuss what residents would like to see done with the three properties. The consensus was to use them to make another entrance to Vale Park.

“That’s our long-range plan, but there’s a lot of work to be done. There’s a pretty steep hill and a lot of junk that has been dumped in there for years and years that we’d have to clean up,” Hoffman pointed out.

Land bank officials are working with Metroplex and the city of Schenectady on other plans for the Eastern Avenue corridor from Nott Terrace to Elmer Avenue.

“Metroplex is going to obtain approximately seven properties that we hope to knock down and make some green space to alleviate the congestion of vacant homes,” Hoffman said.

Mayor Gary McCarthy voiced excitement over the land bank’s first home sale and said he looks forward to more in the future.

“The land bank is kind of one of the tools of the belt that we’re looking to use in moving distressed properties from a liability to an asset in the community,” he said.

A five-year business plan is being developed by land bank officials to ensure continued funding is available for demolitions, renovations and banking of land, Strichman said.

The land bank has a funding commitment of $100,000 from Schenectady County over the next two years, plus $150,000 in grant money from the state Attorney General’s Office. It is eligible to apply for additional funding from the Attorney General’s Office later this year.

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