Demolishing the William H. Ford Neighborhood Center would likely take upward of a year, so the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority will explore finding a new owner interested in repairing the deteriorating structure.
Members of the authority’s board of commissioners decided to take the parallel paths aimed at resolving issues with the property during their meeting last week, after it became clear neither option would be quick.
“No matter what we do, it’s going to take time,” said Eric Weller, chairman of the authority’s board.
Built below grade and in an area with groundwater issues, the center has been besieged with problems that culminated in its closure in April, after city officials discovered areas of the building with black mold. Weller said repairing the building would cost roughly $500,000.
“That’s way beyond any capital funds we have access to,” he said.
But another organization might have the resources to fix up the property and put it back to use, Weller said. And until the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approves the demolition, he said the authority should seek other options.
Weller said the property around the Ford Center could be conducive to development. Even if the building was demolished, the site could be utilized for something new, provided careful attention is paid to the groundwater problem when designing the foundation of the new building.
The building, is a steel-girder structure constructed on a slab that is about a foot below grade, Weller said. The design means groundwater flows into the building, which has caused a variety of problems ranging from water damage to its walls to the black mold that ultimately led to it being shuttered.
“The problem with the building is it was poorly sited,” Weller said. “It’s not just a mold issue.”
Built in 1998 and named in honor of the authority’s first executive director, the center was aimed at prompting residents of the adjacent Jefferson Terrace and Vanderbilt Terrace apartments to get involved in neighborhood activities. The site hosted after-school programs, a food bank, domestic violence programs, community policing and Neighborhood Watch.
The authority now must show the federal government the cost to repair the structure outweighs the benefit it provides residents. Many of the building’s functions are now being covered by the city Recreation Center.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen believes there’s still a need for the space the Ford Center once provided for the housing authority’s residents. She said organizations like Rebuild Saratoga or Habitat for Humanity — with some federal assistance — may be able to find a new use for the building.