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Miracle on Craig Street in limbo in Schenectady as nonprofit awaits building handover

Miracle on Craig Street in limbo in Schenectady as nonprofit awaits building handover

Nonprofit seeking access to Craig Street building
Miracle on Craig Street in limbo in Schenectady as nonprofit awaits building handover
The exterior of the former Carver Community Center on Craig Street in Schenectady is shown.
Photographer: Marc Schultz / Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY — The group seeking to resurrect the Carver Center has conducted a feasibility study, developed a financial plan, lined up grants and consultants and donated thousands of hours of volunteer manpower. 

Now after four years of work, Miracle on Craig Street has hit a wall.

“I really think we’ve done all we can up until now,” Rosa Rivera, the nonprofit’s executive director, told the City Council’s Government Operations Committee on Tuesday. 

The nonprofit is asking City Hall to grant it access to the building so it can further its plans to reopen the mothballed community center. 

Lawmakers said they will revisit the issue in two weeks after huddling with the city Corporation Counsel’s Office. 

Miracle is now in a holding pattern.

Without access to the building, the nonprofit cannot secure a credit line from lending institutions nor gauge interest from private businesses that may be interested in leasing or developing space, a critical component of the organization’s plan to generate revenue.

“We’re not really able to show the condition the building is in,” Rivera said. “We’ve done the best we can without showing people.” 

The Carver Center closed in 2013 because of financial problems, and Miracle estimates a full rehabilitation of the structure would cost $1.5 million and take three years.

FUNDING PUZZLE

Miracle intends to transform the center into a neighborhood hub, providing community programming alongside study areas, athletic space, kitchen access and other charitable services.

The city said it will sell the structure at 700 Craig St. to the non-profit for $1 and gave Miracle until Sept. 30 to demonstrate it has the financial resources to bring the building up to code.

Miracle previously pegged those costs at $318,867, and Rivera on Tuesday said the first phase of renovation costs would be $345,000.

Repairs include replacing the boiler along with installing a commercial ventilation system and completing work on both the plumbing and electrical systems.  

City lawmakers previously extended the deadline in order for the non-profit to obtain a $70,000 line of credit funding to serve as a funding bridge.

Ultimately, those efforts fell flat. 

“We're not able to get a line of credit into any lending institutions,” Rivera said. 

Miracle, she said, has technically fulfilled its agreement with the city to have $300,000 committed in order to close by Sept. 30. 

Project documents state Miracle will utilize revolving lines of credit to borrow $311,717 during the first year for capital costs.

The city obtained $150,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants last summer, and Metroplex Development Authority is committing $150,000 pending board approval. The William Gundry Foundation will contribute $25,000.

But the $300,000 in matching grants requires the nonprofit to generate that same amount. 

“They’re not going to match the city’s funds, but the organization’s funds,” said Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas, who said Metroplex’s success, in part, can be attributed to the economic development corporation’s ability to leverage outside funds. 

While Zalewski-Wildzunas said she isn't against a handover, she wants to ensure the center would be self-sufficient and not depend on the city for operating money.

Miracle has raised $45,000 through crowdfunding efforts, which it hopes to bolster with its new "Pave the Way” campaign, which allows donors to buy a brick for $500

Rivera said the organization will apply for historic designation status with the New York State Historic Preservation Office, which would free up more grants if awarded. 

However, site control is required before the application can be submitted.

Miracle estimates $122,285 in estimated annual revenues between 2020 and 2023, including proceeds from hosting special events, membership dues and rental income.

Rivera told lawmakers those estimates remain on track and are considered “very conservative.”

Four businesses have expressed interest in becoming anchor tenants, she said, including a juice bar and childcare provider. 

NO IDEAL CIRCUMSTANCE

City Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said City Council ultimately has the authority to determine the terms of any sales or rental contract, which could include a reversion clause putting the site back under city ownership if the nonprofit fails to meet designated conditions. 

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo likened the current situation to a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. 

“I think if anyone is waiting on ideal circumstances, we won’t get them,” said Travon T. Jackson, president and managing director of BlueLight Development Group, which is serving as a consultant to Miracle.

City resident Walter Simpkins said he is supportive of the project, which he said may help draw away some of the neighborhood adolescents annoying senior citizens at nearby Hillside View Apartments.

“To leave this as a blight would really be a disservice to all of us and the community,” Simpkins said.

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