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AIDA trying to deal with an albatross

Friday, September 06, 2013 - Updated: 11:31 AM


A Main Street property's mural that has caused tension in the city has been deemed a "marketing limitation" by the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency's newly-hired broker.

The board passed a resolution Thursday night to enter a contract with Pyramid Brokerage Co., which will help market 44-46 Main St. Because the board's attorney Chuck Schwartz was absent from the meeting, it passed the resolution under the condition it meets his approval.

The mural, on the second floor of AIDA's property, is a landscape river scene of the William Johnson house in Fort Johnson. It is peeling and has been defaced with spray paint near the bottom. The mural stretches across the 16-foot walls, all the way around the room. Because of its apparent historic nature, a group of city residents, including Mayor Ann Thane, has been advocating its preservation.

Michael Sampone of Pyramid Brokerage Co. based in Latham presented a marketing plan to the board and gave AIDA his best advice:Move forward without the mural or get rid of the building.

"You're limiting any opportunities to lease that space out if there are requirements that you can't touch the walls," Sampone said.

"It's an albatross," board member Michael LaCoppola said, touching on the mural's burdensome nature.

When it comes to selling the building, Sampone said, nobody will want to buy it if there are limitations because of potential historic value.

The grants AIDA received to fund the building's projects stipulate it cannot sell the property for five years. If AIDA made a profit equivalent to the grant, the rule would be tossed; however, the board agreed it would be difficult to get $600,000 to pay off the grants.

"I think it's very clear what Michael's trying to say," building and grounds director Pat Baia said. "It's in our best interest to move forward without the mural, as far as renting it or selling it."

Sampone said the building is "not an easily marketable property," but it has potential. Under the assumption that the first floor would be leased to a restaurant and the two upper floors to residential tenants, he said AIDA would have to "give them a fair price."

As a broker, he has accepted the fact that he won't make money in this partnership and said AIDA probably won't for a while either.

"I'm doing this because you guys asked me," Sampone said. "Also because I live here. I want to see this downtown [succeed.] ... I'm trying to draw business to Montgomery County."

For a lease, Sampone's company charges 5 percent and 6 percent if it sells the property -- in each instance only garnering Sampone a couple hundred dollars.

He said he would suggest renting the apartments for around $750 a month, utilities not included and necessitating a one-year lease. For the offices, he would suggest starting at $5 per square foot; comparable, he said, to area offers. As an example, the first floor is 15,000 square feet, which would bring $75,000 a year and $750 a month.

After Sampone left, the board discussed his presentation, Baia reinforcing Sampone's position on the mural: "It has to go."

"We all know that," LaCoppola said. "No one wants to say it. It's the elephant in the room."

Though they talked about it, they did not vote on whether to move forward without consideration to the mural, as Sampone suggested, because executive director Jody Zakrevsky said it would be unfair to "a board member."

That board member brought in VK Restoration, a fine art and historic restoration business from Holyoke, Mass., to evaluate how much restoring the mural would cost, Zakrevsky said. They took measurements and paint samples and will deliver a detailed report by next week.

Originally, Thane said she received a quote for $19,000, but Zakrevsky said he thinks it will "cost a lot."

Depending on grants the board receives, members said they will proceed, though, with "the objective to cover the mural."

In other news, in the wake of former chairman Daniel DeRossi's death last week, Ronald Barone was voted chairman of the board and LaCoppola vice chairman.


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