The Troy city council tabled the sale of a vacant, city-owned parcel of land near the corner of Ferry and Fourth streets to a major Capital Region real-estate developer after concerns were raised on behalf of a competing bidder at a related public hearing on Dec. 7.
“I’m gonna pull it,” city councilman Mark McGrath told planning commissioner Steve Strichman in a testy exchange toward the end of the hearing, “until we get all the information.” Later that evening, the council approved the sale of a dozen other properties across the city to various bidders, minus the property in question, 86 Ferry St.
The public hearing, video of which was obtained by The Alt, pertained to the potential transfer of a nearby city-owned parking lot on Fourth St., between Ferry and Congress, to the Troy Local Development Corporation, a nonprofit effectively controlled by the city. The LDC would then transfer the 32-space lot to the real-estate developer that purchases the half-acre, adjacent property—a former KeyBank site.
That prospective buyer appears to be The Rosenblum Companies, though a spokesman would not confirm or deny this, instead referring us to a statement provided last month, which said it is “too early” to discuss any new projects.
Chris Farrell, a real-estate agent at Vanguard-Fine, told The Alt on Wednesday that the KeyBank site is under contract and expected to close in February. He declined to share the buyer’s identity, the sale price, or any plans for the site.
The Alt reported on Nov. 22 that Rosenblum had applied to purchase two small lots that nearly surround the downtown Troy location of Capitaland Taxi Corp. at the corner of Ferry and Fourth streets. In its proposals, Rosenblum said the two sites—163 Fourth and 86 Ferry streets—would be used for “private parking related to [a] prospective development project,” presumably at the KeyBank site.
Rosenblum offered $500 for each parcel. But, as was revealed at the hearing, the owner of 84 Ferry St., Yolanda DerArakelian, had offered $1,000 for 86 Ferry St.
If her bid were chosen, DerArakelian, an elderly widow, would sell both 84 and 86 Ferry St. to Bob and Maria Decker, who would live there and construct a patio (where Rosenblum would put a parking lot) to complement Maria’s catering business on the ground floor. The Deckers, along with a neighbor of DerArakelian who said he had assisted her with her proposal, spoke at the hearing to press her case.
The city’s property review committee—which, by law, consists of four administration officials and two city council members—had recommended Rosenblum’s bid. According to the statute, the committee must weigh considerations like potential owner-occupancy, positive neighborhood impact, and long-term tax revenue.
Councilman Jim Gulli, who participated in the review committee deliberations, said at the public hearing that choosing the Rosenblum proposal “seemed to be the smarter move” at the time, since he understood it was important for facilitating the larger project at the KeyBank site. Gulli also did not recall reading of the Deckers’ business in DerArakelian’s proposal.
Asked by Gulli at the public hearing if a failure to acquire 86 Ferry St. would sink Rosenblum’s project at the KeyBank site, planning commissioner Steve Strichman offered a somewhat cryptic answer.
“There’s a lot of pieces that come together to make this happen,” he said. “There’s not a lot of land; there’s not a lot of parking. So in order for them to put something together, they’ve got to move a lot of chess pieces.”
The transfer of the city-owned parking lot to the LDC would only occur after the city had secured a roughly equivalent amount of public parking in the immediate vicinity, Strichman said. The developer would apparently assemble this replacement lot. (Strichman did not return an email on Friday asking if that’s what Rosenblum ultimately is trying to do at Ferry and Fourth.)
At an October meeting of the LDC, Strichman, who is the nonprofit’s executive director, briefly addressed the reason behind its role as a kind of middleman in the apparent land swap. If “the LDC was not involved,” he said, according to minutes, the “process would become competitive and take much longer.”
Strichman also disclosed at that meeting that Rosenblum “may be approaching” the city’s industrial development authority for tax breaks related to the KeyBank site project.
Rosenblum’s last interaction with the Troy IDA did not end happily, as outgoing city councilman Dean Bodnar, who serves on the IDA board until next month, seemed to recall at the Dec. 7 city council meeting.
“This corporation got my dander up,” Bodnar said, before voting—in what amounted to a symbolic gesture—against a package of property sales specifically because it included the transfer of 163 Fourth St. to Rosenblum.
Bodnar alluded only vaguely to the root issue, but it appeared he was referring to an incident in 2015, when then-planning commissioner Bill Dunne accused the developer of “PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes] shopping” by exacting more generous tax breaks from the county IDA after initially working out a deal with the city agency.
If the developer of the KeyBank-parking lot bundle does seek tax breaks from the Troy IDA, it appears the LDC, for its role in teeing up the deal, would receive a portion of administrative fees paid to the IDA, pursuant to a new policy adopted Friday.
The LDC, somewhat constrained in its economic development activities for the next few years by hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual debt service on a federal loan related to the contaminated King Fuels site it owns in South Troy, could potentially put the fees toward small business loans or the now-moribund facade grant program.
The fate of 86 Ferry St. will now be decided by the next iteration of the city council, who take office in January, council president Carmella Mantello told The Alt.
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