News: Estee demolition financing sought

Housing financing still up in the air

By MICHAEL ANICH, Leader Herald

CRG President and CEO Ron Peters said Friday he thought he would have heard by now from the state Division of Housing & Community Renewal.

He said the state will be announcing soon whether financing for Liberty Affordable Housing Inc. of Rome, Oneida County, will come to fruition.

“It may be in the next month,” Peters said.

The CRG owns the Estee building, which is destined for demolition anyway.

“We’re looking at taking the property down in any event, before the end of the year,” Peters said.

Liberty Affordable Housing has plans for an $8 million housing complex at the site of the former middle school facing North Main Street. The firm, which owns apartment complexes in Amsterdam and elsewhere in upstate New York, agreed in 2013 to buy the property. The company wants to tear down the vacant school and build a 37-unit apartment building.

But Liberty Affordable Housing’s purchase is contingent on funding from the state Division of Housing & Community Renewal. The company was unsuccessful in its first two applications, including last year when it sought $2 million in Housing Trust Fund Program funds and $800,000 from low income housing credit programs.

Liberty Affordable Housing’s purchase may also include the 39-unit Estee Commons on Fremont Street. It is the portion of the former school renovated into downtown apartments several years ago.

Liberty Affordable Housing’s contract with the CRG expires after this round of funding. The CRG estimates an $800,000 demolition cost.

The city has $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the property which must be spent by the year’s end. Along with other state funding, there is about $650,000 available toward demolition. The balance would hopefully come from other state funds, Peters says.

The state Division of Housing & Community Renewal’s regional office in Syracuse couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.

Razing the former Estee Middle School would be the second large demolition in the city this decade. In 2011, the abandoned First Baptist Church on South Main Street was demolished at a total cost around $500,000, most of it covered by state funds.

Reporter Michael Anich can be contacted by email at johnstown@leaderherald.com.