Every five years, Historic Albany Foundation issues an Endangered List for the City of Albany to raise awareness and guide Historic Albany’s advocacy efforts. The Endangered List draws attention to buildings, properties, and landmarks that suffer from vacancy and disinvestment or inappropriate development pressure, and are often potential targets for emergency demolition. The Endangered List raises public awareness for threatened assets and generates efforts to find a solution for these challenges on a larger scale.
The 2015 Endangered List identifies four themes and two individual resources that are at risk. These examples of each theme can be found throughout the City and are representative of a larger problem throughout New York and the United States. We have listed themes this year to highlight reoccurring issues that Historic Albany sees in our advocacy efforts and draw attention to all properties that fall within these categories. This list is a tool for education and advocacy for Historic Albany to preserve and protect Albany’s architecture. In some cases, steps are currently being taken toward planning or investment in these resources, but there is much to be done and we cannot do it alone. To save these endangered buildings, we need the support of many, from neighborhood stakeholders to government agencies. Existing partnerships must be more effective in finding and implementing creative solutions that will result in the restoration, rehabilitation, and most importantly, reuse of our endangered historic resources.
Click below to view remarks about the 2015 Endangered List by Susan Holland.
Scroll down to view and download a PDF of the 2015 Endangered Historic Resources List and the 2015 Endangered Solutions List.
Vacant Religious Properties
With membership in steady decline over the past few decades, many religious congregations throughout the United States are closing their doors. This problem is rampant in Albany, as exemplary examples of high style landmarks and one-time centers of the community sit vacant and fall into severe disrepair. These large scale building types can pose many challenges, but also lend themselves to a unique variety of reuse. As often is the case with massive buildings, the price tag for these projects is equally large, making the Federal and New York State Tax Credits one of the only incentives for rehabilitation and restoration, but a must for success.
A “zombie building” is a vacant or unmaintained property that is trapped in the foreclosure process or estate proceedings. The term also describes buildings where an owner is unreachable, as well as truant owners who mismanage or simply neglect properties. Examples of zombie buildings can be found throughout the city, negatively impacting the surrounding neighborhoods by affecting nearby property values, detracting from a city’s tax revenue, and physically harming neighboring buildings. These buildings present a unique and severe challenge as these are essentially unobtainable properties. Despite any potential financial incentives such as tax credits for the buildings’ rehabilitation, the buildings must first be able to be sold for them to be rehabilitated and reoccupied.
Under-Utilized Municipal Buildings
This theme represents municipal buildings that once served the community and represented public investment and civic pride, but have since fallen into disservice and are unoccupied. These large scale buildings are scattered throughout the city and are a challenge to convert due to their size, location, zoning, and now, condition. Due to their level of significance at the time of construction, these buildings, including public schools, fire and police stations, and city or town offices, typically reflect high style architecture of the period and were centers of the community. These buildings are white elephants that need creative minds and creative funding sources that include the New York State and Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit and municipal support.
Historic Commercial Corridors
Like most 19th century industrial cities, Albany experienced a huge shift in population as residents moved out to the suburbs. Commercial corridors, once bustling with locally operated businesses and tenant housing, now sit vacant and in disrepair. Many of these corridors remain intact, but are threatened by inappropriate development which would destroy much of their character. With the ‘shop local’ movement picking up steam, these corridors are springing back to life and need the right kind of attention to once again become successful centers of neighborhood commerce. Listing as historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places would bring financial benefits such as the New York State and Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits, of up to 40% of the rehabilitation cost for the improvement of these properties and would further spur on economic development.
Rapp Road Historic District
The designation of a Local Historic Landmark or Local Historic District indicates that a property or district deserves a higher level of protection and recognition. The designation, which falls under the authority of a local governing body to identify, brings with it many benefits including tax incentives for property owners, zoning protection, and ensures that the physical integrity of the resource will be protected. The Rapp Road settlement is an excellent example of a priceless cultural and architectural resource in the Capital Region, representing a once thriving African American farming community of the mid-20th Century adjacent to the Pine Bush Preserve. Today the site is faced with the threat of outside development, and while already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a local nomination would protect this precious resources and its unique ecosystem.
James Hall House
The Italianate Villa style building, a National Historic Landmark, hidden along the western edge of Lincoln Park was designed for geologist James Hall in 1852 by prominent American architects Andrew Jackson Downing and his student Calvert Vaux. The building was constructed as the private office and living quarters of Hall, who made
numerous groundbreaking discoveries during his appointment as the State Geologist. While it went through numerous uses and alterations over the last century, including an oversized addition on its southeastern façade in 1977 for a school, the very unique building now sits vacant. Each year the building remains vacant, it will continue to fall deeper into disrepair and is an example of an underutilized resource that is significant at both the
local and national level for its architectural and cultural significance.
Click below to view and download PDF versions of the 2015 Most Endangered Resources List and the 2015 Endangered Solutions list.