Albany Economic Development Manager Seth Sherry updated members of the Central Albany Revitalization Area board on Wednesday, about the sale of the old Wells Fargo building, 300 First Ave. W., saying no other offers for the building had been received since the board listed it in April.
The Albany Revitalization Area, for which CARA acts as an advisory board, purchased the property for $1.5 million in February, noting that it had been a key element of the downtown’s revitalization and redevelopment.
Sherry reminded the CARA board that it had heard two proposals for the property. Those proposals were not presented to the board in open session and the details of those potential projects have not been made public.
Sherry suggested that the board choose between the offers during its next meeting, scheduled for June 19. He said the intent to sell would allow staff to negotiate the specifics of a contract and include a caveat that a development agreement would be required prior to closing the sale.
The timing concerned board member Rich Kellum.
“I have a problem with the idea that we’re going to tell people we’ve picked someone before we know what they agree to do,” said Kellum, who also sits on the City Council.
Sherry said he intended for the process to be public, not private, and asked that the board provide him with direction as to essential information it would require to agree to move forward with intent to sell on June 19.
Mayor Sharon Konopa, who sits on the CARA and ARA boards, said she wanted to know what a proposal’s plan for the exterior of the building would be and whether the potential developers had a “unique use to attract visitors.”
Board member and City Councilor Bill Coburn said he wanted to wait to hear from the city’s parking consultant. He said he had made no secret of his desire to tear the building down to provide additional parking in the downtown area.
“There’s no urgency to sell,” he said.
Sherry said his sense was the two developers behind the offers did not want to wait six months.
“The longer we wait, there’s a legitimate risk of losing those offers,” he said.
According to Sherry, the parking study the city has contracted for would not be ready until late summer or early fall, making it impossible to wait for the study before making a decision on June 19.
Konopa echoed Sherry in saying the city could lose potential developers’ interest in the building if it waited for the parking study. Sherry also noted that the development agreement could hash out details concerning the existing parking lot on the property.
“I would just hate to hear from the consultant this fall that, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you bought half a block downtown?’” Coburn said.
In April, local developer Marc Manley, who redeveloped the Flinn Block and Ames buildings, said he had a proposal for the building saying, “We are thrilled to propose, once again contributing to the revitalization of downtown Albany in a way that benefits all of Albany by creating a wonderful town center.”
The second developer has not been publicly identified.