The Albany Revitalization Agency will move to possibly sell the St. Francis Hotel in downtown Albany during its Wednesday, Jan. 15, meeting.
According to Economic Development Manager Seth Sherry, city staff acquired an option to purchase the St. Francis and Rhodes Block buildings in June 2019, acting on the ARA's behalf.
The upcoming agenda item marks the first public discussion of the ARA taking action on the purchase and development of the St. Francis.
Next Wednesday, staff is requesting that it be authorized to execute a contract with MMVentures Inc. for the purchase and redevelopment of the buildings. Local developer Marc Manley, representing the company, will be on hand to present his vision for the property which, according to a memo from Sherry to the ARA board, will include elements of residential, retail, commercial and hospitality.
According to Sherry, staff has been in conversations with Pride Printing Co. Inc. — the building's current occupants and owners — for nearly two years to “understand and answer some of the more critical questions and barriers towards redevelopment.”
Those barriers included structural stability, financing, parking and the potential of hazardous materials, among others.
Manley was chosen after Sherry spent six months speaking with developers.
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“He has made the best offer and shown real intent and capacity to move forward with it,” Sherry said.
Regarding questions about whether the ARA or staff made the decision to allow MMVentures to develop the property, Sherry said it was both.
“Ultimately, it was the ARA, but staff does, in most cases, the practical work of the agency,” he said. “I indicated to the ARA that I had received a purchase offer from MMVentures, albeit incomplete at the time, and asked for direction on proceeding. That was, should I continue to solicit the opportunity or work with MMVentures to bring a complete and satisfactory purchase offer to the ARA for consideration? They indicated at the time that they would like to consider the offer when it was ready.”
Those discussions specifically naming the possible purchase of St. Francis or MMVentures as the developer for the property, were not held in public.
Funds from the purchase of the building are ARA funds, which are garnered through the urban renewal district and can be spent only on projects in the ARA. The purchase and development of the St. Francis Hotel falls in line with the district’s mission to decrease blight and improve the downtown area.
In a memo to the ARA board, Sherry said the intent of acquiring the option to purchase the buildings was to allow ARA to find a buyer interested in redeveloping the property in a way that contributed to the revitalization of the CARA district. It is the intent of the ARA, he said, to exercise the option once the development agreement with MMVentures is complete.
“This agreement will include elements such as intended use, design elements and potential partnerships,” the memo reads.
According to Sherry, a contract included in the agenda information shows an offer by MMVentures of $700,000 for the property, but that agreement has not been signed. According to Sherry, all other financial details of the purchase and sale are still under negotiation and unavailable to the public.