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010819-adh-nws-Cheese Grater01-my

The 'cheese grater' building on First Avenue in Albany. Its ts distinctive facade was added in 1960.

Mercy House International has decided it's not going to restore the "cheese grater" building on First Avenue in downtown Albany, saying costs are simply too high.

The faith-based nonprofit, which helps women and children escape from domestic abuse, operates a secondhand clothing store and a bridal boutique at 415 and 421 W. First Ave. The Italianate-style brick building was constructed in 1866 and received its distinctive metal facade — which some have said resembles a cheese grater — in 1960.

Mercy House representatives applied for a $10,000 grant in July 2018 from the Central Albany Revitalization Area to help restore the building's original facade. But Deborah Boulanger, the nonprofit's founder and president, said that's no longer the plan, so the money will not be allocated.

"The building is deteriorating, so is not working for us the way it is," she said in an emailed statement to the Democrat-Herald. "We will be moving to a new location to further our ministry in the near future."

The location of the new boutique will be announced at the end of February, Boulanger said. 

The cost was the main factor, said Colleen Anderson, boutique manager. She said the quote to do the entire building, including restoring the upstairs, was about $2.3 million.

The organization is planning its seventh annual Gala and Fundraiser for Feb. 1 at North Albany Community Church. Tickets are available at the boutique's current location.

The Central Albany Revitalization Area, known for short as CARA, is an urban renewal district that has targeted the downtown business area for improvement.

Its advisory board decided in October to discontinue the grant programs that helped with small-scale renovation projects on historic buildings to concentrate instead on riverfront redevelopment between Ellsworth and Calapooia streets.

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