Renovations progress at city properties

GLOVERSVILLE – Progress has been made on the estimated $1 million project to renovate four buildings in downtown to create retail space and the area’s first “apart-hotel.”

Two Great Guys Realty owner David Eager said he believes 20-24 S. Main St., which are old brick and brownstone buildings that have not been occupied in years, will be ready for a certificate of occupancy within approximately 18 months.

“This project has taken a few years because I’m trying to do it without any debt,” he said.

The long-anticipated Two Great Guys project in downtown has had its ups and downs, but now appears to be near completion. Originally, the two great guys, Eager and John Betor, had hoped to receive government grant money to help get their project going, but when that didn’t happen, the project stalled.

“That kind of knocked the wind out of my sails,” Eager said.

While the project was in development limbo, Two Great Guys Realty, which is based in Saratoga Springs, faced problems from city code violations and unpaid property taxes. Eventually, Betor left Two Great Guys Realty, but Eager has remained and helped push things closer to completion.

Eager said the development has now benefited from an $85,000 state Main Street restoration grant, as well as a property tax incentive program for mixed-use buildings in downtown areas that will keep the property tax assessment for the development frozen at its current level for eight years and then gradually rise to full valuation after 12 years. He said he hasn’t borrowed any money or brought in any investors into the project, as of yet, in part because he wants the flexibility of having a long period of time for his investment to pay off.

“I think Gloversville has some architecturally beautiful buildings, but there is no doubt that New York state and Gloversville have not been doing well recently,” he said. “I’m trying not to finance this because it’s questionable what’s going to happen. We’re making an effort to repopulate downtown Gloversville because a lot of businesses have moved out of the area and none are moving back in.”

Engineer for the project Darrin Romeyn, owner of DM Romeyn Civil Engineering Design, said over the next year, an elevator will be put into one of the buildings, and new upper and lower parking lots, including a partition between them, will be built behind the buildings.

“The floors were so bad in some of the buildings, we had to gut them, so that just a shell was left,” Romeyn said. “What we plan on doing with the upper floors is power washing the outside and replacing the loose brick and mortar and painting the buildings.”

The buildings are within the city’s historic district, which means the project will include restoring the cornices and lintels on the outside of the buildings and preserving the character of its recessed entrances with their barreled ceilings and older-style windows, but the plan is for a more high-tech approach to other features of the building, including a security camera system, and fingerprint ID and/or card-entry systems for the doors.

“There won’t be any keys; it will be a state-of-the-art complex, basically,” Romeyn said.

The buildings will feature 18 apartment/hotel rooms, two of them with three bedrooms, six with two bedrooms and 10 with one bedroom. The first floor of the buildings will feature four retail spaces. The apartments will feature walk-in closets, washers and dryers in every space, kitchen islands and appliances including a microwave and a refrigerator. Eager said all of the apartments will be “high-end” units that are capable of being rented for short term use as hotel rooms.

“Apart-hotels are very popular in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro in particular,” he said. “We’re going to compete with some of the motels in the area; we’re not going to have room service or anything, but it’s basically rental of apartments rather than hotel rooms. We’re hoping to pick up some executives who may be here on a temporary basis or some construction contracts, or just people who want to enjoy the Adirondacks.”

Eager said his plan is for rents for his apartments to track lower than rents charged at the Estee Commons complex.

Romeyn, whose company is a tenant in another building owned by Eager on West Fulton Street, the interior of which has been restored, said Eager has incurred a lot of risk with this project and he hopes it will pay off.

“Who do you know who’s spending this much money in downtown Gloversville, and everything has cost more than anticipated?” he said. “David Eager is a great guy, I’d do anything for him, and one hand washes the other; he gives me a great place to stay at a reasonable rate.”

Eager said he believes his investment in the city is a long-term gamble that the area will eventually rebound, similar to investments he made decades ago in Saratoga Springs when that community was more economically depressed than in recent years.

“I invested in Saratoga Springs years ago when it was much like Gloversville,” he said. “One of the reasons Saratoga was successful is that when there was development in the area, Saratoga pushed all of their development downtown; they just would not permit buildings to be built in the entranceways into Saratoga, and it’s been a very successful plan.”

Eager is betting downtown Gloversville will pay off for him eventually.

“I think Gloversville will grow slower, but we need to make efforts to revitalize the downtowns. Eventually it will come back, it’s just a matter of time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but there is beautiful architecture here,” he said.