Former Alplaus post office to be repurposed

PHOTOGRAPHER: CADY KUZMICH
The old Alplaus Post Office.PHOTOGRAPHER: CADY KUZMICH The old Alplaus Post Office.

By Indiana Nash

— The board of fire commissioners of Glenville Fire District No. 2 voted Monday to sell the former Alplaus post office to a developer who plans to convert the building to an apartment and cafe/gift shop.

The fire department bought the property for around $100,000 in 1998. The resolution, approved by a 3-2 vote, calls for the building and some of the land to be sold to Jeff Christiana, who grew up in Alplaus, for $20,000. The project will also receive a $92,000 grant from Schenectady County’s Metroplex Development Authority.

The estimated cost to repair the building, according to the board of fire commissioners, is between $190,000 and $200,000.

Fire Commissioner Andy Gilpin said the fire department bought the property, which is adjacent to its firehouse, because it planned to demolish the post office and expand onto the property.

Since then, the department has decided not to expand onto the land.

“Metroplex is working closely with an experienced developer who is committed to Alplaus and the town of Glenville to save and restore this historic building,” said Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen. “We are pleased that the Fire Commissioners approved the sale.”

The fate of the building, constructed around 1908, has been a subject of public interest in the hamlet.

“Everyone here is invested in this one way or another,” said Vicki Watkinson, an Alplaus resident who attended the meeting and was in support of the sale.

Not all were excited about the resolution.

“This was the first time I’ve ever voted against the fire company,” said Gilpin, the fire commissioner.

The Alplaus Fire Company, which does not have legal control over the decision, voted on September 6 to keep the property and to further consider plans to demolish it.

The Company is the social arm of the Alplaus Fire Department, dealing with all social activities.

During Monday’s meeting, many firefighters echoed that opinion.

Norm Mullins, a longtime Glenville firefighter, said he wanted the fire department to keep the land because the department may need to expand in the future.

Others were concerned with the amount of money that would be lost in the sale.

The resolution allows the fire department to retain 89 percent of the 1-acre property on which the former post office sits.

For the three fire commissioners who were in favor of the resolution, immediate cost savings was one of the top reasons they voted for it.

“For me, it came down to the numbers,” Gilpin said.

The estimated cost to demolish the building was $46,000. Selling, rather than tearing the building down, saves the department around $26,000, supporters of the sale contend.

Others at the meeting said restoring the building and putting it back into use would bring the spirit of Alplaus back.

“People have talked here about the way of life here … there’s a way of life in Alplaus that’s going right out the door, and I think we’ve all felt it over the years,” said Dan Trask, a fire commissioner who voted in favor of the resolution.

Kathy Boyle, who ran the post office from 2002 to 2012 – when it closed – said the hamlet has lost its small-town feeling, and this could be an opportunity to bring it back.

Christiana, who is also the principal broker at Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices, Blake Realtors, is working with Cheri Haughney of Alplaus to create a community hub in the building.

“I’m very happy that the motion to sell the building passed,” Haughney said. ”Now we can move forward to restore and return this historic building to Alplaus for future generations to enjoy. This was the right thing to do – fiscally, historically, and for the good of the greater community – and thankfully, the majority of the commissioners agreed.”

Haughney is working to open a bakery/cafe and gift store in the building, once it’s restored. The plans were partly inspired by the Vischer Ferry General Store in Clifton Park, just a few miles away.

“There are a few other steps that need to be taken now,” said Glenville Supervisor Christopher Koetzle.

The subdivision of the property will have to be approved by the town’s zoning board. A variance approval is also needed from the board, as the lot falls short of the town’s minimum size.

If both of those changes are approved, the property’s zoning will have to be changed from “single-family residential” to “community business.”

“Depending on the calendar, this can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days,” Koetzle said.

He is in support of the resolution to sell 311 Alplaus Ave. and has been working with Christiana, Haughney and Metroplex since spring of 2016.

“There’s so much potential for something really valuable for the community,” said Anne Reynolds, an Alplaus resident who spoke in favor of the resolution.

However, should residents challenge the resolution, they have 30 days to bring together 5 percent of the registered voters in the fire district (which amounts to around 100 people) to sign a petition seeking a public vote.

Reach Gazette reporter Indiana Nash at 417-9362, inash@dailygazette.net or @indijnash on Twitter.