By Stephen Williams
ALPLAUS — The Capital Region Maritime Center in Alplaus, which has been empty since 2012, could become home to a children’s physical therapy center.
Everyone who spoke during a recent public hearing on the proposal by therapist Karen Dake said they were in favor of Dake’s plans for the center, which was formerly a school that taught boat-building and marine trade skills to at-risk students.
“I feel this is a very positive use for the facility, and I feel the other members of the original board of the Maritime Center would feel the same way,” said Harry Darling, of Burnt Hills, who was chairman of that board.
Dake bought the building at the end of Maritime Center Drive about a year ago and has been pursuing a zoning change that would be needed to build a physical therapy center at the location. Dake previously operated her business, MINOR Improvements, in Saratoga Springs.
Following the public hearing on Dec. 6, Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he expects the matter to come to a vote at the Dec. 20 Town Board meeting.
The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the change in August. At that meeting, Councilman James Martin — the Town Board liaison to the planning department — said he plans to vote in favor of the change.
“I just want to say that I welcome this use of the Maritime Center,” Martin said. “I think it’s a fine use for the site.”
A representative of the Alplaus Residents’ Association, which earlier this year fought off plans for a large apartment and housing complex on adjoining land, said Dake’s plans are welcome. “We fully support Karen’s business becoming an Alplaus neighbor,” said Jessica Evans, who is one of the association’s directors.
MINOR Improvements works with children and teens who have physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy. Several parents of her clients also spoke in favor of the plan at the Dec. 6 hearing.
Proposed uses for the 10,000-square-foot building include pediatric health and wellness spaces, a therapy gym, a yoga studio, and a therapeutic pool, while outside activities would include a handicapped-accessible playground, hiking trail and bike training/running/walking path, according to a draft of the zoning change proposal.
If the Town Board approves the zoning change, Dake would still have to go to the Planning and Zoning Commission for site plan approval and make any changes required by building code before being allowed to open, Koetzle noted.
The former Maritime Center was built in the late 1990s as part of an initiative to revitalize the Erie Canal corridor. It was financed with a $940,000 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development no-interest loan. The school was run by a non-profit board, and the Capital Region BOCES provided vocational and skills training there, mostly to at-risk middle school students. But the center closed for financial reasons in 2011. The board put it up for sale, but there were no takers until Dake purchased it last year.
The Burnt Hills and Shenendehowa school rowing programs also have boathouses on the property.