Future uncertain for burned building


By Jim Poole

What ever becomes of the Harmony Acres building, Cobleskill’s Main Street probably won’t be the same.
Owner Tom Blair is considering options for the fire-damaged building as he waits for word from his insurance adjuster.
Concerned about that prominent position on Main Street, Cobleskill officials are ready to help because they don’t want another boarded-up building in downtown.
Although firefighters saved the structure in the May 30 blaze, fire swept through the second story and roof of the former United States Hotel and Lambert’s Clothing Store.
The building was secured shortly after the fire when crews covered the second-story windows with plywood and barred the doors.
Now, the future of it is undecided.
“My sense is it’s a total loss,” Mr. Blair said on Friday. “But we’re still waiting for the insurance adjuster. We’ll follow him first.”
Options include rebuilding to what it was, taking off the second floor and saving the first, and demolishing the entire building and putting up a new one.
The 1820 building––said to be the second oldest building in Cobleskill––is in the village historic district and on the National Register of Historic Places.
The problem with rebuilding is the expense. The damage is so extensive that Mr. Blair would have to bring the building up to current codes, including fire walls, electrical and a sprinkler system, according to Mike Piccolo, village codes officer.
“Reconstruction is more expensive than building new,” Mr. Blair said.
Mr. Piccolo agreed, adding, “It’s roughly $125 to $175 per square foot, and it’s roughly 16,000 square feet. Even at $100 per square foot, you’re looking at 1.6 mill.
“My first opinion is that it’s not cost-effective to rebuild it.”
Mayor Mark Nadeau has offered help with what to do, as has Mr. Piccolo, who’s offered different designs for one-story building that would fit in the historic district.
If Mr. Blair decides to demolish, the Historic District Review Commission must approve plans first.
“He has several options,” said Sandy Poole, HDRC chairman. “I’m sure we’ll be flexible, and we’re prepared to work with him.
“This is a building that’s important to everyone in the community.”
Mr. Piccolo stressed that village officials and Mr. Blair should work together to avoid a drawn-out process.
“He’s got to do what’s right for himself, and we’ve got to do what’s right for the community,” Mr. Piccolo said.