A 1916 barn on the Shaker Heritage Society's Watervliet site. File photo
COLONIE — Following the recent hurdle cleared by the Soldier On program in securing a 50-year lease from the county legislature for the vacant Ann Lee Nursing Home in Colonie, the Shaker Heritage Society (SHS) hopes to follow along that path. SHS plans to submit its own request for a lease that would allow it to make repairs to its buildings that need rehabilitation.
SHS has been based at what is known as the Watervliet Site since the 1970s, now located off of Heritage Lane, according to Starlyn D’Angelo, executive director of SHS. There are nine buildings on the site that need repairs, said D’Angelo. In 2005, SHS developed a master plan that not only assessed current building conditions, but would also guide the rehabilitation and development of the Shaker Property, including the projected costs of the repairs. Through grants, and with the assistance from both Albany County and the town of Colonie, the first phase of planning was completed in 2007. According to D’Angelo, the site provides two or three proposed uses for each of the buildings, including a possible youth hostel or restaurant. It also provides a prioritized list of repairs, such as roof maintenance. The total estimated cost for the rehab, according to the master plan, is $15 million over 15 years.
“These buildings are in fairly rough shape,” D’Angelo told Spotlight News. “We can focus on restoring the exteriors so we can preserve the historic setting.” Roof repairs, D’Angelo explained, will keep the buildings from being damaged even more.
The 50-year lease would allow SHS to apply for grants which would fund the repairs, ultimately saving the county money because it would not need to provide the manpower necessary to complete the work on the buildings. While SHS originally asked for a 40-year lease back in 2005, it could not be approved because the county could not legally approve a lease for that duration at that time. As a result, the Society opted for a shorter, 15-year lease. Now, with the legislature’s new ability to grant 50-year leases, such as the one recently approved for the Ann Lee house, SHS will also attempt to secure a 50-year lease.
“We provide a sort of introduction to the Shakers,” D’Angelo said, calling the Watervliet Site a gateway not only into the Shaker’s history, but also that of Albany County. D’Angelo mentioned that SHS has historical knowledge about the Shakers that the county doesn’t necessarily have. She also said that though the Shakers were pacifists, they have historically cared for wounded soldiers throughout time, and it makes sense for that goal to continue through the partnership with the Soldier On program, which focuses on rehabilitating veterans.
D’Angelo said she would like to have the lease approved by the end of the year so SHS can start to apply for capital improvement grants. D’Angelo said that SHS has the support of the County Executive’s office for possible lease, which a spokesperson for the County Executive confirmed. Now, D’Angelo said, they have to focus on getting the legislature itself behind the project.
The sooner we can get the lease, the sooner we can get more resources,” she said. “We have these gorgeous buildings that are sitting here vacant. It’s time to focus on moving forward with getting [them] revitalized.”