Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Forum on Fort Orange tonight

Staff reports
First published: Tuesday, July 15, 2008

ALBANY -- A proposal by the Fort Orange Club to demolish two Washington Avenue buildings will be the subject of a public forum today.

The session will be held at 6 p.m. at the Westminster Presbyterian Church Auditorium in Albany. Those interested in attending may enter at 85 Chestnut St.

The private social club wants to remove the two-story office buildings at 118-120 Washington Ave., next to the club.

The demolition would be part of a $4.75 million plan to increase its parking from 51 to 73 spaces and add squash courts and a weight room to an expanded athletic wing. A panel discussion will include Sandra M. Baptie, a managing principal of Envision Architects; Tricia Barbagallo, research associate at the State Museum's Colonial Albany Project; Tony Opalka, Albany City historian; and Walter R. Wheeler, architectural historian.

The panel's presentation will run from 6 to 7 p.m. An hourlong panel discussion will follow.

The proposal has drawn opposition from neighborhood groups and nine Common Council members.

The club, next to the Alfred E. Smith Building, wants to add a wrought-iron fence, stone and mature greenery to block the view.

The plan, which requires approval from multiple city agencies, is being opposed by the Center Square Association, the Hudson/Park Neighborhood Association and the Washington Park Neighborhood Association.

The building was built in 1810 as a private home. The club renovated it and occupied it on July 1, 1880, five months after the club's founding.

The club says the two connected buildings it wants to demolish are of no historic value. The Historic Albany Foundation has said the current front facades may not be historic, but the underlying structure may date from before 1840.

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