Historic TB sanatorium under contract

AMA plans to remain in Saranac Lake after selling property

The Sheldon and Albert Medical & Reception Pavilion, built in 1908-09, was the Trudeau Sanatorium’s main medical building. An American Management sign points up AMA Way toward the buildings the organization uses. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — The American Management Association has signed a contract with an undisclosed buyer for the sale of its property, which once housed the Trudeau Sanatorium for curing tuberculosis.

The AMA, however, plans to remain in Saranac Lake when the deal closes as a tenant of the new owner.

Many of the details are still unknown. The cost of the sale, who the buyer is and other details will be available when the sale closes, which could be this August, according to Margie Philo, owner of Berkshire Hathaway Adirondack Premier Properties, which is brokering the deal. She said the buyer is still unsure of what he will do, and that he is someone who has interest in the local economy and area.

“During the sale process, I felt that this person was best suited for the property and the area, and I’m delighted that he is the buyer,” Philo said.

The buyer is not one of those who participated in an auction of the property more than eight months ago.The 64-acre, 29-building property was offered through Philo’s real estate firm in the multiple list service for $6.5 million before a reserve auction was held through the Williams and Williams auction company on Sept. 25, 2018. Five bidders stepped forward in the auction, Philo said, but who they were was, and still is, unknown.

McKenzie Mountain is seen in the background from the American Management Association property that once was the Trudeau Sanatorium. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

The property will be used for multiple purposes, according to Philo. She suggested the former sanatorium buildings could be used for rentals, long-term housing, businesses or medical practices. She said it is perhaps unlikely that one company would use all of the buildings, but that it is possible.

The sale of the property, however, will not affect those employed by AMA in Saranac Lake, as the company will lease back the few buildings it uses for the approximately 150 employees there. Philo said AMA is excited to continue working in the area.

The sale of the AMA property has been followed by several members of the public who hope its historic value will be maintained.

“We’ve been watching it for some time,” said Amy Catania, executive director of Historic Saranac Lake.

Catania hopes the new developer, if he purchases the property, will preserve the buildings while bringing some use to the property.

The Administration Building at the former Trudeau Sanatorium, known as the Dodd Building of the American Management Association, was built in 1896, designed by architect J. Lawrence Aspinwall. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

“The property’s been in need of being fully utilized,” Catania said.

In 1995, Historic Saranac Lake helped get the property listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. This prevents the property from certain governmental impacts like putting in a new road. The registry could also work in the developer’s favor.

“A major benefit of the National Register status is that it makes the property available for preservation tax credits. The commercial tax credit could subsidize up to 40% of the rehabilitation costs,” Catania said. “We would hope the developer would use to help support the costs of rehabilitation of the buildings.”

The developer would also have to follow village development code, which Catania said provides guidance for rehabilitating historic properties.

The village’s development code states that “no building or structure should be erected, enlarged, altered, or relocated, nor should any existing lot size be changed or new lot created within a historic district, except in accordance with the Schedule of Dimensional Standards.” It also prohibits altering or renovating of the exterior of an existing historic structure, except when following strict guidelines. Unsafe historic buildings can be demolished. The village development board will be in charge of enforcing these codes.

The nondenominational Baker Memorial Chapel, designed by architect J. Lawrence Aspinwall, is one of many buildings at the former Trudeau Sanatorium that is no longer used. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

The AMA is headquartered in New York City and provides executive training courses, seminars and materials. Its Saranac Lake campus is the site of the former Trudeau Sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis patients, which Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau founded as the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium in 1885. AMA bought it in 1957, after the sanatorium closed in 1954.

The property has been through the selling process before. In 2015, CBRE, an Albany-based commercial broker, listed the property on its website but failed to sell it. This new contract is one step closer to finally getting the property sold, possibly this summer.

The James Memorial Staff Building, left, was a residence for Trudeau Sanatorium patients who were also doctors, including Walker Percy who later rose to fame as a fiction writer with such novels as “The Moviegoer” and “Love in the Ruins.” In the background, the Scholfield Memorial Workshop was where patients did activities within the abilities of their condition, to help their recovery. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

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