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A history lesson … the vacant lot next to me

I purchased 117 Broadway back in November 1981. Next door was Bob Agnew’s building, which housed his business, Standard Tire and Supply, on the right side of the property. If you stand on the property, you can still see the remains of the building’s foundation. And on the left side of that building was a garage, which Bob used for storage. There was an alley between my building and the garage.

Bob’s building was four stories with empty apartments above his store. The three apartments had been empty for 20 years. Bob got this building from his dad and had no desire to be a landlord. So when the tenants moved out, he let the apartments stay empty. Some years later, Bob retired and sold the property and business to Greg, who owns Adirondack Tire. Greg moved the auto supply parts to his place across the street. He was debating what to do with the building when an opportunity arose to sell it. Not wanting the property, just the business, he sold it to Peter Yaglou.

In summer of 1999 the state came through and put in new water lines, sewer lines and storm drains. The Luck Brothers doing the work had to blast with dynamite to remove the rock ledge that was underground in that section of the street so they could put in the new lines. When they blasted in front of Bob’s old building they severely damaged the right corner of the foundation. I watched guys with hard hats and clipboards arrive quickly, and the blasting was done for the day. 

Peter was eventually compensated for the damage to the building. The village stepped in later and had the building condemned. Peter, not having much money, tore the building down one nail and board at a time. The garage was left standing as it had not been condemned. He then turned around and sold the property to Denny Ford. Denny had the property for a while, did nothing with it and sold it to Shane Kilroy. I was told Shane wanted to rent out the garage, but it never happened. He sold the property back to Denny Ford. 

I don’t know how long Denny had the property, but he sold it to Warren Brahman. Warren didn’t live here but came up in the winter to go skiing. He wanted to build a two-story building on the garage foundation. This foundation was grandfathered because the garage was built in 1950, before the zoning laws took place in the village, and the building was still standing. The first floor was going to be commercial, and the second floor was going to be an apartment Warren could stay in when he was here skiing. The right side of the property was going to be used for parking. When I met Warren, I asked him why he had purchased this property. He replied he wanted to “start something in the neighborhood.” That has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? 

Warren eventually went to the village planning board with plans. His plans weren’t detailed enough. He was also not aware of the drainage problem and ice buildup in this neighborhood during the winter. The planning board was going to require him to put in drainage, fix the retainer walls and take 16 months from start to finish for the project. Well, the property sat for a while with nothing happening. 

One day I learn this property is up for auction in Albany. We go. the property is listed as being a “multi-use” with a commercial building on it. So a garage is a commercial building? The property comes up for bid. No pictures are shown except for an architectural drawing of the drainage that was supposed to go in if Warren had built what he wanted. The auctioneer has no idea what this drawing is. 

The auctioneer starts the bidding off at $75,000! Two guys sitting in front of us ask where Saranac Lake is. The answer? “Exit 30 off the Northway.” The bidding goes as low as $10,000, but because the owner won’t take any less than that, the property fails to sell. Warren eventually lets the property go for taxes. It’s sold years later in Malone at an auction. 

The new owner is Mr. Denny, who owns the No 1 Chinese restaurant down the street. He uses the garage for storage until the garage is finally condemned and torn down. This happens in June 2015. Mr. Denny does nothing with the property except put in a dumpster for the tenants in the apartment building next door. Eventually he sells the property to the current owners. 

If I’m correct, this property has had 10 owners, starting with Bob Agnew and ending with the current ones, since November 1981. Not much has been done to it except to tear down both buildings. There used to be three retaining walls on it, but the top two have crumbled and the bottom one is shifting. Unfortunately, while this property looks big, it really isn’t. It’s like the building I own. My building only has ONE apartment despite folks asking me how many apartments are in it. 

When I saw the picture in the paper of the apartment building the current owners want to build, I kept thinking, is this property big enough? They’re going to have to dig deeply into the bank, and who knows what problems they’re going to have? The other problem I had was with putting in commercial. We currently have 22 EMPTY stores in this village, according to my list. I don’t ever remember seeing that many empty stores. How about we fill the empty ones first before we add new ones?

If this property was larger, it would present more options. And so here we are with property that is still empty. My mother used to say that this property wasn’t big enough for much except a parking lot. So it remains to be seen what does happen to it. 

And for those who want to know, NO, I didn’t sell my building! 

Wendy Foley lives in Saranac Lake.