Published By Robin K. Cooper / Albany Business Review
April 18, 2023
The site is on Putnam Street across from the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
Mystery and fiction writer Jason Letts wants to transform a vacant Putnam Street property into a five- or six-story condominium complex in downtown Saratoga Springs.
The one-third-acre lot, located at 53 Putnam St. across from the Saratoga Springs Public Library, has been home to an ice rink, a dry cleaner and a C&B Sanitation garbage truck depot over the past century until it was abandoned two decades ago. Letts and his business partners are seeking permission from the city to convert the lot into 40 condos with a mix of market-rate and less expensive units that will be affordable to buyers earning below the median area income of about $90,000 a year.
Plans for the proposed Putnam Square development have been filed with the city calling for the construction of a $15.1 million project that will include a 53,480-square-foot building with roughly 3,900 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. The city council applied for a $1 million Restore NY grant in January to assist with financing.
Through an entity called Putnam Resources, Letts and business partner Frank Zarro want to build a mix of one- and two-bedroom condos. The development is being designed by Rochester engineering and architecture firm MRB Group. The project principals also have had discussions with BBL Construction Services of Albany.
“We are not big-time developers,” Letts said. “We see this as an opportunity to make the greatest impact that we can on the community. This is not a get-rich-quick opportunity.”
The goal, Letts said, is to find a way to construct a project to create homeownership opportunities for as many people who earn less than the median income as possible while supporting the overall cost of the project. His organization is working with representatives of Habitat for Humanity.
The planning board could begin reviewing the project next month.
Various versions of the proposed development have been in the works for eight years with some plans calling for the construction of a $30 million condo project. Prior to that, investors sought to construct a 250-seat event center until they discovered an extensive soil cleanup was needed on the property.
Nearly 20 years ago, a separate group of investors, including a few local politicians, proposed constructing a multistory automated garage with a rooftop nightclub and banquet center.
The current proposal includes some of the same investors from a project outlined in 2018 which called for the construction of 800-square-foot to 1,300-square-foot condos with asking prices of $400,000 to $800,000.
It is not immediately clear what the list prices will be for the current condo proposal.
A one-story concrete building on the property was demolished in March 2019. And the property has undergone soil monitoring and multiple cleanups over the past 20 years in conjunction with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to analyze and remove contamination.
Putnam Resources signed an 11-year lease for 53 Putnam St. in May 2015 with an option to purchase the property, according to documents filed with the Saratoga County clerk.