Von Hasseln looking at new prospect for downtown hotel

Rehabilitation of the old Best Value Inn building in Amsterdam’s downtown area appears to be stalled over a year after it was purchased by a company looking to remake the building into a Hampton Inn. During a budget workshop meeting on Tuesday, Alderman Ed Russo asked Community and Economic Director Robert von Hasseln to update them on the situation.

Von Hasseln put the problem in perspective by explaining the early efforts his office undertook to help the new owners. “Working between the city and the county, we got the new owners a $880,000 economic development grant, we got them a 10 year PILOT, we got them a sales tax abatement on capital improvements. They did get their branding, they were approved by Hampton Inn,” said von Hasseln. “Unfortunately, it seems the partnership is not working together too well on this. So they’ve put back and put back their start times.”

Von Hasseln emphasized that his office has been in touch with the owners on a regular basis. But although the new owners have paid the property’s approximately $500,000 in back taxes, Controller Matt Agresta said they haven’t paid any new property taxes since 2013.

“I have the feeling – better than a feeling – I think what you’re going to see happen is within the next two months, if there isn’t a new buyer coming in for the hotel, it will go to auction,” said von Hasseln.

“Now the good news is, last week I spent an hour with the regional director of a major nation chain – I can’t say who…we spent an hour on main street. They’re excited. And they wanted me to give their information to the current owners.”

“I expect either you’ll see an offer made before the auction, or they’ll make a minimum at the auction and it will come into the hands of somebody who is more prepared to do the job. Because every single advantage that any government could have placed in front of these owners has been put there, and they still can’t get their act together.”

“Can everything be transferred to the new owners?” asked Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler in regards to the economic benefits acquired by the property. “So they get the $880,000 they get the PILOT and they would get the [sales tax abatement]?”

“Yes,” replied von Hasseln. “There’s paperwork involved but it’s all doable. The only thing is that I’ve told the new prospective owners that there is a deadline on the $880,000.”

Von Hasseln explained there is a two year expiration date on the grant, and the current owners had already waited a year. “The new owners would have to start pretty much immediately. But that doesn’t seem to be too big a lift for them. In fact the conversation I was having was, we might just tear the whole thing down and put up a whole new one.”

“They also indicated that they would be willing to build out to the street-scape, so in other words we’d get a little more of that old-town, downtown feeling by getting rid of the suburban parking in front,” said von Hasseln. He also said he discussed possibilities such as putting retail space on the first floor, banquet space on the second, with rooms above.

Von Hasseln said the regional director he talked to was with a “brand that you probably have stayed at, you would certainly recognize the name.” He added he would share the identity of the prospect in private.

“They were very excited about the prospect of being close to the [Schenectady] casino…I think they realize this is a good prospect and I think they are interested.”

Hatzenbuhler mentioned the potential of the hotel to serve visitors to Saratoga Springs during the racing season. Von Hasseln also added additional draws such as skiers, train enthusiasts, parents visiting overseas students at FMCC, Spring Fling, The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Mohawk Valley Gateway pedestrian bridge.

“There’s so many reasons a hotel would work,” said von Hasseln. “About once every week, I get a call as to when will the hotel be open, I want to book something.”

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.