Nearly six months after an early morning fire destroyed a row of historic buildings in Saratoga Springs, a local developer has a plan to rebuild the property and keep the structure's character intact. Our Matt Hunter reports.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Robert Israel was in St. Thomas this past July when the five apartment buildings he owns on Saratoga’s Woodlawn Avenue caught fire.
"My son was here and he called me and said 'Dad, there's a fire,'" Israel recalled Tuesday.
"Seeing the flames coming out of the building was really sort of heartbreaking," said Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation Executive Director Samantha Bosshart, who lives near the structure.
Nearly six months removed from the fire, which destroyed the five 140-year-old buildings, Israel has brought forward a plan to revitalize the property.
"We're looking forward to having a really unique structure now,” Israel said. “It's going to be wrapped in a historic envelope but it will have a lot of cool things about it."
Unveiled at Monday night's city planning board meeting, the proposal calls for building 14 new state-of-the-art apartments with modern amenities, while keeping the building's historic facade and other elements intact.
"We're keeping trim and doors that weren't burned up, we're keeping some of the walls that were there, the configuration of the rooms inside," Israel said.
"Bob has owned numerous historic buildings here in Saratoga Springs so he has a proven track record of rehabilitating structures that sometimes other people would not take," Bosshart said.
While the building would retain much of its historic character, one likely change will be the price of the new apartments.
"It will be affordable but it's not going to be know, you know, worker housing, it's going to be more expensive than that, unfortunately," Israel said.
With several stages left in the approval process, no construction timeline has been established.
Preservationists share Israel's excitement about keeping the building's historic roots in place.
"Part of the reason Saratoga is so successful and is a destination we all come to is because of its history and its historic buildings," Bosshart said.
"It's a continuum of history and I've always been very attracted to that sort of thing," Israel said.
In October Saratoga Springs Police announced they believe the fire was caused intentionally. No arrests have been made.