Credit: Bryant Harden
Historic preservation, health care clash over Albany building
Members of Albany’s historic preservation board are at odds with a health care system, a technical college and the city’s commissioners over what to do with a nearly century-old school building.
Phoebe Health and Albany Tech plan to demolish the former Albany High School (and, later, Albany Middle School) on North Jefferson Street and turn the site into a training center for nurses.
Plans call for a new building, mimicking the old one in its façade, to feature classrooms, a career education center and apartments for nursing students, among other amenities.
But the city’s Historic Preservation Commission rejected the plans.
The commission’s chairman, Bryant Harden, told city commissioners that the two-story Beaux Arts style red brick building erected in 1925 is an integral part of the city’s historic district.
“This example of the best of Albany's historic buildings should be saved not only for its past contributions, but for the contributions that it can make in the future,” Harden said.
He argued that saving the former school building and building a nursing school are not mutually exclusive.
But Phoebe Health CEO Scott Steiner disagreed.
“It is a 100-year-old wooden structure surrounded by brick,” he said. “It served its purpose."
He said his hospital’s nursing shortage, currently 300 positions, is untenable and that estimates for renovating the building would balloon the project’s costs to $60 million to $70 million.
“We are going to create a living and learning community that will continue the historic location’s legacy as a place of education and allow Albany Technical College to quadruple the size of its nursing program,” he said.
The matter could end up in court.
The preservation board is working to appeal a decision by the city commission which sided with the hospital in favor of demolition.