The former All Star Pizza and Pizza King building at 231 Lyon St. SE could be restored to its 1908 glory, Jeff Blackford told the Central Albany Revitalization Agency on Wednesday — if only given a CHANCE.
Blackford is the executive director of Communities Helping Addicts Negotiate Change Effectively, or CHANCE, a nonprofit dedicated to helping those affected by drug addiction and mental health.
The organization purchased the building last fall for just over $370,000 and is in the process of renovating it, including a $27,000 asbestos abatement.
“There was mold in the floors in the back section,” Blackford said. “There’s just a lot of rot in the building we’re having to repair. It’s a 110-year-old building.”
The plan is to renovate its interior by taking down the walls, redoing the floors and other aspects before moving to the exterior. That’s where CARA comes in.
CHANCE wants to redo the building's façade by reexposing the brick and integrating the original windows. There’s no cost estimate to the work yet, but the organization said it won’t have the funds for the exterior after purchasing the building and completing the interior renovation. In fact, the cost has proven prohibitive to opening the building.
“We had hoped to open in December,” Blackford said. “We didn’t anticipate the cost of the abatement, which was about $27,000. It put us about four months behind.”
Now the organization hopes to open the new doors this coming spring, when it also plans to offer many new services.
CHANCE currently operates out of a former church at 238 Third Avenue SE in Albany and offers services for addiction, mental health and, more recently, homelessness. The organization will fund a bus ticket home, the cost of a food handler's card, help people fund housing, counselors or a hot meal.
On Lyon Street, CHANCE plans to expand those services by becoming a one-stop shop for social services.
“We’ll have a community office,” Blackford said. “We will offer other agencies office space so people don’t have to go place to place if transportation is a barrier.”
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As the project continues, CHANCE also plans to offer a clinic that will provide HIV and Hepatitis C testing, flu shots, mobile dentistry and birth control. Eventually, Blackford said, they’ll include a teaching kitchen as well.
“We will show people how to utilize a food box and cook on a budget,” he said.
The last phase will include a laundry and showering facility.
“That’s just another barrier and we’re about removing those barriers,” he said. “No one should be embarrassed about asking to take a shower or do laundry. They’re basic human things that we all do.”
CHANCE is hoping to secure funds from CARA, which has the authority to finance projects in the city’s downtown. Blackford pointed out Wednesday that CHANCE has financed the purchase and renovation of the building and had plans to continue contributing to the tax base.
“As a nonprofit we can apply for a tax exemption,” he said. “But we decided we would defer that for five years and contribute to the city of Albany.”
The annual tax bill for the property on Lyon is about $5,000 a year.
CARA board member and Albany City Councilor Rich Kellum noted that would amount to $25,000 for the city over five years.
CHANCE's current building, Blackford said, would not be sold but could be turned into a community center or a 24-hour meeting space for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
"We have a couple of options," he said. "We are exploring what the needs are."