For years the Heritage House has been little more than a shell — literally — of its former self.
Once one of Albany’s most popular convention centers, for the past several years the Heritage House has been little more than a harbor for drug dealers and prostitutes, devaluing nearby properties and creating a public health hazard and an eyesore to passers-by.
While many long-time Albanians have fond memories of the facility as it operated in its heyday, that is exactly what the building had been regulated to — a distant memory. Plan after plan for revitalizing the facility flopped as the structure became more and more ruined.
Finally, a Superior Court decision that facility was valueless and a public health concern placed the Heritage House on the pathway to demolition. When its owner did not try to reacquire the hotel by Wednesday, the door was opened for the city to step in and take action that was long overdue.
On Thursday, crews with Oxford Construction, which is now the building’s owner after buying the deeds as part of its deal with the city, began to prep the dilapidated structure on West Oglethorpe Boulevard near Slappey Boulevard with plastic sheeting so that asbestos would be contained as the building was razed. The presence of the carcinogen in the building is a reason why the razing is so expensive, since it requires specialized demolition work to prevent cancer-causing fibers from getting into the air.
Estimates are that this demolition will be complete by Sept. 30. The city has agreed to buy the property from Oxford for $1.1 million provided the project is completed by Oct. 15. City officials then hope to sell the vacant property to a private developer, with City Manager James Taylor saying inquiries on the property have already begun.
It’s been clear from the beginning that this would be an expensive project — topping $1 million — but one that was also in the best interests of the city. It’s unfortunate that the demolition dragged out so long, which seldom makes the work cheaper once it’s finally done.
We hope the city will be able to mitigate the taxpayer expense through the sale of the property, but this is something that simply needed to be done. If nothing else, it is addition by subtraction.