Saratoga Springs man seeks zoning approval to turn children’s museum building into manufacturing space – The Daily Gazette



SARATOGA SPRINGS – A sale of the Children’s Museum building is underway.

John Haller offers to buy the two-story brick building at 69 Caroline Street for $ 2 million.

The more than 8,000 square foot building has housed the museum for 21 years, but the museum is moving to a rented building in Saratoga Spa National Park.

The sale is conditional on Haller obtaining a zoning exemption that would allow him to use the building as a community workshop.

The Children’s Museum, which is over 30 years old, has owned 69 Caroline Street since 2000. It was previously a medical office building and restaurant.

The nonprofit museum has outgrown ownership and is relocating to a larger space in the Lincoln Bath building in Saratoga Spa State Park. The museum will rent the approximately 12,000-square-foot facility, plus a 4,000-square-foot courtyard, to the state for 20 years, according to the museum’s executive director, Sarah Smith.

The last full day of operation of the museum in the Caroline Street building was December 31, according to Smith.

Originally a duplex built in the 1880s, the Caroline Street building can be used as a residence, apartments, or for home health care or a restaurant, according to Haller. It needs a zoning gap for any other use.

The building was listed for more than $ 2.2 million in March. The asking price was reduced to $ 2.1 million in June.

Haller proposes to use the building to initially focus on woodworking. It would be an educational and professional community workshop space to encourage learning, sharing, collaboration and inspiration, according to the zoning documents.

A graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Haller wants to open the non-profit workshop after having had successful projects including starting a business called MapInfo in Troy. After 15 years there, he launched SportsSignup, an online management tool for youth sports organizations.

Haller said he started the business after his wife was a registrar for one of their children’s youth football clubs.

“I got to see all the ridiculous paperwork that was involved in organizing youth sports programs, so I built a platform to do it much more effectively on the internet,” he said. . “It turned into a very successful business and we ended up growing slowly but steadily. “

1.5 million children were using the platform in different sports in the United States when Haller sold it to Time Magazine, for its cloud-based sports league management platform called Sports Illustrated Play.

“I made some money from it, which I can spend on this project,” Haller said.

Haller lived in the city for about five years. He said he developed a passion for woodworking and hands-on projects while he and his wife spent three years renovating their grand Victorian home.

“I learned a lot about woodworking and the use of tools, as well as the value of the right tools,” said Haller.

“And so it’s kind of wanting to build my own workshop, but it seemed really hard to justify buying a nice tool that I’m only going to use as a hobby for myself in my basement. “, did he declare.

Haller said Saratoga Springs will be a great community to support the shared workshop space.

He said the museum building met his needs for a large space for tools that would also withstand the noise of the machines.

The proposal will be reviewed by the city’s zoning council next week.

Haller said he hopes the zoning waiver will be approved by February.

The Spa City resident said he recently realized that “doing things in your basement on your own and learning on YouTube can help you get through the pandemic.”

But there is more to working in groups, Haller said.

“Ideally, I’ll be working in a place with other people, learning from others and being inspired by other people,” he said.

The framework of its organization remains to be determined. Haller said he could come up with membership rates.

“We’ll probably wait a year, maybe two years before we have a good racing record and a good reputation and be able to want grants for certain people such as new owners or younger women,” a- he declared.

The purchase will not take place if Haller does not obtain the zoning exemption, which could leave the museum in a difficult position.

“We are all very optimistic,” Haller said, adding that he had not met anyone who opposed his proposal.

Museum relocation

As for the museum, its director said she hoped the organization would move into the park by June.

Museum management reassessed the organization’s needs after reducing program offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization’s physical building is closed in the meantime, “but we are doing outreach throughout the Capital Region, going to schools in Albany, Troy and Glens Falls to do programs,” said Smith.

Before the pandemic, the museum admitted around 37,000 people a year, Smith said. But after the pandemic forced it to close for 13 months, it reopened with limited hours in April and welcomed around 1,000 visitors. It continues to offer virtual programs, she said.

New exhibits are being conducted by Empire Designs of Mechanicville, Smith said.

Moving to a single-story building in the state park will allow parents to watch their children when they are in different exhibits, the zoning request said.

The museum was also challenged by its proximity to the bars and restaurants on Caroline Street, the application indicated.

“While the museum is a healthy family space, the parking lot has become a repository for empty beer bottles, cars left the night before and sometimes the rubbish / smells of people relieving themselves after a long night’s sleep,” he says. ‘application.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] Where [email protected].

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