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VICTORY - The building sits vacant along the main street in the village, a towering, discarded reminder of another time.

More than 700 people worked at the Victory Manufacturing Company during its heyday in the 1870s - more than the village's population today.

The long-held hope that the massive building could be transformed into a useful space got a boost last week when the village planning board approved site plans giving developer Uri Kaufman the go-ahead for an $18 million project that proposes to convert more than 200,000 square feet of the structure into 98 upscale rental apartments.

Village Mayor James Sullivan said he is excited over the prospect of the site being active again in the village, which gleans sales tax from a single retail store and a handful of home businesses.

Town of Saratoga

Supervisor Thomas Wood said he was pleased to learn a project is moving forward in a location that has been idle for so long.

And local resident Amanda Walsh, who from her front window watches the drab, gray shell take on a pink hue each sunset, is keeping her fingers crossed.

"It is a beautiful building, and hopefully it will be beautiful once again," she said. "I hope it comes to fruition."

Optimism is cautious, however, given the building's history.

The original plant was built in 1846, three years before the village was incorporated. That portion of the structure stands just south of a newer section of the facility, which is dominated by a large tower. The older portion has been deemed unsalvageable.

After hitting its peak in the 1870s, an economic downturn in the early 20th century forced the company that was known for creating high quality cotton goods to begin laying off employees.

"At that point, they started looking to move the mill south - which is what ultimately happened by the 1930s," said town of Saratoga historian Sean Kelleher. "It devastated the local economy. Every evolution of the mill that has happened since - nothing really hit that peak again."

Following the departure of the building's last tenant in 2000, its assessed value fell from $3.7 million to about $650,000.

A Malta resident purchased the lot in 2003 with designs of renovating it for mixed-use space, but nearly $460,000 in unpaid taxes were accrued before the project could get started.

Developer Uri Kaufman, whose Harmony Group has been turning a run-down mill in Cohoes into apartments, secured the Victory building for $50,000.

Village Trustee Pat Dewey said that, while he is happy with the potential of the project and believes it may provide a spark for the local economy, he is not quite as pleased with the process at the planning board level.

The village planning board oversees a $25,000 escrow account for the mill project. Dewey called that function "improper," and he has filed a freedom of information request seeking access to communications between the planning board and those involved with the project. A special meeting will take place on May 27 to consider adopting a local law to regulate land use escrow accounts.

In the meantime, developers are moving forward, albeit slowly, with the $18 million effort to create 98 upscale rental apartments with amenities that include a health club and lap pool, a possible day care center, a pedestrian courtyard that will highlight the main street in the village and a café with a veranda that overlooks the waters of Fish Creek.

Financing is being coordinated through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is a process that takes time, said Denis Hogan, project manager for The Harmony Group.

"We can start, possibly within a year, but it can be a long process," Hogan said. "But once we say we're committed, we are committed."

A discussion on a potential payment in lieu of taxes program related to the project will take place at the Saratoga Town Board meeting on June 10.

"We want the community to know: Be patient, and we'll come through for you," Hogan said.

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