ALBANY (Wednesday, May 25) – A plan to convert part of the former Ann Lee Nursing Home site into a residential campus for veterans was approved Wednesday and sent to the full Albany County Legislature.
Members of the legislature’s Audit and Finance Committee voted to authorize the county to enter into a lease agreement with the veterans advocacy group Soldier On for redeveloping the Ann Lee Home in Colonie into 100 apartments, and building two three-story buildings with 100 additional residences.
In approving a tentative 50-year lease for 12.6 acres off Albany-Shaker Road, officials also reported that a state-mandated review of the project determined it would not have an adverse impact on the area’s environment. The plan to establish the first large-scale Soldier On operation in New York now moves to the Albany County Legislature for a June 13 vote.
Soldier On is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding homes for veterans. Chief Executive Officer John Downing estimates more than 1,200 veterans in the Capital Region need housing, jobs and medical treatment. Soldier On’s Colonie campus would provide transitional and permanent housing, on-site job training and counseling services. It would be funded by Soldier On with the help of grants and donations, and modeled after the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community that Downing opened six years ago in Pittsfield, Mass.
“I and other legislators visited their site in Pittsfield, and I was very impressed with it,” Majority Leader Frank Commisso said.
Soldier On proposes renovating the 91,320-square-foot Ann Lee Home into about 100 dwellings with offices, a kitchen, dining rooms and support areas. The new three-story residential buildings would be constructed south of a common courtyard and connected to the Ann Lee Home by foot bridges. As part of the project, Soldier On would make improvements to the site, located in the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District, site of America’s first Shaker settlement.
The project would be built in three phases over the next 10 years. Veterans would pay monthly rent based on their income levels and could gain ownership shares in the apartments. An ownership share requires vets to sign a social contract and agree to the guidelines of the program. Income-producing parts of the property would generate taxes.