Fulton Friendship House PILOT given tentative OK by Johnstown

Fulton Friendship House Executive Director Tom Ryan discusses an expansion project with the Johnstown Common Council Monday night at City Hall. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — City leaders on Monday night tentatively entered into a 15-year deal with Fulton Friendship House in which the not-for-profit will pay the city $495,000 during that time through a Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreement.

The PILOT was structured as part of Fulton Friendship House’s new 64-unit affordable housing project it plans to build at 507 N. Perry St.

“I think it sounds like a wonderful project and very much needed in this area,” said Third Ward Councilwoman Helen Martin.

Agency Executive Director Thomas Ryan told the Common Council in special session at City Hall that his agency purchased 34 acres west of the soon-to-be-closed John C. Miller auto dealership.

Fulton Friendship House will be using about seven of the acres for actual development of the project.

Ryan said the building will be well off North Perry Street. He said the first floor will include staff, a conference room and common area.

“We’re looking at educational services, creating socialization kind of stuff,” he said. “We’ll also be providing transportation.”

The council approved a resolution that stated the city wished to negotiate a PILOT agreement with the agency. The parties have tentatively agreed to have the mental health agency pay the city a $33,000 annual rate through the PILOT. Officials Monday night said the duration of the deal would be 15 years.

Mayor Vern Jackson was also authorized to continue to negotiate final terms with Fulton Friendship House.

Ryan noted the Johnstown City Planning Board already approved Fulton Friendship House’s project. A site plan for the new 65,000-square-foot housing building came before the board.

Fulton Friendship House treats drug and alcohol abuse and is building a new two-story building to also address the agency’s programming. Eight units will serve those with disabilities or early dementia. The agency is partnering with CSD Housing LLC, AND Architecture & Design, Greenman-Pedersen Inc. of Albany, and Coldwell Banker to create the V-shaped, “mixed supportive” low-income, affordable housing project. The building will have a central commons hub at the intersection of two wings.

Keri Curtis, CSD Housing LLC’s director of finance and project development, told the council her firm was surprised there is such a need for affordable housing in Johnstown.

Ryan said in September that 56 of the new units will be for the agency’s existing Manor Program. He said his agency has a contract with the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to provide residential services and treatment.

Ryan said Fulton Friendship House will be moving one of its programs from its current 462 N. Perry St. location to the new building.

He said Monday night that the 462 N. Perry St. building will eventually be sold.

He said the agency, as it has for years, will provide transportation for residents’ needs such as doctor visits, grocery stores, as well as socialization.

The state and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have deemed affordable housing for the clients such as those served by Fulton Friendship House a “major issue,” Ryan said.

“We as an agency felt there are gaps of what we see in the community,” he said.

Ryan said there are two main groups that need affordable housing — those in the workforce and those who are mentally disabled. He said that when Fulton Friendship House receives grant money, there is certain money earmarked for operations and other needed funding for “brick and mortar.”

There will be application process for potential tenants, Ryan said. He said nearly a dozen staff members will be available every day around the clock, although 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the building will be “secured.” The building will cater to Fulton County applicants.

“We’re not trying to bring in everybody,” Ryan said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.