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Architects' rendering of Old Snell and Congdon Halls. Image: Clarkson University
Architects' rendering of Old Snell and Congdon Halls. Image: Clarkson University

Potsdam takes baby step in historic building redevelopment

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Clarkson University has picked two developers to give 100-year-old historic buildings in Potsdam a new life. The announcement is the latest step in turning Old Snell and Congdon Halls into a mix of upscale apartments and public space, including the home of two arts and culture groups.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Old Snell and Congdon Halls are hulking, neo-classical gems that sit on one of the main intersections in downtown Potsdam, right across from the village offices and the library. And they need a lot of work.

The team led by Clarkson University, which owns the buildings, envisions graduate housing and market-priced apartments reviving the area and revitalizing downtown Potsdam. The facilities would include a state-of-the-art fitness center built in the old two-floor gym.

Old Snell would also become home to the St. Lawrence County Arts Council and a new interactive children's museum.

Sharon Vegh-Williams is the executive director of the North Country Children's Museum, which currently has educational exhibits travelling around the area. "All of the exhibits are 'please touch'," says Vegh-Williams, "so everything will be a learning experience through touching and interacting."

The Museum has raised about a quarter of a million dollars towards a $600,000 capital campaign. Vegh-Williams says Clarkson's selection of two developers to oversee the redevelopment is a "tremendous" step forward.

"Using beautiful old buildings and repurposing them, ecologically and for many other reasons, I think it's a wonderful process to be involved in."

The developers are Omni Housing Development and Sequence Development, both based in the Albany area. They have experience turning older buildings into multi-use projects.

The developers will front much of the money for renovating the apartments – and reap the profits under a long-term lease of the buildings. But Clarkson and its partners still need to find substantial funding to complete the project.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall.

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