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    Dollar Menu: Albany considers buying historic building for just a buck

    Memorial BuildingKids played soccer in front of the closed doors of the Veteran’s Memorial Building at Albany on Friday afternoon, Nov.2. Photo by Linjun Fan.

    It seems like an offer Albany can’t refuse – paying Alameda County just $1 for the Veterans Memorial Building, a valuable piece of architecture located in the north side of the city.

    Built in 1930s, the 13,600-square-foot building is one of the most significant historical structures in the city. It is currently used by the county for veterans’ services and occasionally rented by Albany for community events.

    The county is willing to transfer ownership of the building to Albany for the low price as long as veterans’ groups can continue using the venue for their activities.

    “I am totally in favor of acquiring this building, ” said Albany Mayor Robert Lieber. “It only costs us $1 to get it. It’s underutilized now, and the city needs more space. “

    But if something sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Albany has to pay up to $9 million for the building’s renovation and maintenance, according to a recent staff report prepared by Penelope Leach, the director for recreation & community services of Albany.

    It would cost about $3 million to fortify the roof, which is not safely connected to the rest of the parts of building, according to Lieber, and several million more to upgrade other parts of the building.

    Once acquired and renovated, the building could be used for recreational activities, such as performing arts and teen programs, according to Leach’s report.

    Albany residents will be asked to pay the bill if they vote for the deal. A community meeting will be held to discuss whether to acquire the building and to finance the project at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Albany Community Center.

    And a special tax measure is likely to appear on Albany voters’ ballots in June or November of 2008. If approved by voters, each Albany household will have to pay about $100-$140 each year for the project, according to city estimates.

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