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Potential Elmira developer transformed Cohoes

Jan. 26, 2012 by Ray Finger on StarGazette.com

The Lofts at Harmony Mills, a former cotton mill in Cohoes that was transformed into loft apartments, has made a tremendous impact on the city, the mayor said.

"It's done an awful lot. Here in the Capital Region, it's actually raised our profile," Mayor John McDonald III said Thursday when contacted at his office.

Cohoes was once an industrial giant and one of the largest textile manufacturing sites in the area, he said. Of the 27 or so mills in the region, Harmony Mills was probably one of the last left standing. Police and firefighters were there every day because building alarms were constantly going off, and there were worries about youths getting inside, he said.

"We've been able to transform this big, hulking, vacant, code-infested, public-safety-draining complex into state-of-the-art loft living, one of a kind in upstate New York," McDonald said. "What's very commonplace in Tribeca is something unique to the Capital Region."

When developer Uri Kaufman obtained Harmony Mills, the entire property was generating about $9,875 in property tax revenue a year, said Dennis Hogan, who works for Kaufman and is general manager of The Harmony Group, an umbrella organization that oversees rehabilitation projects.

Currently, one half of the building is producing $245,000 in property taxes, and when a payment in lieu of taxes agreement expires on the other half, that building alone will generate $500,000 in taxes, he said.

"More importantly, we have a perception-changer for our community, and we're drawing in a whole new demographic of people we never would have even dreamed of attracting," McDonald said, noting the average income in Cohoes is about $40,000 a year, but the average income of Harmony Mills residents is about $70,000.

"It's been a winning project all along," he said. "I don't get paid by them for saying that. I'm telling you the truth."


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