Sketch courtesy of KEITH TARUSKI
“The thing I see about St. Albans is there are no big spaces.”
ST. ALBANS CITY — Local developer Keith Taruski plans to constructing a four-story office building at the site of the former Sha-Booms nightclub building at 45 Lake St.
The existing building is adjacent to a proposed municipal parking garage and the site of a proposed hotel championed by St. Albans City officials.
The city on Sept. 10 goes to a bond vote on the $13 million parking garage. Funding would come from the tax increment financing (TIF) district and would not involve an increase in the tax rate.
The Design Advisory Board already has approved the façade of the new Taruski building, which would use a red, green and gold color scheme.
The current building connects to the two-story Napoli building on Federal Street, which Taruski also owns and has been renovating with the help of historic preservation tax credits. Taruski previously renovated the former Giroux Furniture building on Lake Street, now the temporary home of Ace Hardware.
Asked if he was concerned the area already has sufficient office space, Taruski replied, “The thing I see about St. Albans is there are no big spaces.”
He recently had two possible tenants for the Giroux building. “If someone wants 10,000 square feet, where do they go?” he asked.
Although he has approval for the façade, Taruski said he will not be firming up his plans until the city has made a final decision on the hotel. The city is working with developers to determine the future of the hotel project.
Although he has a design for the façade facing the hotel site, Taruski said he is open to making changes depending upon the final hotel design.
However, he would like to do construction while the hotel, state office building and parking garage are under construction. “Now is the time to disrupt this area,” said Taruski.
He would complete the exterior of the building and then build the inside to tenants’ needs. If after four or five years, he has been unable to locate a tenant, Taruski said he would consider putting high-end condominiums or apartments on the upper floors.
Taruski also owns the former Miguel’s Irish Burrow building located on the north side of Lake Street, which he has been renovating. The façade work on that building should be complete this year.
Like the Napoli and Giroux buildings, the Miguel’s building is a historic restoration project. Workers recently exposed historic brick and metal columns that will be part of the restored façade.
Taruski hopes to have a commercial business, preferably a retail or restaurant business, on the first floor of the former restaurant with either offices or apartments on the upper floors.
“It’s more work dealing with 10 apartments than one large business,” said Taruski. However, Taruski said he also sees a need for quality, affordable housing in the community. The apartments he constructed in the rear of the Giroux building have been popular with tenants, he said.
“That place was ready to crumble,” Taruski said of the Giroux building. “It was a white elephant for sure.” He invested $1 million in the renovations.
Renovating old buildings is a hobby for Taruski, whose primary business is selling video game accessories. He considers the buildings a retirement investment and doesn’t expect to see an immediate return, he said.
Taruski has had his differences with city officials. Land associated with the Napoli and Sha-Booms buildings was roughly one-third of the parking lot where the city plans to put up a parking garage. When negotiations between Taruski and the city reached an impasse, the city threatened to use eminent domain to take the land.
Ultimately, the two sides reached an agreement with Taruski receiving $75,000 and 33 spaces on the western edge of the public parking lot behind the district courthouse on Lake Street, as well as 15 spaces next to the Napoli building, in exchange for his land.
Despite their differences, Taruski praised the economic development efforts of city officials and staff, including city manager Dominic Cloud. “Dom’s done a lot of good work, really,” said Taruski.