Carousel funding: The final round

The planned new carousel building at First Avenue and Washington Street.

The planned new carousel building at First Avenue and Washington Street.

On the local front, the Albany Carousel is asking for urban renewal money for the third and final time. The request for $339,500 will go before the advisory board of the Central Albany Revitalization Area when it meets at 5:15 Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

The carousel has completed raising funds for its new building, which is expected to cost $5.6 million and will replace its current quarters at First and Washington. It is intended to be the showpiece western “anchor” for the downtown area. The organization says it needs the additional CARA money for street work including new sidewalks and benches along First ($209,500), for city permits and to cover systems development charges ($90,000), and for lead paint and asbestos removal ($40,000).

In 2007, CARA gave the carousel $300,000 to buy the property at 503 West First Ave., where volunteers have been beavering away to make the 50-plus wooden animals and mythical creatures to be mounted on the antique carousel mechanism. In 2011, CARA contributed another $110,000 to pay for the new building’s design.

Urban renewal financing, which uses a portion of property taxes, is based partly on the idea that public funds will be returned in the form of increased tax income once the urban renewal district ends, and partly on the hope that even non-taxable improvements will raise nearby property values, giving the same result in the end.

The carousel is a nonprofit organization, and no taxes have been paid on its property since 2007. But in her staff report, CARA’s Kate Porsche wrote: “Staff supports this request. The carousel project has already had a significant impact in our downtown. The construction of the building and operation of the carousel will only enhance this impact. … With this final request, our funds would be bookends to their project.” (hh)

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