On Tuesday afternoon June 16th, about three dozen people, mostly Andes business owners, with a sprinkling of interested residents and press, met in the yellow room of the Andes Hotel to face—or force—the issue of 9 buildings on Main Street and around the corner owned by absentee, “LLC” entities, presumably connected with the Broadlands Estate bought by Aman Resorts in 2006. Not since the era of patroons on the Hudson (which sparked the Anti-Rent War) have so many properties been owned by far away, mysterious owners who refuse to sell and will rent only on short leases.
The precipitating spark for the meeting was ongoing, active negotiations for the lease of Hogan’s between Broadlands Properties LLC and Argyle Farms (the sheep farm on the Tremperskill.) Argyle wants to open a Country Store and gas station and a specialty shop to sell local meats, blankets and other goods at Hogan’s. Cheers greeted this news. Since 4 previous applicants for the space met impassable obstacles, the audience spoke in unison, “How can we help?”
Tom Joyce, the convener of the meeting, raised the underlying concern of everyone there, “Three large buildings in the hub: the Cantina, Hogan’s and CitiHope, stand empty. This is causing Andes economic and psychic damage.” Andes is bereft of a once-thriving restaurant, the gas station and country store, and an international aid organization which together employed 25-30 persons and served both Andes and the wider community. For instance, snowmobilers or bikers who filled up at Hogan’s ate at the eateries and dropped into the shops. For retirees who no longer drive, the loss of a convenience store is a knockout blow.
The pain of having historic buildings empty and deteriorating was palpable in the room. The Andes hamlet is a Historic District on both the state and federal registries. The eclectic variety of building designs reflect the era in which they were erected and keep our history alive. Zoning laws require permission for any exterior changes.
And the individual, community-minded entrepreneurs who have invested their lives and fortunes in local stores, restaurants, lodgings and farms contribute to Andes’ particular warmth and charm. One who was present spoke feelingly, “No one is getting rich. We chose to invest and live here.” Everyone spoke of their increasing unease at having both homes and commercial buildings owned by a faceless, uninvolved megalith whose agent, the personable Andes resident Andy Wos, will not (or cannot) give us even a shred of news as to their plans for our town. An October 2014 letter from the Andes Town Board addressed to Andy, as agent of the Broadlands Properties and its various LLCs, received no information in response. That total opacity added to the empty, deteriorating commercial spaces and their negative economic impact exacerbate the unease.
Suggestions to raise a response from Broadlands and to support Argyle ranged from an on-line petition, a clear “telling of the story” that can be picked up by the press and social media, letters to the editor, and appeals to our representatives in government. The group, plus anyone else interested, will meet again on Tuesday, June 30 at 3 pm at the Hotel to get the facts and story out from different angles, historic, economic and moral: Andes, a small town held hostage by corporate interests? ~