By ALISSA SCOTT
Bala Peri, owner of the former Park Hill Adult Home, has begun broadening his options by leading area officials on tours of the premises.
Peri, a Virginia man, purchased the 52 Grove St. property on his home computer for $175,000 in August. The property holds $60,000 worth of penalties and almost $200,000 in back taxes.
The former adult home, which started at auction for $3 million, did not include the business or the license. So, in order to reopen it as an adult home, Peri must reapply for a license which can take at least two years.
"I'm a family man," Peri said. "I have put a lot of money into the place, but still there is no cash flow."
He said he needs to generate a source of income in the meantime and has been considering opening a fine restaurant in the front of the building.
"Picture walking in the building with a nice chandelier on the ceiling, a table here with flowers, two to three intimate tables per room," Jerry Skrocki, neighbor and newly hired consultant to the project, said. "Excellent service. Excellent food."
Peri and Skrocki also plan to apply for a variance to open as a hotel.
Originally, Peri had wanted to open a bed and breakfast while he waited for his senior home license, but, according to zoning laws, in order to use more than six rooms for customers, it must be a hotel.
If he used less than six rooms, he said, it wouldn't bring in enough income. Peri said he has about 60 rooms that he can "easily fill."
However, he said there's still plenty of room to consider other ways to make money.
Peri invited Mayor Ann Thane and Dustin Swanger, president of Fulton-Montgomery Community College, to visit the property last week.
Thane, who had never visited the building before, said she was surprised about how large and "drop-dead gorgeous" it is.
"I knew that it was a convent at one point, but I didn't know about those extensive additions to the back," Thane said.
The 24,000 square-foot building follows a rectangular shape with a courtyard in the middle -- something Peri said Swanger seemed to like.
Peri said Swanger was interested in using the building as student housing, however Swanger said he wouldn't comment on it until he made a decision.
Thane said she doesn't think Peri should go through with student housing.
"I actually don't think that will work because there's too much in the way of state regulations that would need to be done to make that ready for students," Thane aid. "The cost would be too high."
She also doesn't think a hotel would well-suit the community's needs.
"To propose a hotel, you have a high end hotel going in across the river at the castle and you have a Hampton Inn and they have much better locations," Thane said. "If I'm going to book a room in a hotel, I don't want to stay in the room that was a senior cubby hole."
But, she said she does see a lot of potential in a fine dining establishment.
"That house is beautiful," Thane said. "The location is not ideal for a bed and breakfast, but for a restaurant, I can see a restaurant actually working there because it is just drop-dead gorgeous. That carpet on the first floor is nice."
Peri said he wants to hire a "good chef," serve French food and apply for a wine and beer license. The first step, he said, was visiting a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to apply for hotel and restaurant variances.
There was a zoning meeting scheduled for last Thursday, but the group did not have a quorum and had to cancel. Skrocki said their next step is to attend a Planning Commission meeting in two weeks.
Thane said she encouraged Peri to create a "tight business plan," because not only will he have more luck with the planning board, but it will also open him up to other sources of funding.
"If he could come with a very well developed business plan with a budget and a scope of work and anticipated revenues and market study, he could maybe go to the regional council and ask for funding," Thane said. " I did request that the director from AIDA and Ken Rose from the county would also visit the property because I think until you see it, you don't realize what they've got on their hands down there, and I did not know."
She also suggested veterans housing as an alternative to senior housing.
"I think that would be a great use of that property," Thane said. "Or a senior situation. The only thing is, he needs to do the business plan because you need to do market studies and you have a $20 million project happening up on the hill for assisted living. Can the region support that direction? I'm not so sure that it can. I think that he needs to do a lot more research and a lot more planning."
Peri and Skrocki will attend the ZBA meeting Dec. 19, which will determine if they can open as a hotel and restaurant.