“Hoffman’s next bet: Hudson Falls”

Buying the landmark facing park
By Mark Frost
The Chronicle Editor
Published: May 22, 2008

Peter Hoffman, having already invested millions in buying and renovating downtown Glens Falls buildings, now is joining with his son Peter, Jr. to make a similar plunge into downtown Hudson Falls.

The Hoffmans expected on Wednesday, May 21, to close on the 3-story, 18,000 sq-foot building on the prominent Main Street corner facing Juckett Park.

They said a closing is set on the purchase of another building nearby next week.

The building the Hoffmans are buying is “fully occupied,” said Peter, Sr., with commercial tenants on the first floor and nine two-story apartments on the second and third floors.

He said the structure dates from the 1920s. The apartments “were really built for the elite of Washington County, as I understand it. Each unit has its own fireplace. There are many historical details,” he said.  “To me it’s a focal property in the community. It’s been owned by Mike and Brien Moran. They’ve maintained it very well. They put a new roof on it last year. This is part of their heart.” 

He said the negotiation for the purchase “was an interesting process. It wasn’t the typical ‘I really want to sell this place.’ It was, ‘What will you do with it?’ They like what we do.”

The Hoffmans, by The Chronicle’s calculation, have spent at least $2.9-million buying buildings in downtown Glens Falls — and then invested heavily in improving them.  Their current project is a total transformation of 86 Glen Street near the Sawyer’s building. It will soon house an NBT Bank branch and the bank’s regional headquarters, as well as Behan Communications.  The Hoffmans have also built an apartment complex in South Glens Falls.

Peter, Sr. termed the revival of downtown Hudson Falls “inevitable, absolutely,” and said of investing there, “If you buy good property and do good development, there are the users” — both residential and commercial.

“As Kingsbury and Fort Edward…and the surrounding townships grow…,” he said, “to have a Hudson Falls is to me like a jewel of Washington County….

“What I have found in my experience is that people still want to have the downtown presence. They come to downtown Glens Falls to walk and shop.”

He says the same will happen in Hudson Falls.

“I looked at the La Fontana Restaurant when that was here (in the former Washington County courthouse building). On a Saturday night we’d wait in line. The prices weren’t cheap, but they did a phenomenal business. I’d see folks up there from Queensbury.”

Peter, Sr., said family was another factor in the Hudson Falls purchase. “My son is involved and that’s one reason we did it really….This is a new frontier for me. I’ve never had a partner.”

Peter, Jr., 29, graduated from Texas Christian University in 2002 with a degree in finance and then did stints with such financial giants as JPMorgan Chase and Wachovia — “working for ‘the man,’ if you will,” he quips.  He said, “I always thought that long term I would return to this area….My parents have offered me a wonderful opportunity to learn about the business and eventually I can do something for myself.”

The Hoffmans’ approach is definitely hands-on. Peter, Jr., said he has enjoyed most of it so far. Asked what he hasn’t enjoyed, he said, “I don’t know if anyone wants to shovel snow from 7 to 7.”

While his parents still live in Clifton Park — at least until their 14-year-old daughter graduates from high school, says Peter, Sr. — Peter, Jr. now lives in one of the Hoffmans’ buildings in Glens Falls, and he’s coaching the lacrosse team at Glens Falls Middle School.  “We’re 4-0,” he says. “The boys are kicking butt. I’m just trying to get integrated with the community.”

Peter, Sr., says of that community, “I think Glens Falls has been steadily growing since I came in ’04.”

Does he think Hudson Falls will experience the same growth? “Absolutely,” he said. “I think it’s well on its way.” 

He said that just an item in The Post-Star that said he was planning to buy an unidentified building prompted “some calls from people looking for space and wondering what we’re doing. People are look for quality space to rent.