NEW KID ON THE BLOCK STANDS TALL AMID NEIGHBORS

CATHY WOODRUFF Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B1

Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2002

If the new, 15-story state comptroller's building at 110 State St. looks a little familiar, that's no coincidence.


Architect Daniel Patane wanted it that way.


After years of anticipation and construction, the facade of the new headquarters of the state's audit and control operation has rapidly come into view in recent weeks as the first batch of workers settled in at the new location.


Despite its contemporary construction, the exterior of the massive $84 million office building and parking garage borrows several features from surrounding structures erected in previous centuries.


``We wanted to make it fit in, but we also wanted to make it look a little bit contemporary,'' said Patane, whose involvement in the project with his partner, Robert Hatch, has spanned close to nine years, two architectural firms and multiple renditions of the overall project. ``I guess I wanted it to look like it had been there a while. You can't copy buildings, but you can complement them, which was what we were trying to do.''


The red roof resembles the distinctive tiles atop the state Capitol up the hill. The arched entrance and faux-limestone accents mimic the stone fronts of two majestic former bank buildings a few steps down the hill -- the former National Savings Bank building at 90 State St., completed in 1930, and the former City and County Savings Bank at 100 State St., built in two installments, one in 1901 and the other in the early 1920s.


The new building's light-colored brick helps key it to the Albany County Office Building, completed in 1928, next door at 112 State St., while the contrasting brick between the windows breaks up the solid color in a manner that echoes the county building and several others on the block. The red accenting brick echoes the color of other buildings across State Street, including the 1803 building that now houses Fleet Bank and the Ten Eyck complex that includes the Crowne Plaza hotel, built during the architecturally spare 1970s.


The first of roughly 2,000 employees expected to occupy the new comptroller's building moved in on the weekend that began Dec. 14, according to the Dormitory Authority, which managed the design, construction and financing for the building, and state Comptroller H. Carl McCall's office.


The last of the offices will be moved in February, said Dormitory Authority spokeswoman Claudia Hutton.


The city anticipates annual payments-in-lieu-of-taxes on the building of about $800,000, but the state Budget Division and Office of General Services could not yet provide a precise figure.


In addition to comptroller's staff, 110 State St. will house state treasury employees from the Department of Taxation and Finance, the state retirement system staff, a State Employees Federal Credit Union branch on the first floor, a cafeteria and a newsstand.


About 200 other employees with the comptroller's office and retirement system have moved into leased space at 90 State St., said comptroller's spokesman Jeffrey Gordon.


Any criticism of the new building stems mainly from its size. It looms large on the Albany skyline, overpowering some of the neighboring structures.


At 15 stories -- down from the 22 floors envisioned at one point -- the disproportionate size results mainly from the building's unusual depth. It stretches back from State Street, spanning Howard Street to include a 350-space parking garage. Earlier plans called for the garage to be built underground.


Nonetheless, many residents concerned with urban aesthetics say they appreciate the care devoted to making the facade fit in with the streetscape of the Downtown Historic District.


``I'm pleased that the architect made an effort to carry some of the details from the surrounding buildings into his building,'' said George Carpinello, a board member and attorney for Historic Albany Foundation.


He said the building's brick and granite fit more comfortably than some other downtown additions over the last 30 years. ``We're not a city of glass boxes,'' he said. ``Predominantly, we're very much a masonry city.''


Patane made design adjustments as a result of consultation with Albany's Historic Resources Commission, including clear glass front windows to diminish the fortress-like sense that buildings with reflective glass or street-level stone can convey.


Now that it's complete, Patane says he hopes he's designed a building that will be both distinctive and comfortable with its stately neighbors. If there's one regret, he said, it might be that the precise tan shade he'd envisioned for the brick wasn't available.


``It's probably a little more yellow than I would have liked,'' he said.