Boston nonprofit interested in armory

A Boston-based nonprofit wants to buy and renovate the former Pennsylvania National Guard armory in Altoona using energy-efficient principles, if it can find the necessary governmental or non-profit partners.

The Sustainable Energy Funding Program borrows money to provide upfront funding for projects undertaken by state, county or local governments, schools, libraries, museums, hospitals, senior centers, public housing agencies – or other kinds of nonprofits – to enable energy efficient projects that otherwise might not occur, according to Larry Sprague, the program’s executive director.

The program borrows via tax exempt bonds or “private placement” to pay for renovations or new construction for the government or nonprofit client, takes lease payments to amortize the long-term debt, keeping a small cut for itself, and then turns the property back to the partner at the end of the lease, according to Sprague, who called the Mirror recently to obtain contact information on potential partners.

In addition to the program, the governmental or nonprofit “client” and the funding source, the setup could also involve one or more nonprofit, non-commercial tenant organizations to utilize the property.

The program hires a contractor to oversee the project.

Sprague has had discussions with a representative of a large local contracting firm, he said.

By practice and law, the entire operation is “transparent,” Sprague said.

“The primary focus of our work is to promote energy efficiency,” Sprague said. “And to upfront the capital needed to get projects [going].”

Sprague took over the program in 2012 after founder Edmund Baker Davenport of Colonial Beach, Va., died, Sprague said.

“I was asked to become executive director, and I chose to do so,” said Sprague, who still has a business called ISN Solutions.

The 3-year-old program is looking at several armories in hopes of putting together projects, Sprague said.

If it can put together one for the Altoona armory, the program would attempt to buy the property from the state Department of General Services, according to Sprague.

The state issued an invitation to bid on 11 armories, including the one in Altoona, on July 16.

The state doesn’t need them anymore because of more modern National Guard training facilities, including the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Readiness Center in Duncansville.

Minimum bid for the Altoona armory is $1.52 million, according to the department website. The property is 8.52 acres and its two buildings comprise 51,800 square feet.

Sealed bids are due Nov. 13, according to department spokesman Troy Thompson.

The property goes to the highest responsible bidder, Thompson said.

However, the department reserves the right “at its sole discretion” to reject any or all bids in accordance with its best interests, according to a cover letter on the invitation to bid.

A covenant would require the buyer to preserve the historical character of the exterior for 25 years in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

The state has said that agreeing to abide by the covenant would result in a 20 percent reduction in the price, which is based on appraised value.

The Altoona – also known as the Frankstown – armory was previously appraised at $1.9 million.

Among the armories for sale are ones in Tyrone, Huntingdon and Bellefonte.

Sprague has focused more on the Altoona armory, because Altoona is a bigger community, he said.