It has been quiet over the past couple of years at the Whitehall Armory because of the pandemic. In addition, the community has been waiting for it to be sold. But now Roark Merrill of Long Beach, California, wants to bring the armory back to life.
“The armory came up on my radar because one of my friends knows that I buy functionally obsolescent properties and repurpose them. We look for a need that the community has or doesn’t even know it has and when you fulfill that need you create a building that is wanted and needed,” Merrill said.
Merrill’s friends had sent him information on a castle in Michigan that needed $12 million of renovations, according to Merrill, but was listed for a mere $2 million. Some of the castle’s attractions were a drawbridge as well as a moat. Merrill looked into purchasing of the castle, but the plan fell through.
“We looked at it and by the time we called the realtor, which was later that day, it was already under contract,” he said.
Although Merrill wasn’t able to secure the castle in Michigan, he said he was glad because he was led to the upstate New York region.
“We thought it was a joke, that castle listing, and I was so glad that other ones fell through and so we fell in love with this one,” he said.
After negotiation, the contract for the armory has now been put into a lawyer’s hands, and Merrill is ready to start his new journey in Whitehall. The next step is to have the armory inspected.
Merrill attended the September village meeting to hear what the community might like to see happen at the armory as well as any events for which they might have ideas. Because the armory is one of the best locations for indoor events for more than 50 people, Merrill wants to make the space something the community wants and needs.
By making the armory a place where community members can gather as well as hold events, Merrill has been thinking of keeping the gun range, but rather than having it be open to the public, he sees it as an opportunity for business owners as well as the Whitehall Police Department to hold gun safety courses. He also has envisioned it as a bowling alley.
“If I don’t turn it into a bowling alley, I would let the police department and maybe the local gun shops use it for training, because to my understanding, when the gun range is being used, you can’t do anything else because it’s loud,” he said.
Merrill has made it known that he is excited to become a part of the Whitehall community. During his trip east, Merrill was enthusiastic about the area and the people in the community. He projects to have the armory in better standing by spring.
“I didn’t meet a single person I wouldn’t invite over to dinner; I have tears in my eyes, you guys are amazing,” he said.