ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Foreclosure may be in the forecast for the South End Grocery—a charitable project to provide fresh, healthy food to what had been a food desert in Albany.

District 10 Legislator Gary Domalewicz chairs the Albany County Capital Resource Corporation, which is one of three lenders who provided around $200,000 to the African-American Cultural Center of the Capital Region in order to buy the former McDonald’s on South Pearl Street. He says letters went out Tuesday advising that the loan was in default.

“We were lenient on this. We waited seven months. I don’t know how many people that are in arrears of your own mortgage that the banks would wait seven months to start the procedure,” says Domalewicz.

“It is a food desert down there and desperately needed and that’s the sad part of it. We were excited to help this project and make this project work,” he goes on to say.

The CRC’s loans and mortgages are handled by the Advance Albany County Alliance. The loan to the African-American Cultural Center was co-issued alongside Key Bank and Broadview Federal Credit Union.

“We all have the same agreement. We all agree that if one implements part of the agreement, then all three have to do it,” Domalewicz explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “All three have sent letters out to the African-American [Cultural] Center that they are in arrears and need to take action.”

However, Travon Jackson says that’s just not true. Jackson is the executive director for the center and the president of BlueLight Development Group, which is a key support for the South End Economic Development Center Expansion Project.

He says he only ever received a letter from Kevin Catalano, who is listed as the Advance Albany County Alliance senior vice president & director of commercial lending. Jackson tells NEWS10 although Catalano claimed Key Bank would follow up with its own default notice, he never received one.

The grocery store is not closing. Our loans will be paid off fully by our committed $1.5 million grants from Paul Tonko. The Economic Development Office at the County of Albany misrepresented their knowledge of our funding.

Our senior creditors Broadview and KeyBank are issuing payoff letters as of 12/31/23 in anticipation of our grants. This mission has always been challenging. We fully paid our first year of mortgage payments during construction. When we opened, payments ceased so we could feed people as promised.

The Economic Development Office has provided no assistance since February, so we figured out a path ahead on our own with the support of our Congressman, County Legislators, and other stakeholders.

Travon Jackson, African-American Cultural Center Executive Director / BlueLight Development Group President

NEWS10 has reached out to Key Bank and Broadview for comment. A Key Bank representative says “out of respect for clients’ privacy, we do not disclose or confirm that a person or business is a client, and we do not discuss clients’ activities with the bank.” Broadview has yet to issue a response.

“I don’t know anything about any grant,” Domalewicz says when asked about Jackson’s reassurances of payment.

“I don’t know if they guaranteed that he is going to get that grant or he just applied for a grant, but the fact is also we don’t have any relationship with BlueLight Development. Our relationships and our contracts are all with the African-American [Cultural] Center,” he goes on to say.

A representative from Congressman Paul Tonko’s office responding to NEWS10’s request for clarification on the grant shared a letter detailing the congressman’s request for funding to BlueLight Development Group and with the express usage of supporting the South End Economic Development Center Expansion Project.

However, their statement goes on to say the grant hinges on passing the 2024 federal budget:

Congressman Tonko selected 15 local projects to receive directed federal funding in Fiscal Year 2024 upon the passage of a federal budget. There are strict statutory guidelines for how this federal funding may be utilized. Any plans to use this grant funding outside of the initial stated purpose on the application are inconsistent with these guidelines and could put the funding in jeopardy. Additionally, this grant funding is contingent on Congress passing a full-year budget for 2024. At this point, there is no firm timeline on when, or even if, this will occur. Given demands from extremist Republicans to attach unrelated culture war issues to these bills and enact severe budget cuts to essential programs, it already seems likely that this process will be delayed.

Jonah Cohen, Spokesman for Congressman Paul Tonko

Meanwhile, Domalewicz says the African-American Cultural Center has 30 days from the first notice Tuesday to pay the principal and interest in full to all three lenders. He also claims the Advance Albany County Alliance representatives reached out to Jackson several times to varied response.

“We went out of our way to make sure that he had the opportunity to pay us what was due before we ever got this far. We asked to look at his financials, and he refused to give them to us. Maybe we could add some of our experts in the financial fields to help him and give direction on how to make the center more profitable,” Domalewicz says.

Jackson further added to his response to NEWS10 with the following:

This venture never was supposed to make money. Charity spends money to support people. The limited resources we have go towards stopping hunger.

Travon Jackson, African-American Cultural Center Executive Director / BlueLight Development Group President