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Capital Region Economic Development Council and the City of Albany Announce Academy Lofts Affordable Housing & Business Incubator Project Breaks Ground in Arbor Hill

(April 10, 2013)

Capital Region Economic Development Council and the City of Albany Announce Academy Lofts Affordable Housing & Business Incubator Project Breaks Ground in Arbor Hill

The Capital Region Economic Development Council (CREDC) and the City of Albany today announced the start of construction on Academy Lofts, a restoration project that will increase affordable housing opportunities and serve as an innovative business incubator in Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood. The project, which is moving forward on the strength of $5.4 million in awards from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative, will transform the long vacant St. Joseph’s Academy into affordable apartments and a multi-purpose site for the arts community, creating more than 50 construction jobs and generating nearly $10 million in local economic activity.

CREDC officials today joined with Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, representatives from New York State Homes & Community Renewal (HCR), Empire State Development (ESD), and the Albany Housing Authority for an official groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the start of construction of Academy Lofts.

“Academy Lofts is a terrific example of the kind of creative and pragmatic initiatives emerging from the regional economic development efforts created by Governor Cuomo,” said CREDC Co-Chairs James Barba, Albany Medical Center President and CEO, and President Robert Jones, University at Albany. “The state’s commitment to supporting local Investments like this will create jobs and enhance communities in the Capital Region and throughout our state.”

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership the Regional Economic Development Councils have created a bottom-up paradigm for success, with community development projects that grow the economy and are strategic priorities for the region,” said Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner & CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal. “Academy Lofts is designed to become a focal point, attracting development and growing the neighborhood and the economy. The project brings millions of dollars to Arbor Hill, contributing to the long term vision of greater revitalization. I congratulate the City of Albany, the Albany Housing Authority and Albany Barn Inc. for steering this innovative project to success.”

The adaptive re-use of St. Joseph’s Academy will revitalize a long vacant structure, helping to improve the quality of life in the Arbor Hill neighborhood. Located at North Swan and Second Streets, Academy Lofts will provide 22 affordable apartments to the artist community, with on-site studio space that will be multi-purposed as a business incubator for the arts and an arts-oriented community center open to local residents. High-design/high-concept features of the project will include space for work studios, rehearsal suites, performance space, a digital media center and retail space and offices for the professional artist community. Academy Lofts is projected to generate nearly $10 million in economic activity for the region and is leveraging resources from the City of Albany and the Albany Housing Authority.

Mayor Jennings said, “Building stronger, more vibrant neighborhoods is a priority in Albany. Our neighborhoods are rich in diversity, character, history and architecture, and as such, we are committed to preserving Albany’s past while creating a vibrant future for our community by developing programs and projects that encourage reinvestment in the community and in the people of the Capital City.”

In the first round of the Regional Council initiative, the City of Albany Industrial Development Authority (IDA) was awarded $5.4 million in low-cost financing to assist with major components of the restoration project.
In addition, Empire State Development has provided $4.5 million in Restore NY grant funding and HCR has awarded $2.4 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits, as well as local support through the Federal Home Loan Bank, $350,000, and Historic Tax Credits.
“ESD is pleased to have provided assistance through its Restore NY program, which was created to revitalize neighborhoods as a means to attract residents and businesses and spur private investment,” said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams. “This project demonstrates what can be accomplished through collaboration at the state and local level and we look forward to Academy Lofts’ completion.”

Steven T. Longo, Executive Director of the Albany Housing Authority explained that the project satisfies four main criteria in the city's plan to revitalize the Arbor Hill neighborhood. “It improves existing housing, provides economic development, fulfills historic preservation, and will address quality of life matters,” said Longo. “This project is a real game-changer."

Mike Yevoli, Commissioner of the City of Albany’s Department of Development and Planning, said, “We have worked hard to bring the right partners and resources together to implement the Arbor Hill Plan and revitalize this historic neighborhood. This project is an excellent example of the City’s commitment to finding creative solutions for challenging vacant urban properties. Once rehabilitated, Academy Lofts will maximize the full potential of this historic building and allow it to once again serve as an anchor for the community.”

Jeff Mirel, President of Albany Barn, Inc., the project’s creative enterprise partner, said, “It’s truly a ‘rising tide’ type of project. Local and regional artists will come to create and collaborate affordably in the renewed St. Joseph’s Academy. This activity will attract other types of commerce, especially basic services that are absent today, and rekindle a lively village center in the heart of Arbor Hill. By establishing meaningful connections with artists, educators and entrepreneurs living and working in Academy Lofts/The Barn, we can lift the creative and professional aspirations of neighborhood youth.”

New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) consists of all the State's major housing and community renewal agencies, including the Affordable Housing Corporation, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the Housing Finance Agency, State of New York Mortgage Agency, Housing Trust Fund Corporation and others.

The Regional Economic Development Council initiative (REDC) is a key component of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s transformative approach to State investment and economic development. In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for their regions. The Councils are public-private partnerships made up of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government, and non-governmental organizations. The Regional Councils have redefined the way New York invests in jobs and economic growth by putting in place a community-based, bottom up approach and establishing a competitive process for State resources. After two rounds of competitive awards, nearly 1,500 projects are receiving support to put people back to work, get the economy back on track, and restore New York State as the Empire State.

To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.

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