Arbor Hill is a low-income neighborhood integral to the historic fabric of Albany, New York. Despite a budding regional tech economy and important cultural resources including the 1797 Ten Broeck Mansion and Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, a nationally recognized Underground Railroad site, Arbor Hill has not experienced the same level of investment as other city neighborhoods. Median household income is nearly 50% less and vacancy rates are double the City of Albany overall.
In 2003, resident, business and civic stakeholders in Arbor Hill convened by Mayor Gerald Jennings completed a revitalization strategy called the “Arbor Hill Neighborhood Plan.” The Plan identified four main focal areas: 1) homeownership and rental housing; 2) arts, culture, and heritage; 3) business and job development; and, 4) quality of life. A top priority of the Plan is the adaptive reuse of St. Joseph’s Academy, a long vacant, blighted school building located at the corner of North Swan and Second Streets that has exerted significant drag on revitalization efforts.
Albany Barn, the Albany Housing Authority and the City of Albany partnered to redevelop the St. Joseph’s Academy building into 22 low-cost live/work residences for artists, and 13,500+ square feet of multi-tenant creative arts incubator, enterprise and program space including work and rehearsal suites, a dance studio, and digital media lab. The project is called “The Barn,” a name that originates from the age-old practice of barn raising, when a community united to build a barn – crucial to a family’s livelihood – for one of its households. In turn, that household would contribute to the overall vitality of the community.
The Barn project is informed by the success of similar transformative projects in other American cities like Providence, RI, San Francisco, CA and Lynchburg, VA, and the need for qualify affordable artist live and work space in the region is well documented. The renewed St. Joseph’s Academy will anchor North Swan Street with a stable, built-in creative economy that attracts other types of commerce, especially basic services absent today. Simultaneously, broad arts-based programming at The Barn will lift the creative and professional aspirations of neighborhood residents, especially youth, by establishing direct connections with artists, educators and entrepreneurs living and working in St. Joseph’s.
In December 2013, artists moved into the 22 renovated live/work apartments (called “Academy Lofts at The Barn”). The work, programming and exhibition space opened in April, 2014 with a well-attended celebration and art exhibition. The Barn is now buzzing with creative energy as residences and work studios fill-up with artists, creative enterprises, and community members anxious to put the former St. Joseph’s Academy back to work!
The Barn project has been made possible through the efforts and contributions of Albany Barn, the Albany Housing Authority, The City of Albany and Mayor Gerald Jennings, Norstar Development, Capitalize Albany Corporation, Empire State Development, Dave Sadowsky, Architect, P.C., TAP Inc., Bishop Beaudry Construction, and Plumb Excel Group.
Albany Barn also operates a storefront community art space located one block from St. Joseph’s called Stage 1.
Apply for housing and work space here.