Monday, July 21, 2014

College Experience Program seeks good fit for graduating students

Rob Corso, one of the graduates from College of Saint Rose's College Experience
Program, was offered a position in body shop at Orange Motors, after completing
his internship there this year.  
Bill Lynch had people he wanted to meet at smAlbany 2014. The job developer for College of Saint Rose's College Experience Program had several businesses circled in his program, including a local horse farm, and we was working his way around the rotunda, introducing himself to small business owners.

"That's the fun part of my job. Students come in with these backgrounds and motivations and I get to try to find a position that fits that," he says enthusiastically. This year, he has several students interested in animals, and several interested in clerical work, and Lynch is out pounding the pavement looking for the right employers for them.

Lynch works for the College Experience Program, a partnership between the College of Saint Rose and Living Resources that provides individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to learn the skills necessary for independent living. The two-year college program includes adaptive living skills and job training and usually culminates with internships, with the goal of finding meaningful work experiences for the students after college.

The Central Avenue Business Improvement District has been partnering with the College Experience Program since 2011, helping Lynch and his team match students with employers. As a result, many students have enjoyed internships at Central Avenue businesses.

Carl Keegan, vice president of Orange Motors, was full of praise for the program and the caliber of the students it produces. Two students recently completed internships at the car dealership--one in the body shop and one in the parts department. "They both worked out very well," Keegan says. One graduated and moved on, but the other has taken a paid position in the body department, and now he's just one of the guys, Keegan says.

Orange Motors has been an excellent partner, offering internships that give students real skills and reinforce
the value of hard work and teamwork, says Lynch. "They've really treated them like employees. They got turkeys like the rest of the team. At Christmas time they even got a bonus," he says.

Students have also taken positions at several other district businesses, including ShopRite, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Central Veterinary Hospital, and WAMC.

These students all gained hands-on experience in fields they're interested in. They also gained real-world skills like time management, self-advocacy and mastering public transportation. And the benefits aren't one-sided, Lynch points out. These small businesses get additional help, from a set of enthusiastic, determined workers.

"It's a really great project. I really have to comment that they do a great job over there at College of Saint Rose," say Keegan. "It was enjoyable for all of us, and for the students. I think more businesses should get involved in it."

The program is currently looking for employers to give job talks, provide job shadowing opportunities, and internships (paid or unpaid).

For more information about the College Experience Program, please contact Bill Lynch at (518) 218-0000 or by email at

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

UAlbany students lend professional expertise: Students complete fourth urban design plan for Central Avenue BID

The project report issued by University at Albany's Department of Geography
and Planning praised the recently completed Honest Weight Food Co-op. "The
newly built Honest Weight Food Co-op serves as a regional attraction for the
area," states the report. 
This spring, graduate students in the University at Albany's Department of Geography and Planning completed a comprehensive study of Central Avenue's western stretch, beginning at King Avenue and extending almost to Colvin Avenue. 

The 14 graduate and undergraduate students focused their energies on growing Central Avenue's shopping district, an area known for its grocery stores and auto dealerships. 

To begin with, the area was given props for its commercial vibrancy. "The main commercial businesses in the area are generally successful and popular. The various businesses generate high volumes of traffic throughout the day. The area serves as a retail center for various activities including grocery, auto sales, furniture, entertainment, etc.," states the report. 

Teams of students conducted an inventory of all the properties in the eight block area surrounding the intersection of Everett Road and Central Avenue, inspecting each parcel in the district, and rating each based on its condition and use. 

Points were detracted for missing signs, degraded siding, and incomplete sidewalks. Students also analyzed district demographics, transportation, parking, signage, and formal and informal gathering spaces in order to determine the way forward. 

They lauded the amount of successful commercial activity taking place in the study area, and the contribution of these businesses make to the tax base, they also wondered if there were additional ways they could positively  impact their community. 

"There is an abundance of inefficient, underutilized, single use commercial buildings in this area. A surplus of surface parking is present. Pedestrian mobility is impeded by poor pavement, a lack of internal sidewalks, and unfinished sidewalks on Everett Road. There are minimal trees and green space throughout the area," states the report.  

Students also bemoaned the lack of consistency when it comes to housing in the area. Much of the existing housing stock is in bad condition, and a number of empty lots detract from the neighborhood aesthetics, they stated. 

They noted strong businesses like Honest Weight Food Co-op, ShopRite, Mildred Elley, Austin Beauty School, Planned Parenthood, Orange Motors and DePaula Chevrolet that serve as regional draws. They also noted a number of large parcels in the area with lots of open space for development. 

Among their recommendations:
  • Pursue infill housing and large-scale high-density housing projects
  • Create a community center to address the need for a neighborhood-oriented facility and meeting space
  • Bring a cultural center to serve as a regional attraction as well as a neighborhood attraction for the area
  • Ensure housing is available for a range of income levels
  • Provide more access to parks and green spaces for the community by creating pocket parks, playgrounds, and urban gardens throughout the area
  • Create new student housing apartments to serve young adults pursuing higher education
  • Increase the quantity of trash cans throughout the area to encourage a cleaner community
  • Plant more trees along residential streets
  • Increase green space
  • Improve quality of local roads for pedestrian comfort and safety through improved lighting, crosswalks, and landscaping
  • Promote lively street level activity through mixed use development and incorporating retail on the street level
  • Improve pedestrian access to the area by creating a "walking neighborhood" on Third Street, increasing sidewalks, and installing enclosed pedestrian bridges crossing Everett Road and Central Avenue
The Site Planning Studio is the fourth in a series of conceptual plan design studios executed for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. In 2013, they concluded their three-part study of Central Avenue's Cultural Village, providing recommendations for how to turn Central Avenue into a destination for international arts and culture. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Central Avenue BID gets $2,200 in grant funding for lighting in Townsend Park

Conceptual Lighting design plans for Townsend Park, created
by RPI lighting design students. 
The Greater Capital Chapter of New York State Commercial Association of Realtors® the local representative group of real estate professionals, has received a $2,200.00 placemaking micro-grant from the National Association of Realtors® to help install outdoor lighting in Townsend Park.  

The grant will enable the Central Avenue BID to add lighting to Townsend Park's trees, transforming the park into an exciting urban space for the community and for newly formed thriving business at Central Avenue's bustling east end. 

Townsend Park has been the site of increased business development as of late. This year, two new restaurants, Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar and Flavors of India opened on the park, and a third, Terra Pescetarian, is expected by the end of the summer. Parkside Apartments, a new upscale apartment building whose beautiful units face the park, opened with much fanfare, and fully leased apartments, earlier this summer. 

With its fully mature trees, monuments, and curving walkways, this brownstone bordered park is primed for outdoor lighting. 

“As the Townsend Park area becomes more attractive and welcoming, nearby properties may also increase in value,” said Central BID Executive Director Anthony Capece. The lighting will make the park more user-friendly and add to its ambience, he says. The Central Avenue BID hopes the lighting will enhance the park, making it attractive for existing businesses and hopefully attract additional businesses.

The grant is intended to help Realtor Associations partner with others to plan, organize, implement and maintain place-making activities in their communities. The Greater Capital Chapter of New York State Commercial Association of Realtors will partner with Central Business Improvement District on this project who will also be providing financial, technical assistance and maintenance. 

“Realtors® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them,” said Nick DeMarte, President of the NYSCAR Board. “Placemaking can help foster healthier, more socially and economically viable communities. It creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better. This grant will allow us to address areas in our community that are in need of improvement or redevelopment and create a place where friends and neighbors can come together.” 

In 2009, Townsend Park was been the subject of a series of planning meetings and visioning sessions with Barton & Loguidice Consulting. In 2010, the Central Avenue BID worked with lighting design students at RPI to create a series of design concepts for the park. Subsequent environmental design measures and the concerted effort of business owners and neighborhood engagement officers led the Times Union to report that the park had marked progress in 2012, and that quality of life issues that used to plague nearby residents and business owners, including vagrancy, public drunkeness and prostitution, had all but disappeared. 

This lighting project represents the next step for the park, and would go a long way to economically enhance the City of Albany and, at the same time, preserve and restore and highlight a park that's been around for over one hundred years, says Capece. Revitalizing Townsend Park would increase real estate opportunities in the area and enhance the value of existing properties. It would also help to improve safety and enhance the atmosphere for those who live and work in that area, he says. 

This is the first time a commercial board of realtors has ever been awarded a placemaking grant by the National Association of realtors.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Transit Art: CDTA to launch public art program at Central Avenue's busiest stations

New vs. Old--One of Central Avenue's old signs sits on
top of the five flatscreen TVs that just arrived for CDTA's
Transit Art program, being launched later this summer/early fall.
Transportation companies have been making use of digital displays for some time, but this summer, CDTA is going to take that same technology and make it beautiful. 

CDTA, with the support of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, will install five flatscreen TVs in its busiest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations on Central Avenue to display the work of local artists and artists' organizations. 

The Transit Art program is part of CDTA's Transit Development Plan, and is designed to share local art and arts programming with the public. 

"We're excited," says Jonathan Scherzer, Director of Marketing for CDTA. "I think it's a great program. It's a no-brainer for us. We feel very entrenched in our communities, and I know the Central Avenue BID feels the same way, so to give something back and allow people to have a voice is a real positive thing." The big push now is getting as many arts organizations on board as possible, in order to make the content as engaging and varied as possible, Scherzer says.

The five 42-inch flatscreens will be mounted inside durable enclosures inside the BRT stations at 900 Central Avenue in front of Hannaford Plaza, 855 Central Avenue near Mildred Elley, 633 Central Avenue near Danker Florist and across the street, and at 195 Washington Avenue in front of the Washington Avenue Armory. 

The Transit Art program will include stills, videos, and demonstrations, music performances, dance performances, cooking demonstrations, fashion, flowers, writing--nearly anything that involves artistry or design. Future plans for the project could include virtual gallery openings, virtual holiday craft fairs, and other community tie-ins. 

The screens will be connected wirelessly to a server that will run programming around the clock. The programming will be coordinated by the Graphic + Media Design Program at the Sage College of Albany. Content will be sourced from the community. The project is scheduled to be completed by late summer/early fall. 

If you have a still of your artwork, footage of a performance, please contact the CBID offices at (518) 462-4300 to get more information about submissions.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sign up for All Around Albany 2014: Let us help you market your business to college students

By Lori Pelersi


We know you want college students as customers. Who doesn't?

The Central Avenue Business Improvement District invites you to come introduce your products or services to incoming college students in the area!

All Around Albany 2014 is an event put on for the incoming freshmen or transfer students at the University of Albany. This event helps them to become familiar with the different businesses in the Albany area and is part of their official orientation schedule, Great Dane Beginnings.

Make a lasting impression that will make them want to come back for more. Set up a table or sponsor the event to advertise your business to about 500 students. You will have a chance to promote your business by adding coupons, menus, or other promotional materials into our goody bags which every student receives.

Students have a great time at our event. Just check out the Facebook album from last year.

Each year the students love this event due to the food, prizes, and giveaways from the different businesses in the district. Don’t miss out on free advertisement!

All Around Albany 2014 will be taking place on Saturday August 23, 2014 at the Albany Ramada Plaza Hotel from 11-2pm. For more information please contact the CBID office at (518) 462-4300.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Picking up good vibrations: Irie Vybez joins busy block in Central Avenue's A&E district

Digital signage, flatscreen TV's, and pleasing lighting beckons passersby
into Irie Vybez for a sit and a smoothie. 
You can’t walk past Irie Vybez without ducking your head in, and if you do that, Owner Garth Antonio will invite you to order a smoothie, sit down, and enjoy the good vibes. 

“That’s what Irie Vybez means,” Antonio says with a smile. “Good vibes.” It’s an unusual moniker, pure Jamaica, and one that Antonio hopes will stand out on this block.

Irie Vybez, a new smoothie bar and Caribbean restaurant, is the latest restaurant to join Central Avenue’s burgeoning Arts & Entertainment District, home to whopping eight international restaurants, four ethnic markets, the Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Center, WAMC Northeast Public Radio, the local public radio station, as well as two live music venues, Pauly’s Hotel and The Low Beat, and a new record shop, Noise Annoys record shop. It's the third business to open on this busy block in as many months, prompting business owners to band together to launch a new music district. The music district rebranding campaign is expected to be announced in September.

“I call it Albany’s 42nd Street,” says Antonio, a New York City native. Antonio says Central Avenue is the perfect location for his new restaurant, which combines great food with an inviting atmosphere. --and it doesn’t hurt that the place is open late -- 3am on the weekends -- so he’s poised to capture that after-hours crowd that lets out from local hot spots.
Irie Vybez combines healthy options with bright space, and stools perfect
for watching the world go by. 

The menu offers a twist on traditional Caribbean dishes, with a number of options for the health-conscious. Irie Vybez has “Design Your Own Fruit Smoothies,” or a great menu of flavors including Ocho Rio's, Negril, Montego Bay, Kingston, and Irie Vibe. All smoothies are made to order using fresh fruits, Greek yogurt, fresh veggies, regular milk, berries, and nuts, and customers can see their smoothies made right in front of them.  

Irie Vybez also offers a  “Design Your Own Salad,” which you can top with jerk chicken or jerk steak, as well as more traditional fare like ackee with saltfish and curry chicken. “I also have to say that my prices are probably the best of any restaurant around. Our lunches start at $4,” he says.

The restaurant is located in the former I Love NY Pizza, which Antonio is leasing. He has rehabbed the space over the course of six months, starting with a complete gut. Today, the restaurant sports digital signage, internet-connected flatscreen TVs which play upbeat reggae music videos. The space boasts brightly painted walls in Tropical hues, and slick high-top tables and bar stools to compliment the islands vibe. It’s a far cry from how he found it, Antonio says, with bleach white tile and red picnic-style tables.

Irie Vybez also offers free wi-fi, and online ordering that tells customers exactly where their order is from the time they log it until it arrives on their doorstep. “We’re trying to be innovative,” he says. Antonio is an admitted tech geek--when he was fresh out of college at Buffalo State, he and his buddies opened an online retail business. “All my life, I’ve been a real entrepreneur,” says Antonio.

He hopes this latest endeavor will be the start of something big--a franchise. “I won’t lie, we’re looking to open 10 in two years,” says Antonio. “We’re thinking of doing a lounge area next. We’re looking down in Saratoga Springs, Providence Rhode Island, and also near Temple University,” says Antonio.

Irie Vybez is located at 313 Central Avenue in Albany. The Ribbon-Cutting will take place Friday, June 20, from 11:30am-12:30pm.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Parkside Apartments a proving ground for Townsend Park turnaround

The Parkside Apartment building is also home to Great Finds
Thrift Boutique, a great clothing store with beautiful displays.
Downtown Albany isn’t the only place to build apartments in Albany. The new Parkside Apartments proves that the office building-to-apartment building trend can be successfully leveraged in other parts of Albany, too.

The apartments also speak to the 
transformation that this part of town has gone through. “The fact that they rented out units ahead of schedule proves the desire to live in this neighborhood far exceeds supply. It shows that we’ve really turned a corner on Central Avenue,” says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. “It’s really a case of, if you build it, they’re already waiting. As soon as someone puts a unit up, it’s rented.”

Parkside Apartments will hold a ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration May 28, 2014 from 12:30pm-1:30pm. Tours of the new apartments will be offered afterwards.

The project has an interesting history. When a spacious office building at 260 Washington Avenue lost its tenants in 2012, local developers decided to transform the property into Parkside Apartments, high-end apartments overlooking Townsend Park, a pocket park near Central Avenue.

“It’s right near the park, and it’s walkable. It’s close to restaurants and entertainment. It’s a very convenient place to live,” says Danny Sanders, a partner on the project.

Sanders has a commitment to this block. In 1996, Sanders and his father chose to move their growing architecture firm, Harris A. Sanders Architects, P.C., into a restored bank on this same block. It was a catalyst project for this stretch of Washington Avenue, and one that demonstrated the direction the neighborhood could take. Now, nearly two decades later, the firm is helping the neighborhood move in another new direction.

Construction started in August 2013, and will be completed in June 2014, and already, all the units -- 14 total -- have been leased. “We were surprised by how fast they went. This really demonstrates that there’s movement back to the city,” says Sanders.
The apartment building is between two parks, Townsend
Park and Washington Park, on a particularly shady stretch
of Henry Johnson Blvd. 

One- and two-bedroom units start at $1400, and include off-street parking, cable, internet, and a fitness room. The apartments feature skylights, hardwood floors, huge windows, and stainless steel EnergyStar appliances. Their proximity to two parks as well as entertainment and dining venues make them perfect for the savvy young Millennial, or the Baby Boomer looking to age in place.

In November, Dale Davidson opened Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar right around the corner from the new apartments. She notes that apartment building as one more indicator of the renewal taking place on this block. This park-front block will soon be a destination for residents and visitors alike.

Creating safe, livable, mixed use and mixed income neighborhoods is a key goal of the Albany 2030 plan, and experts agreed that mixed use projects like this one -- the building also includes retail space on the first floor  --  are critical for Albany’s future. “We’re bringing 25 new residents into this neighborhood, which is going to boost sales in these surrounding businesses,” says Sanders.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Life is like riding a bicycle: Bike Month Underway

Albany Police Department hosts the PAL Bike Rodeo, where youth learned
proper cycling and safety techniques. 

In April, the Albany Common Council declared May Bike Month in the City of Albany. As part of the festivities, the Albany Bicycle Coalition, the Albany Police Department and the Honest Weight Food Co-op will sponsor numerous special events during the course of the month, including Bike to Work Day and the PAL/APD Bicycle Rodeo. 

The fact is Albany is a bike kind of city, complete with a Bicycle Master Plan, adopted as part of the Albany 2030 plan. Here, for the uninitiated, are some other Albany bike facts:

  • Since 2008, the City of Albany has improved or added 16.3 miles of bike infrastructure, including paths, signage and bike lanes. 
  • Currently, there are 344 bike racks in the city
  • The city boasts 1446 bike parking spaces
  • All CDTA buses have bike racks
  • The City of Albany got an Honorable Mention by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB)
Complete Calendar of Events for Bike Month

§  Friday, May 16th
o   Bike to Work Day/Green Your Commute Day
§  Bike to Work Challenge information:
§  Green Your Commute information:
§  Saturday, May 17th 10:00am to 1:00pm
o   PAL/APD/Department of Recreation Bicycle Rodeo 165 Henry Johnson Blvd.
o   For more information:
§  Tuesday, May 20th 6:00pm
o   Honest Weight Food CO-OP’s Bike Month Celebration and Panel Discussion – 100 Watervliet Ave., Albany

§  Wednesday, May 21st
o   National Ride of Silence
§  6:00pm from Corning Preserve Boat Launch
§  6:30pm from West Capitol Park

§ Friday, May 23rd 6pm to 9pm & Saturday May 24th 10am to 4pm
o   New York Bicycling Coalition Traffic Skills 101 ($5 registration fee)– SUNY Downtown Campus     
o   Other locations and more info here:

§ Saturday, May 31st 10:00am to 1:00pm
o   PAL/APD/Department of Recreation Bicycle Rodeo – Thomas O’Brien School/Lincoln Park
o   For more information:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Concrete Opportunities on Central Avenue: Drawing Up Central hosts artists, families, and community organizations

By Lori Pelersi
photo 1.JPG
Warm sunny day on the 2nd Annual Drawing Up Central, May 10. Grand Prize winner, Jennifer Keal, drew a koi pond that won her $500.

Fun was had by all at “Drawing Up Central,” a sidewalk chalk art contest presented by the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, Equinox Inc.,the City of Albany, and the Lexington Avenue Partnership.

The second annual community-wide event was held on May 10, 2014, which was part of the City of Albany’s 66th Annual Tulip Festival. Artists from all around the area were given a sidewalk square between Henry Johnson Blvd and Lexington Avenue to create masterpieces on Central Avenue. Later, the contestants’ pieces were judged and a winner was announced.

Grand Prize-Adult: Jennifer Keal - $500
Grand Prize-Youth: Savannah Bennekin - HD Wearable Camera

The contest also hosted food trucks for the first time. Pies on Wheels, Crisp Cannoli, and Fitzy’s Fork in the Road provided food all day for the artists and all who came and watched. There was great entertainment by Jim Bonville and the Grassroots Rebels and by Terry Roben for families and friends to enjoy.  Community organizations were also present to distribute information and resources at the event.

“Drawing Up Central” was sponsored by  Pioneer Bank, the City of Albany, the Albany Police Department, Capitalize Albany Corporation, All Over Albany, Albany Parking Authority, Historic Albany Foundation, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Equinox, Inc. and Central Avenue Business Improvement District.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Keys, please: Capital Carshare raises money for new car-sharing program

Want to borrow a car? You can, with Capital CarShare, a new program that gives members access to cars any time. To get started, the new program is looking raise $20,000 through a new crowdfunding campaign.  

Capital CarShare (CCS), a budding social enterprise offering affordable and sustainable shared transportation, has announced the launch of its online crowd-funding campaign ‘Get There,' through Indiegogo. All funds raised will aid in the purchase of eco-friendly vehicles, marketing and advertising, and hiring staff.

“CarShare helps people get to doctors appointments, job interviews, and makes it easier to run errands like a big trip to the grocery store,” says Creighton Randall, manager, Capital CarShare. 

Capital CarShare gives members the keys to neighborhood vehicles for use by the hour or by the day. The process is simple: sign-up for a monthly membership, reserve a car for up to 72 hours, and ‘get there’. Gas, tax, and insurance are covered by one low rate and cars will be parked in lots around the city for easy pick-up and drop-off.

“The addition of Capital CarShare to the City of Albany will greatly expand transportation options for residents without significantly expanding the number of cars on the road,” said Kate Lawrence, planner with the City of Albany Mayor’s Office of Energy & Sustainability.

Founded in early 2014 by a small group of environmentally conscious Albany residents, car sharing has been a hot topic in the Capital Region for about three years. A few supporters, such as Council Member Leah Golby, have been “dreaming of CarShare in this region since 2007.”

Powered by the same non-profit model as Buffalo CarShare, a successful program since 2007, and headed by its former Executive Director Randall, Capital CarShare is looking to raise $20,000 by June 7, 2014. Money will be used to fund the program, including the purchase of vehicles. 

Capital CarShare plans to fill in the gaps of public transportation and Randall is confident they can do just that. "There's a strong market for this in the Capital Region based on what we've seen in Buffalo,” says Randall. “The non-profit model has served members very well in Buffalo and I think it will make a great fit here in the capital,” said Randall.

Capital CarShare is located at 176 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12206. For more information, please contact Nnenna Ferguson, Marketing Specialist at 310-482-9807. To donate to the Capital CarShare, visit their campaign on Indiegogo.