Reprinted from the Times Union
$5M grant benefits South End
Capital South Campus Center will have classrooms, a tech center and a greenhouse
By JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST Staff writer
Updated 8:53 am, Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Albany Housing Authority director Steve Longo speaks during dedication ceremonies for the $10.1 million second phase of Albany's South End revitalization project on Morton Avenue in Albany Tuesday July 12, 2011
(John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union)
Editor's note: The cost of phase two of the project was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. It is $10.1 million.
ALBANY -- City housing officials have won a nearly $5 million federal grant to build an educational center that will bring college-level classes to the South End site at which a public housing tower once stood.
The news came Tuesday as the Albany Housing Authority unveiled the second phase of its Capital South project, 43 new and renovated affordable apartments in the shadow of Lincoln Square, an aging high-rise public housing complex that has dominated lower Morton Avenue for decades.
Phase 2 of the project on Morton Avenue and Catherine, Broad and Clinton streets -- which includes nine single-family homes and four new apartment buildings -- follows the success of Phase 1, 52 housing units centered around the once-derelict apartment building at the corner of Morton Avenue and Eagle Street, now known as Eagle Court.
The Capital South Campus Center -- featuring three classrooms, a technology center and a second-floor greenhouse -- will rise on the former site of 4 Lincoln Square, which was razed in 2004 as part of a larger plan to move away from high-rise public housing that often is viewed as dividing neighborhoods.
Capital South is a manifestation of that change in direction, said Steven Longo, executive director of the Albany Housing Authority, which led the $10.1 million apartment construction project with its private partner, Omni Housing Development.
The housing authority will build the 12,000-square-foot educational complex and pay for its maintenance with HUD money, but the facility will be run by the Trinity Alliance, a venerable South End social services not-for-profit.
Trinity's partners will include Hudson Valley Community College, the University at Albany, Albany Community Action Partnership and Tech Valley Communications, said Harris Oberlander, Trinity's CEO.
Offerings will include associate degree classes, some focusing on the health care industry; a computer lab; a lounge; early intervention services; and drop-in day care.
There also are plans to partner with two keystones of the local ecological sustainability movement, the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center and Grand Street Community Arts' Youth Organics program, to use the new greenhouse to provide a special focus on urban agriculture.
Adolfo Carrion, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said there is a nexus between the need to provide both quality affordable housing and educational opportunities.
"Parents want to know that their children will have educational opportunities that will lead to jobs," Carrion said in announcing the $4.9 million HUD grant. He also pointed to the success of both phases of the Capital South housing partnerships as evidence that Albany is succeeding on both fronts.
"It's a good sign that the businesspeople believe in this city and its neighborhoods," Carrion said.
Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin credited the years of work that culminated with the city's Capital South Plan -- a playbook for the revitalization of the South End -- as laying the groundwork for the recent construction that she said has helped transform Morton Avenue.
"We've worked for years to make the South End a community of choice -- not last resort," McLaughlin said.
Mayor Jerry Jennings acknowledged that the neighborhood's deterioration had become a problem for the city.
"If you looked at this corridor five years ago ... we weren't proud of that," Jennings said. "But we've changed it."
As a reminder of the challenges that persist, demolition crews were working just blocks away to raze a collapsing 162-year-old Trinity Place church Tuesday as officials gathered to laud the progress on Morton Avenue.
The plan is to eventually demolish the three remaining Lincoln Square towers once enough smaller-scale replacement housing -- like the one and two-bedroom apartments opened Tuesday -- has been built, said Darren Scott, director of planning and development for the housing authority. Another obstacle, Scott said, is the need for demolition money to take down the remaining three mammoth towers.
Scott said construction on the campus center is expected to begin in the spring.
Reach Jordan Carleo-Evangelist at 454-5445, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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