Two Schenectady-based organizations get state funding for projects

Rachel Conn, director of the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, on Friday stands where a gazebo will be constructed in a park across from the center on Schenectady Street.

Rachel Conn, director of the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, on Friday stands where a gazebo will be constructed in a park across from the center on Schenectady Street.

SCHENECTADY – A total of $2.3 million was awarded to two organizations in Schenectady Friday to help with construction work. 

The Hamilton Hill Arts Center was awarded $300,000 in state funding, and Ellis Medicine will receive $2 million.

“We’ll be using it for renovations and programs,” said Rachel Conn, the executive director of the arts center. 

Construction is under way to update the art room, add a bathroom downstairs and bring the kitchen up to code, she said,  “so it can be used by the community and so we can provide cooking classes and things like that to the children.” 

The money will also help finance the construction of a geodesic dome that will act as a pavilion and shelter for the children’s camp, as well as some of the various programs the center offers. 

Those programs include both after-school and summer camp opportunities, the Jerry Burrell Gallery and various community events like Juneteenth. 

“We’re hoping to have most of it done by September,” Conn said. 

The nonprofit, which has been around for 50 years, serves over 10,000 people a year both at its 409 Schenectady St. location and offsite. The center helps “promote the knowledge, preservation and continued development of African and African Diasporic art and culture,” according to the organization’s website.

It is the only community center left in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood and only African and African American art center in Schenectady, the website states. 

The announcement of the funding for the center was an emotional moment, according to Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara D-Rotterdam, who with Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, originally advocated for $50,000 in funding for the center.

“This kind of support is needed for organizations like this,” Santabarbara said.  

The $2 million earmarked for Ellis Medicine will go toward funding the demolition of a four-story, parking garage with 750 spaces on Nott Street and the construction of a new six-story, 1,050 parking space garage.

The project was first announced in 2018 as part of the hospital’s master plan. 

The rest of that $30 million project will be financed by the hospital, said Phillip Schwartz, the senior director of marketing and communications.

“Note that there will be significant savings with the new garage – we presently spend $900,000 annually in maintenance,” he said. “We also have employees parking in a lot off site and we shuttle them to and from the hospital for their shifts. This is costly and won’t be an expense in the future as we are adding spaces for employees – as well as patients and visitors.” 

The project would also include a pedestrian bridge to the main entrance, according to a document on the project that was provided by Schwartz. 

The tentative timeline for the project included planning and design work this summer and demolition in 2022. 

“We don’t have a contractor selected yet,” Schwartz said. “We’re entering the planning phases now so it’s preliminary.”

Neighbors and businesses within ¼ mile of the hospital will be informed and educated on the project, with forums to be held in September, according to the document. 

An alternative parking plan is being developed. 

Santabarbara said a new garage will make things easier for patients, visitors and employees. 

“It’s every level you’ve got to think about when you think about a hospital,” Santabarbara said. “Certainly the structure, the building itself is important. I think this is a significant investment in our community and it’s an important step toward our recovery.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County



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