Ravens Head: Cohoes Armory is a done deal

The Cohoes Armory, via Google Street View.

The Ravens Head Brewing Company's selection of the Cohoes Armory for its start-up brewery/restaurant is a done deal, Ravens Head co-owner Brennon Cleary says. The company's offer on the building was accepted Monday, and the closing is expected March 15.

Cleary says Ravens Head is aiming to be producing beer by October, and if things come together smoothly, the planned restaurant could be open by November or December.

Cohoes wasn't the company's first choice. It had first set it sights on the former St. Joseph's church in Albany's Ten Broeck Triangle. But the property required a zoning variance, and some residents were very vocal in their concerns about the brew pub's potential effect on the neighborhood. Also making the site difficult: Ravens Head would have had to acquire a parking lot, pushing the cost of the project -- already projected to be $3 million -- too high.

The Albany board of zoning appeals hasn't issued a ruling on Ravens Head's request for a variance. But following a string of skeptical public comments at a December BZA meeting, and a common council resolution against the project, Ravens Head started looking for other options -- entered a offer on the Cohoes Armory in late January, as the Biz Review reported. In addition to Cohoes, the company also looked at sites in Troy, Lake George, Hudson, and Windham.

"Obviously St Joe's is a gem and walking away from that part of it really, really, really sucks," says Ravens Head's Brennon Cleary. "But it's like night and day. Cohoes was proactive. All the issues we ran into in Albany, Cohoes made sure they had the answers. I think they have a very good grasp into what they want to do there and how they want to do that, and it's refreshing. It took three weeks as opposed to 10 months and nearly $30,000 we spent working on Albany."

Cleary says he's excited about the possibility in Cohoes, pointing to the expansion of the Harmony Mills apartments, and a walkable downtown.

"There's a lot of people and I think there is a lot of opportunity for artistic, niche stores. It needs a few other upscale restaurants and a couple of more breweries in the area."

He's hoping to reach out to other local breweries to start some craft brewing festivals and include wineries and distillers as well. "My overall impression of the brewing industry is, except forthe major conglomerations, it's more like a fraternity with a number of collaborations between brewers." He says he'd even be interested in collaborating with other local breweries on products, citing recent collaborations by Stone and Dogfish Head and Victory breweries as examples of what is possible, though he hasn't approached other brewers yet.

Cleary says Ravens Head is paying $220,000 for the Cohoes Armory. The building includes 22,000 square feet with "[an] apartment, offices, storage/production areas, storage loft, loading dock, and room for trailer access," according to a real estate listing. A Craigslist item for property mentions "ample parking." The building is in an area zoned for mixed-use that allows for restaurants and bars (p. 58). (St. Joseph's is in an area zoned for residential, thus the need for a zoning variance.)

The armory dates back to 1893. Its architect was Isaac Perry, who not only designed a handful of armories around the state, but also supervised a phase of the state capitol construction.

Ravens Head is the creation of Cleary and Brent Decker, who are both from New Jersey. They had previously worked for Verizon there, and are looking to start to the brewery as part of a career change. Cleary has already moved to Kinderhook, where Ravens Head recently bought property for storage.

Earlier and elsewhere:
+ Ravens Head Brewing focusing on Cohoes Armory
+ Ravens Head Brewing considering alternatives to St. Joseph's
+ TU: Church pub called a foul brew
+ TU: Council opposes church pub plan
+ Analysis from local brewer George de Piro
+ Is St. Joseph's Church a brewery in its next life?

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Find It

Cohoes Armory (planned site of Ravens Head Brewing)
33 Hart Street
Cohoes, NY 12047


Any questions?

"But it's like night and day. Cohoes was proactive. All the issues we ran into in Albany, Cohoes made sure they had the answers. I think they have a very good grasp into what they want to do there and how they want to do that, and it's refreshing. It took three weeks as opposed to 10 months and nearly $30,000 we spent working on Albany."

Now all the residents who didn't think Ravens Head had "a sound business plan" and "didn't know what they were doing" should pay attention if the business is a success because then you'll be able to eat some crow!

There has been a lot of residential development in the around the Church ( on Broadway, Pearl, State), has any developers looked at converting the church to residential apartments. Is it correct to say that the developer wouldn't even need to go in front of the zoning board because it is zoned for residential?

It could lead to some interesting spaces.

I am happy that Ravens Head found a home that was welcoming and I look forward to traveling north from Albany to give it a try.

Nope, no questions.

This time, Ravens Head picked a building in a location with no zoning issues, no parking problems, and no concerns from neighbors.

In short, everything they didn't do the first time around.

@Hock41 - the success of the plan and business is tied to location. You know the adage "location, location, location".

Our feelings about the plan were that it didn't make sense for our neighborhood and space available, and that the amount of money needed to make it even a possibility was way too high to be successful. Ravens Head eventually figured that out. Their success in Cohoes does not equate to them also having been successful in St. Joe's. Its apples and oranges.

Great news! Thanks, AOA.

@Code Monkey, re; that quote, they should have looked at Cohoes first and saved all that money!

Congratulations to both Ravens Head and the City of Cohoes!

SCORE ONE FOR THE HOMETOWN! ...I mean hometeam!

This is a project that can be transformational to Cohoes. An old mill workers town that relied on start up companies to build it up in the late 1800's. Companies like Raven Head can be a way to do it again in the 21st Century. We look forward to working with them.

Anyone detect a trend? Albany isn't a welcoming environment to new businesses.


"The couple moved cross-country to be closer to Andrea's family in Long Island, and looked upstate because of their love of the outdoors. They looked in other places such as Albany and Saratoga to start their business, but they say they got a somewhat-less-than-excited response. But when they went to the Schenectady city council meeting, not only were people excited about their idea, even the mayor met with them to discuss their plans. And they say they're now Schenectady's first food truck (in recent memory, at least)."

I understand if the residents of Ten Broeck didn't want this here. I disagree with them but they have the right to express their opinion. What is troubling in the continued lack of support for new ideas in Albany. The common council passed a resolution against Raven's Head. The mayor was nowhere to be found on the issue. It is clear that Albany has a long history of only supporting businesses that benefit those who are politically connected. Sad but true. And don't get me started on the whole anti chicken attitude.

Let's hypothetically consider the idea that the city council and mayor want what is best for the city of Albany. Do they work with interested investors to find solutions (including alternate locations) or do they ignore the investors and vote against them to send the message they aren't welcome? There are many buildings in downtown Albany that could have housed this business.

Perhaps, the politicians were using their power to eliminate competition for the existing downtown brewery? One that got started with huge grants and incentives from the city and is a short walk from this neighborhood?

@Code Monkey: Do you mean to imply that Albany politicians, in the "Improbable City of Political Wizards, Fearless Ethnics, Spectacular Aristocrats, Splendid Nobodies, and Underrated Scoundrels," would ever engage in any shenanigans?

"Fool me once....shame on you.....fool me twice....ehhh. ...... once you get fooled you can't get fooled again." - GW Bush (trying to remember a classic phrase)

Bush couldn't remember the real phrase. Of course it was "fool me twice, shame on me." As in, once I get fooled, I should learn I lesson and it's my fault if you get fooled again so shame on me.

Albany has now been shamed many many times as it refuses to accept the fact that it is a city that discourages investment, even though it knows investment is in it's best interest.

My city's municipal stubbornness has grown like a cancer out of layer upon layer upon layer of a government bureaucracy that refuses to allow any common sense without common sense first being voted upon by a committee of politically appointees.

We need to change course. We've already hit the iceberg but nobody has noticed because the band is still playing.

We at The Foundry are estatic that Ravens Head has found a home, and doubly so that it's where we live and work. We know this is bittersweet for many, but the bright spot does prevail. This wonderful project will still come to life in a historical building/district, and in a community that is most deserving.

its so nice to see that building being used. finally. i grew up near it and its been shuttered since the late part of my childhood.

I live right up the street from St. Joes and for the life of me can't understand any of the arguments in opposition to using the space as a brewery. The people that opposed it are frankly idiots and the council members who blocked this need to go I blame them for why this city is failing.

@codemonkey et al.: You do bring up some valid concerns (political connectedness, the chicken debacle), but the presumption that there is a "continued lack of support for new ideas in Albany" is a bit loaded, as it seems to assume that "new ideas" are automatically a) good ones and thus, b) desirable, and therefore c) should be supported, implying that if one fails to support them, they are d) anti-"new ideas."

Also embedded in this kind of thinking is that many of the "new ideas" that have been bandied about are somehow neutral, that they will benefit everyone and do so equally. While this may not be conscious or intentional, that language obscures the fact that those "new ideas" benefit some groups while not benefitting others (i.e. a brew-pub or anything pitched by so-called "Regional Economic Development Councils").

These so-called "new ideas" are not "new" at all: they just repeat for the umpteenth time the logic of a certain kind of development, which is really code for "economic development." Why can we not think outside these lines?

@codemonkey et al.:
Just to continue the thought...(please feel free to chime in, I mean for this to ultimately be constructive; really, I do)...
Ultimately, all thinking that is "new" (and by extension assumed to be "good" by its adherents) is tied into vagaries such as "entrepreneurship," "innovation," "investment," and, ultimately, "(economic) development."

That kind of thinking is excessively narrow, and needs to be broadened from Tom Friedman-esque paeans to latter-day capitalism (which has shown itself to be a failure in more ways than one for wider and wider circles of humanity and the planet) to thinking about what we want out of life. Economic development is NOT necessarily a good thing, and thus is NOT necessarily a desirable thing. It certainly does NOT necessarily deliver what we all want out of life. After all, it was Jefferson who changed "life, liberty, and property" to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This is no small difference.

We ought to consider what we want out of life, and this "what we want" is unavoidably tied to where we live. What do we want for where we live?

So here is a "new idea" and lets see just how open the "new ideas" crowd is to it: more democracy, more local government. Let the people in Ten Broeck come together as they see fit to decide what they want and how they want it. Do this in every neighborhood across the city (actually, do it everywhere where people live together), and give them some of their own money back to put towards things they decide they want for their neighborhood. Let them make some decisions that have direct bearing over their lives. If they decide that they want a space made available for certain commercial activities, great, go for it. If they decide that they are happy where commerce is concerned but want a new sidewalk, they commit their resources to that project instead.

The only way to repair society is to begin giving it genuine autonomy and letting individuals and groups figure it out from themselves, through their own democratic processes, rather than solely from outside, above, and undemocratically. That kind of change would be "new" and would be a "development" far deeper and long-lasting than any new place to have a drink, get chicken wings, or enjoy vegan products.

I saw on YNN that they cited alloveralbany.com as their breaking news source on this news item. Go AOA!

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