A new look at St. Joseph's, and an eye toward its future

st josephs church albany exterior 2012

The next episode in the saga of Saint Joseph's Church in Albany is set to be in 3D.

The city of Albany has enlisted the help of drafting and design students at ITT Technical Institute to create a 3D map of the building to help determine what uses are possible for the vacant space.

Architect, and ITT adjunct instructor, David Laccetti says his team of students are working to measure every square inch of the church, inside and out. They're also considering using a drone to get better images of the roof of the church.

"There is not any documentation done on this church," Laccetti says, "So we had to start from scratch."

The project, which also includes measuring the property and the neighborhood, has been underway for over a month, and is expected to take at least three months to complete.

The city of Albany's planning director, Christopher Spencer, says the ITT students took on St. Joseph's on as a capstone project at the request of mayor Kathy Sheehan. This is the second collaboration between ITT and the city. Students from ITT worked with the city and Habitat for Humanity last year on a Sheridan Hollow design project.

Spencer says the city will use the 3D computer model to help determine what uses are feasible for the historic church.

"We can start to look at how large the church is inside -- how much square footage, the different ways to divide it up or do something inside that we hadn't thought about, and what would the cost be for that."

A better sense of what is possible, he says, could help the city and the neighborhood understand what types of projects might be right for the building, and what businesses, organizations or developers to approach. He also says the work could give potential developers a head start. Without that information, Spencer says, "Somebody has to start by doing all that before they can really get the costs together to see if it is even feasible. By having that they can get their costs together very quickly and see if it is feasible."

At a meeting of the Ten Broeck Triangle Preservation League this past Thursday, both Spencer and Laccetti emphasized that the city has no plan for the building yet -- and that any plan will include information from the 3D model as well as input from the neighborhood and the community.

Google Map of 42.656, -73.751127

The St. Joseph's church building is one of the city's most notable landmarks, sitting just above downtown in the Arbor Hill neighborhood. It's also been in search of a new use for more than three decades. The most recent high-profile attempt to repurpose the building was a proposed brewery project in 2012. It met met strong neighborhood resistance, and the backers of the project moved onto Cohoes (the project ultimately stalled). In May of 2013 the Historic Albany Foundation, which had been holding the building for preservation, handed the church back to the city

"I'm looking at Albany as an historic city with beautiful icons -- The Egg, City Hall, other historic properties. And I'm looking at St. Joseph's as a beautiful icon," said David Laccetti, the architect, at the meeting last Thursday. "How can we preserve this as a beautiful icon globally?"

Earlier on AOA:
+ Visions, concerns, aspirations for the St. Joseph's church building
+ No brewery for St. Joe's -- so now what? (2013)

Find It

St. Joseph's Church
Ten Broeck St and 2nd St
Albany, NY 12210


Its sad to see the students and Mr. Laccetti put their hope and effort into this project since the neighbors will probably fight any possible use of the church. Of course it is sadder still to see the deterioration and seemingly inevitable razing of this beautiful structure.
I got a big chuckle out of the comment last week that the neighbors would probably fight against using it as a church since there wasn't sufficient parking.

Honestly Albany Landlord, what is sad to see is that any article mentioning St. Joe's is met with such hostility and negativity. Sure, some neighbors had less-than-reasonable expectations for the church, but plenty had reasoned arguments (for instance, the dubious funding of Raven's Head - which they weren't wrong about) that lead to their hesitance to accept the former proposal. The city is taking a great step here to figure out what is feasible and reasonable for the space. Other ideas that have been proposed include creating diagonal parking on Ten Broeck to better accommodate commerce or expansion of residents in the area. The neighbors are invested in generating feasible ideas. If every attempt made to do anything with the church causes folks around the area to launch into a vitriolic condemnation of the neighborhood, it stymies progress. How about turning down the rhetoric, attending a meeting about the church, or even just praising the creative efforts of the city to use local brainpower for steps towards progress, ya negative nancy.

I still think the most hopeful aspect of all this is how nice of a square/park this property could be after the neighbors thwart the next attempt to save the church.

Sorry, Jenna, but they've more than earned this outlook.

This structure will collapse and be demolished before any viable use is determined or allowed by the locals. Might as well raze it now and create some green space.

Explain to me though - what does posting a bunch of negative, dismissive comments do to help the situation, aside from turning one into a very effective troll and further breaking down conversations?

Jenna, explain exactly what the responsibility of anonymous commenters on AOA is to this neighborhood or their church. Personally we have no need to either help or hurt the situation.

The neighbors have still earned it, and will get what they choose, with or without us trolls.

I'm sorry JayK, but I am a "neighbor" who was not part of the neighborhood during the brewery debacle. I may disagree with their (then) viewpoint on how Raven's Head would have impacted the neighborhood but I also realize that in the end, what shut down the brewery was the common council, not the neighborhood.

Now, please go ahead and criticize those who were there at the time, and who were vocally against the opportunity, but do not forget that a city is living and breathing, changing every day and that there are many new people who now live in that area who have not "earned" anything but their chance to help create change, and who are very open to progress.

Everyone including you, is welcome to their own opinion. So now my opinion, for you to say that I, or we have "earned something" based on the action (or inaction) of those in the past is not only wrong but presumptuous.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it but those who can not move on from it are just really lame.

On a more positive note, the presentations were fantastic and I've heard my neighbors (even those horrible ones who earned your unfavorable outlook) talking realistically about the future of the structure. It seems that when people are given good information, they make good decisions. And when they're given poor information, they make poor ones.

Thank you to the City of Albany for a really excellent presentation.

St. Joseph's is a dilemma for the city. We need to be creative if we're going to solve the problem of reuse of the church.

In a comment above JayK mentions how nice the park that will someday replace the church will be. It is reasonable to assume that a park would fill that space if the church is razed. And that's part of the problem - there is incentive for the neighbors to NOT look favorably upon a reuse for the church because a park will always be more desirable (though I contend that to add insult to injury fate would have something like an obnoxious dollar store ending up on that lot making everyone WISH there was brewery there...).

Proposed solution: The city should somehow decree that it will never fund or allow a park of any kind (or parking lot) on that spot, thus creating an incentive for a viable reuse of the church.

[Just a quick interjection to urge everyone to keep this discussion on the path and not let it stray into finger pointing. Thank you.]

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