In a life almost three centuries long, you're going to cycle through a few different careers.
So it is with the Van Ostrande-Radliff House -- AKA, Albany's oldest building -- which has served as a townhouse, a wax factory, and an equipment storage space (among other uses) over its 287-year-old lifetime.
And now there's a plan for the Van Ostrande-Radliff House's next career: as a distillery.
Historic Albany Foundation, the owner of the building at 48 Hudson Ave in downtown Albany since 2013, has put together a plan with Albany Distilling Co. for the spirits maker to move its Albany operation to the Van Ostrande-Radliff House. HAF has applied for a $500,000 state grant for the project via the Capital Region Economic Development Council. (It should find out in December whether it gets the money.)
"It's a fun project for us," Historic Albany executive director Susan Holland said to us. "We're really excited."
Holland said the idea for the partnership surfaced during a conversion with Capital Region REDC board member Omar Usmani about the possibility of scoring preservation money through the annual grant competition. (HAF is aiming to restore the front of the building to its original Dutch design.) As Holland explained, the preservation project would have to be linked to an economic development project, and she had heard that Albany Distilling was maybe looking to move from its current space just off Broadway on the north end of downtown. So she called up ADC founder John Curtin and the idea took off from there right away.
Albany Distilling co-owner Rick Sicari said he and Curtin are excited about the idea of moving to the historic building -- especially Curtin, who's passionate about local history.
And there's a practical side to the move, too.
"We've really just outgrown the space," Sicari said of ADC's current spot. He pointed to the company's recent experience in adding an infusion still -- a key piece of equipment that, it turns, won't work in its current location because of space and plumbing constraints. He said they had been on the hunt for more space, visiting about 20 different candidates that, for a range of reasons, just weren't a good fit.
So the possibility of moving to 48 Hudson Ave came along at the right time. Sicari said the move would allow ADC to expand its on-site retail offerings, provide more space for storage, and give them the room to host more visitors. "We would really love to add a museum-type atmosphere to it."
One of the twists to the potential move is that it could be another two years before the space is ready. But Sicari said ADC's already-in-motion plan to add a location in Schenectady will buy it the time and space it needs right now. (The infusion still will be set up in Schenectady, where it will be joined by a retail space and restaurant.)
"Even if it's two years from now, it will be worth the waiting," Sicari said.
Holland said the projected total cost of the project is $1.9 million. That includes the $500,000 HAF is hoping to land from the state, along with the $167,000 the foundation is required to raise as a match for the state grant. She said they'll have to mount a robust fundraising campaign for that match money, but she's confident they can raise it. (She figures HAF has already spent about $25,000 stabilizing the building.)
Said Holland of the project's total cost: "I think it's a pretty small investment in a building that's the oldest building in Albany. It's super rare, it's very unique to the United States. So we're really excited about it."
Van Ostrande-Radliff House
48 Hudson Ave
Albany, NY 12207
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