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Palace expansion rendering 2016-July pano

Palace expansion rendering 2016-July from northeast

The Palace is planning a major expansion

Palace expansion rendering 2016-July from northeast cropped

The Palace Theatre has announced plans for a major expansion that would both significantly add to the venue's capabilities and change the block on which it sits in downtown Albany.

Press release blurbage for the expansion, which is projected to cost $65 million:

The project, which will build out the Palace Theatre's current footprint along North Pearl Street, will consist of multiple elements, including the addition of a new 600-seat theatre, community and educational space, and a video post-production center. Renovations will also occur within the main theatre to expand and enhance the current stage, as well as the lobby, box office and backstage areas.

That the Palace had some sort of expansion in mind isn't too surprising after word got out earlier this year that it had acquired a string of properties north of the theater on Pearl Street. But the scale of the proposed expansion is remarkable.

Here are a few more details, large-format renderings, and few other things.

Look up for renderings

They're above in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.

Additional details

The construction period for the project is expected to take three years. As to when it might start hasn't been determined, yet. That will depend in part on funding -- Wednesday's announcement didn't include specifics about that. But the Palace will be aiming to put together a mix of government funding, historic preservation tax credits, and private fundraising.

Another important bit: The plan calls for the city of Albany to transfer ownership of the Palace to the Palace Performing Arts Center non-profit, a move that will require approval by the Common Council.

More details from the press release:

+ Addition of a new 600-seat theatre: Located on Pearl Street adjacent to the Palace Theatre, the new space will host small shows for which the main theatre is too large and will more than triple the number of performances hosted by the Palace Performing Arts Center. Additional programming will include programs with partner organizations Park Playhouse and Albany Symphony, as well as dance and family-friendly events.

[For some venue context: The Palace's auditorium sits 2,844. The Egg's Hart Theater sits 982, and its Swyer Theater sits 450.]

+ Addition of a new video post-production center: As the only facility of its kind between New York City, Toronto and Montreal, the post-production center will serve as a professional-quality suite for digital video production companies to mix sound, edit video and create video effects. The space will also include large and small green screen studios with freight elevator access, as well as dedicated dressing rooms and wardrobe support, which will enable shooting video in a variety of techniques as well as audio recording.
+ Expanded Palace Theatre stagehouse: The project will allow for the expansion of the original Palace Theatre stage and backstage, which will create a deeper and wider stagehouse capable of hosting an increased variety of shows and events and reducing loading and set-up time, while improving safety and reducing energy costs. New backstage support spaces will feature a much larger loading dock that meets current and future industry standards and modernized dressing rooms. New technology will also be installed throughout the stagehouse.
+ Expanded Palace Theatre lobby and box office: The new lobby will provide a larger and more accessible space with increased amenities for patrons. The lobby will feature new concessions, dining and breakout areas, as well as restrooms, and will connect directly to a completely refurbished box office. Additionally, an elevator and new circulation paths will provide accessible wheelchair seating locations near the stage, at the orchestra level, and in the mezzanine.
+ Performing arts education development: In partnership with Park Playhouse, the Palace Performing Arts Center will design, build and launch a multi-faceted arts program designed to be available, accessible and affordable to broad and diverse populations of the community, including underserved neighborhoods in and around the City of Albany.

The Palace is projecting that the expansion will allow it to draw 500,000 visits a year to downtown Albany, up from the 175,000 it figures it currently draws.

A few things

The Palace is on the upswing
Four years ago The Palace had a budget deficit and was running only about 30-40 shows a year. But since current executive director Holly Brown took over, the venue has had four years of budget surpluses and it now has more than a hundred shows a year. [TU 2012] [Biz Review 2015]

It's also been expanding its sphere of influence through a partnership with the Park Playhouse and its recent deal to manage the Cohoes Music Hall. [TWCN]

Palace : Albany :: Proctors : Schenectady?
The multiple venues, the partnerships with other orgs, the production capacity -- it all sounds a bit like what Proctors has been doing. So it will be interesting to see how the two arts orgs work alongside each other in the region.

Google Map of 42.6561,-73.749

The in-between neighborhood
One of the interesting threads of the ongoing story of new development in downtown Albany and the Warehouse District has been that stretch of Broadway and North Pearl between the two neighborhoods. Developers clearly see potential there. The long-planned residential conversion of 733 Broadway was completed last fall. And plans have been presented for new residential construction at 760 Broadway (there's a parking lot there now) and the almost-adjacent 191 North Pearl (a project called The Wilson, with 18 units).

The Palace expansion would be another new piece in that in-between neighborhood that sits between downtown, Arbor Hill, and the Warehouse District.


Maybe they could build a real feature-sized soundstage, could be great for attracting film and television productions. I think there would be a lot of demand.


Would be great if the 600 cap room was an adaptable space like MASS MoCA's Hunter Center or some of the EMPAC side spaces. Fixed seats and cabaret table setups always limit potential performances.

Will parking near there improve, i can't cross the street?

The rendering looks great, but it would require some smart street design from the City ( check out those sidewalks and bumpouts). The city has not yet pulled through on anything neat that good. Fingers crossed.

I recall, maybe 10 years ago, the Palace made a big announcement about putting in an IMAX theater. Never happened. Just saying.

This is great news for downtown. I like the design in the renderings on its own but it's a bit of a shame something more fitting with the surrounding architecture (minus the federal building) wasn't chosen.

While I am glad that the Palace Theater is doing so well and are ready for an expansion, I feel that the design abandons the historical context of the area. Just another way Albany abandons its roots and bringing some HISTORIC charm into the area. Folks forget that Albany was one of the first settlements in the New World and we've done a piss-poor job of preserving it, instead going for what's new and trendy. The new Palace design exemplifies that attitude.

SuburbanSlumming, while I also prefer historic preservation, we can't build everything in 18th century Dutch or 20th century Art Deco. A mix of building styles (and ages) is quite beneficial. The stockade is gone, but that doesn't mean we have to stop everything cold.

Much of the description seems quite similar to the semi-recent expansion of Proctor's. The enlarged backstage area especially. The renovation of Proctor's has been great for Schenectady and the area's theater scene. Very exciting for Albany!

I think the glass-heavy design in the renders looks awesome, but lets not nitpick the design at this point. These are early hypothetical renders, not plans brought before a city planning board. If we have learned anything from the recent developments in the capital region (Albany Med, Rivers Casino, Troy City Hall site, pretty much every other project), it's that the preliminary renders do not reflect final design.

On another note, I TOTALLY agree with August on the potential for the 600-seat theater if it is made in an adaptable 'black box' style. It could fill that 'mid-sized venue' hole for both seated and standing-room shows. The Hunter Center is a great venue for both.

I'm usually on the side of preservationists but I don't see this as much of a conflict. The original theater has been preserved wonderfully and adding these modern amenities while adhering to strict historical context would be prohibitively expensive. Looks like we'd be losing the 2 older row homes behind the Palace - not sure of their condition but this should be net positive as the expansion will be another anchor for people looking to rehab and preserve buildings in the Broadway/Arbor Hill area.

Parking? Hotel rooms?

No mention of how it will be financed. The city bearly has enough money to fix pot holes. But not to worry, this like a lot of other spectacular plans and small plans are quickly forgotten in Albany.
Maybe they can hold meeting around the city to talk about it, form committees, get interested parties input. Then do nothing.

Bill, this is not a city-financed project, and there is no reason to suspect it would be.

Also, arts and potholes have literally nothing whatsoever to do with each other.

From the Times Union 07/15/ http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Albany-to-pick-projects-for-funding-8379390.php

googling "Albany to pick projects for funding" will pull up a link that gets past the TU paywall, but here's the relevant text from the piece Bill linked to:

"In a $65 million transformation plan announced Wednesday, the Palace Theatre is asking for the Albany Common Council's approval to seek $500,000 through the state's Consolidated Funding Application for a part of the project to expand and upgrade the historic theater at Clinton Avenue and North Pearl Street."

Those are state funds the city has to sign off on. I suppose an argument could be made that the money could be spent elsewhere but you can't get just any project funded through a CFA. And note that, for example, $1m was approved for wastewater infrastructure.

I am all for renovating and expanding to bring a wider set of offerings to the downtown. I think once again the vision does not include the fundamental underpinnings to make it a success. If there is no clear parking plan, none of the improvements will bring downtown any sense of revitalization is has claimed to be striving for since the early 80's. with out parking garages and places for residents and visitors alike to park in, there will be no growth. It would be one thing if CDTA were more akin to the trolley systems of the past that went everywhere downtown and allowed access to many places so that there were less of a need for a car. As I see it without investment in long term infrastructure(such parking, bike lanes, etc.) to support residents and businesses alike, all the renovations in the world wont make the downtown usable. livable and approachable long term for retail to locate to the area and stay.

Now that we've established it's not a city-financed project, let's also agree it has nothing to do with potholes.

Tim, CDTA actually vastly improved on the trolley routes in the past, and there is quite a lot of parking all around here, including garages about a block away, and overflow parking behind the Pump Station for big shows.

I actually think it DOES have something to do with potholes. A big project like that isn't an island. It needs coordinated city infrastructure upgrades to make it successful. That requires some thoughtful urban planning for it to achieve the success they envision.

Tim - The Quakenbush Garage is literally a block away from the Palace. The Riverfront Garage is a block-or-so further. Both have paid parking available to the public at night. Sometimes even free for special events. Plus there are tons of free street spaces - even on event nights - if you park up the hill. There's absolutely no reason to build another garage at the Palace site.

There's also handicap-accessible dropoff space in front of the Palace as it is, and likely additional space will be available in the expansion (as there is a lot more street frontage along with that new building).

That's a relief this project at the city owned Palace Theator will be privately funded and also there is no relationship between essential services and a project that would be great to have but not really essential.

For JayK to say that the proposed project is not a city-financed project is not only misleading, it is flat wrong. The Palace Theater is owned by the Albany taxpayers (not by Kathy Sheehan or the Palace Performing Arts Center) and it has a definite dollar value. If the Albany taxpayers, via the Common Council, give away the theater building to the Palace Performing Arts Center, it is like giving away a pot of cash (and cash is what is needed to fix potholes, even though JayK doesn't think so for some mysterious reason). And yes, Clint, giving away taxpayer assets does affect the ability to perform essential services.

The Albany taxpayers can't afford to have their assets given away when there is an $18 million budget gap, when their landfill will be closing within five years and no solution is in sight, when they are facing likely increased school taxes from an over-priced high school plan and when the City's solid waste planners are secretly talking about a residential garbage tax of over $200 in addition to the $180 per unit garbage tax recently imposed upon rental properties.

The Palace property, apparently, has not been appraised, but it does have a fair value assessment as determined by the City of Albany City Assessor. That assessed value is nearly $13 million ($12,934,200). The appraised value would almost certainly be higher. This is a significant asset at a time when the City's budget gap is said to be $18 million.

If the proposed Palace project is not feasible without the taxpayers donating a $13 million asset, it doesn't sound like a very good project.

Then there is the question of the role of Proctors CEO Philip Morris and his relationship to all this:

The word is that Proctors CEO Philip Morris and Mayor Kathy Sheehan are "close", so for Morris to have claimed ignorance of the proposed project when it was announced calls his integrity into question. Then there is the matter of Kathy Sheehan currently being on the Proctors Board of Directors (which Proctors' website states she is): Is there a conflict of interest here, with Sheehan the CEO of the City of Albany (which owns the Palace Theater) while being on Proctors Board, whose CEO claims he knows nothing about the proposed Palace project. These questions bear looking into.

The conflict of interest questions get even deeper with the announcement that Mayor Kathy Sheehan has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Palace Performing Arts Center. That Sheehan is the CEO of the City of Albany (owner of the Palace Theater property) and is also on the Board of Directors of the corporation which wants to have the Albany taxpayers donate the building to is a blatant conflict of interest. These are the kinds of things U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating on the state level.

How does a comment with so much insinuation, rumor and conspiracy as Cosgame's get published?

Anyway, if the city needs to give the building to the Palace Performing Arts Center to get this project financed, good. Give it away. This would be a huge boon for the city and the neighborhood. Especially since, so far, it won't be financed with city funds (transferring ownership of a building to a non-profit doesn't count). Later, if it turns out some city funds are needed to cover the cost, fine. Cover it. This is well worth it.

Closing the Palace, shutting down the arts and ending all funding for festivals, events and all the other "non-essential" stuff the city does isn't going to solve the budget deficit. All it will do is remove the joy from the city and take away reasons for people to move in.

[This thread has headed in the wrong direction. Skepticism and criticism are fine. But please, let's turn away from going after individuals.]

I hope they incorporate some green space in there, too, that would be really sweet for that neighborhood.

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