On March 24, 2021, the renovation and reuse of the former National Biscuit Company bakery into the new home of Capital Repertory Theatre—the Capital Region of New York state’s only professional producing theatre—was completed.
Empire State Development (ESD) Acting Commissioner, and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “Venues like the Capital Repertory Theatre are the lifeblood of regional performing arts, and projects like this are at the heart of our revitalization efforts. In concert with our state agency partners, we continue to make sustainable investments that will generate long-term growth. The Cap Rep renovation marks the second act for this historic building and theater company, and we’re very excited for the curtain to rise once again.”
Located at 251 North Pearl Street in Downtown Albany—across from the Ida Yarborough housing complex—the 28,000 square foot facility includes a 300-seat stage and auditorium; a 100-seat “black box” theater; wardrobe and props construction and storage facilities; and an extensive dressing room and actor preparation space.
CREDC Co-Chairs Ruth Mahoney, KeyBank Market President, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, University at Albany President, said, “For 40 years, the Capital Repertory Theatre has served as a Downtown Albany arts institution and an important part of the Capital Region’s creative economy. On behalf of the Regional Council, we are proud to support the transformation of a historic building into a new performance venue that will further our efforts to revitalize Clinton Square.”
This project undertook a historic restoration and adaptive reuse of the vacant original bakery, which in recent decades was used largely as a storage facility.
Assemblymember John T. McDonald III said, “The completion of the new Capital Repertory Theatre is the latest chapter of revitalization in Albany’s Clinton Square. As someone who supports and recognizes the importance of historic preservation, I am also excited that this property was renovated, rehabilitated and transformed. This investment will pay dividends by bringing artists and visitors from across the region to the area and breathing life into a vacant and underused building. Thank you to the individual donors, NYS Homes and Community Renewal and Empire State Development for their role in bringing this project to fruition.”
Capital Repertory Theatre, an affiliate of the Proctors Collaborative, was located for more than 25 years at the ground level of the parking garage located two blocks south that is currently being redeveloped by Redburn Development.
The $14 million project was supported by thousands of individual donors and subscribers through a capital campaign. Empire State Development has agreed to provide $1.8 million through Round 5 of the Restore New York Communities Initiative, and $950,000 through the Round V of the Regional Council initiative, as recommended by the Capital Region’s Regional Economic Development Council.
New York State Homes and Community Renewal is providing $2 million through its Rural and Urban Community Investment Fund, and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has agreed to provide federal and state Historic Preservation Tax Credits that generated $5.2 million in equity. Over the last decade, the Historic Tax Credit program has spurred more than $12 billion in private investment in more than 1,000 buildings across New York State.
Capital Repertory Theatre Board of Directors President Harold Iselin said, “This is the culmination of many years of hard work and the dedication of the Rep’s board to achieving a new home for the Rep. We now can see that our dream of a great addition for Albany’s cultural life – and a transformative project for downtown Albany — is coming true, and we can’t get wait to start putting on great theater for our community.”
HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas explained, “The Capital Repertory Theatre’s new home in Clinton Square is part of the state’s efforts to cultivate downtown Albany as an exciting place to live, work and visit. Along with our redevelopment of the Ida Yarbrough public housing complex, we are building a more culturally vibrant, attractive and active neighborhood with a thriving economy. We are so pleased that our $2 million award has contributed to this state-of-the-art professional theater and we look forward to seeing a show when the theater fully opens.”
Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid stated, “The Capital Repertory Theatre project is another great example of how historic preservation is breathing new life into neighborhoods like Albany’s Clinton Square. The Historic Tax Credit program is driving investments in historic structures, which helps lift local economies, expand entertainment and cultural opportunities, promote sustainability and preserve the heritage of our cities and towns.”
On March 3, Governor Cuomo announced that beginning April 2, event, arts and entertainment venues can reopen at 33 percent capacity, welcoming up to 100 people indoors and up to 200 people outdoors. If all attendees present proof of negative test prior to entry, capacity can increase up to 150 people indoors and up to 500 people outdoors. Social distancing and face coverings will be required by all attendees, as well as strict adherence to all applicable Department of Health guidance.
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said, “This is a wonderful example of what we have been saying we need to do- reuse, reinvent and reimagine. By investing in an historic renovation, we are breathing new life into Clinton Square with the continued redevelopment of Ida Yarbrough Homes and offering Cap Rep a new state-of-the-art theater.”
Even during the pandemic while awaiting the completion of construction, the theatre has partnered extensively in the neighborhood, particularly with Arbor Hill Elementary School. Programs have included a backpack project and a COVID-era reading program recorded and performed by associate artist Barbara Howard.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “The completion of this newly renovated space could not have come at a better time as many people are ready to safely emerge from the isolation we’ve come to know over the past year, and eager to support the arts and entertainment industry that has suffered during this time. Even with the delay in completion due to unforeseen COVID-related hurdles that came up during this project, this state-of-the-art facility meets the goal of keeping this premier arts institution in the City of Albany, and will help to spur growth in the Arbor Hill and warehouse-district neighborhoods. I am thrilled that there will be community partnerships like the collaborative programs with The Rep and Arbor Hill Elementary School, and as an avid theater goer, I can’t wait to watch many performances in this beautifully refinished historic space.”
HCR is also financing the four-phase redevelopment of the Ida Yarbrough public housing complex located across the street from the theater. The $105 million third phase of redevelopment is now underway to upgrade and modernize 384 affordable apartments, including the two eight-story buildings at 252 North Pearl Street. The first and second phases of redevelopment utilized $35.8 million state resources to replace 137 affordable apartments.
Senator Neil Breslin said, “The brand-new home of the Capital Repertory Theatre will bring high-quality professional performances and cultural events to downtown Albany for the benefit of residents and visitors to the Capital Region. By revitalizing this historic building, we are furthering our efforts to strengthen the local economy and make downtown a vibrant neighborhood for all to enjoy. Congratulations to everyone who made this project possible.”
The completion of the theatre complements the projects underway in Albany’s Clinton Square neighborhood as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Albany was a Round 4 DRI awardee, with $10 million in state funding awarded to projects that will support and encourage new investments and create a more walkable and vibrant downtown.
“New York’s vibrant arts and entertainment venues have been among the pandemic’s hardest-hit businesses, and their expected reopening under strict state guidance is a welcome part of the state’s recovery from COVID-19,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo concluded. “The completion of the new Capital Repertory Theatre project complements our strategic investments in housing and economic development in the heart of Downtown Albany, and will welcome actors, artists and patrons for generations to come.”
All images courtesy of Capital Repertory Theatre.