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Albany’s New Downtown Convention Center Is Shaping Up After “Topping Off” Ceremony

A “topping off” ceremony was held this week in downtown Albany to commemorate a major milestone: the completion of the vertical structural framework of the new Albany Capital Center. The new convention center is changing the skyline.

Officials gathered at the intersection of Howard and Wendell Streets to mark a turning point in city history: moments to reflect on a project that's been a long time coming, along with an opportunity to sign their names on a special white beam. 

Dignitaries on hand included Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who told the crowd Albany is her home away from home. She said the city's markets have come back along with distilleries and breweries, and she beamed as she held up the latest edition of the Albany Business Review.  "Congratulations on being number one in everything else! Did you see this paper today everybody? Albany's number one with building starts, new businesses, income et cetera so, I'm here to declare, Albany you're back!  You're back with a vengeance and you're doing phenomenal, and this, this project, is a visual symbol, that when it's complete, people will go by and say 'yes, there's an energy downtown.' And I wanna commend the early pioneers of this project."

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul explains the new symbol that makes up the Albany Capital Center logo.

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Hochul praised the connectivity that will link the downtown buildings. "Connecting right to this spectacular hotel downtown that I was so proud to be part of that ribbon-cutting, I just wander through the lobby every once in awhile, I think it's spectacular, but to connect this, I mean, let's admit it, we're not in Florida. It gets a little cold once in awhile, so to be able to have people that are guests from other areas when they're identifying where they wanna choose a place to go in the wintertime, they wanna keep people indoors, you've done that with the connection of the hotel and the Empire State Plaza and this space and the Times Union Center, so I think it's brilliant."

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Former Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings chats with construction workers at the Capital Center site.

Former Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings' administration sparked many ideas for the convention center. "Yeah the design is great, the new hotel has generated other investment down here, so it makes it a place where - it's a destination spot now."

The new three-story building, which will hold 5,000 people, will have three levels of underground parking.

The Capital Center will house 22,500 square feet of ballroom/exhibit space, six meeting rooms with 9,200 square feet of space, and 13,500 square feet of pre-function space. Officials say it will also have state-of- the-art amenities for meetings, banquets and events.

Gavin Donohue, chairman of the Albany Convention Center Authority, guarantees the project will meet deadline.  "While the concept of a convention center has been discussed in this town for over 20 years, the timeline for this specific project has just been over three years. Governor Cuomo endorsed this project in 2013. We started the concept and design in 2014, and now we're going to be ready to open this facility in March of 2017 on time."

To date, 18 events have already booked space in the facility. Officials expect another 100 to book within coming months, with an annual goal of 200 confirmed bookings.

After officials and politicians signed their names on the white 30-foot beam, Lt. Governor Hochul gave the signal to ironworkers who raised the beam via a large crane, then set it in place, completing the Capital Center's structural framework.

In keeping with tradition, the beam was topped by a small evergreen tree and an American flag.

Watch the video: 

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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