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New Life For Albany’s Kenmore Ballroom, Once A Golden Age Destination

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Joining The Kenmore Ballroom owners Katie O’Malley Maloney and Nate Maloney and Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Georgette Steffens in celebrating the 76 N Pearl Street venue were Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Senator Neil Breslin, Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, County Executive Dan McCoy and Redburn Development Partners Principal Jeff Buell.

A downtown Albany landmark is beginning a new chapter.

The Downtown Albany Business Improvement District held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Kenmore Ballroom, introducing its “historic, reimagined venue” to a new generation. The grand opening comes two years after the lease was signed for the 15,000-square-foot space, one year after the Kenmore Ballroom’s first event, and nearly 100 years after the Rain-Bo Room opened its doors. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan:

"Look at this place. It is incredible. It is amazing. You know, I think that from a preservation standpoint, being able to stand here in this building, after years and years and years of neglect and uncertainty, and see the transformation that has occurred is a win, not just for downtown, not just for the city of Albany, but for the entire Capital Region."

The BID says with a 300-person capacity limit, the Kenmore Ballroom also features 25’ high ceilings, restored mosaic tiles in the main lobby, recreated light boxes around the second floor cutout, floor to ceiling windows on the mezzanine level, multiple entrances, separate bar and lounge on the main level, and an on-site finishing kitchen for caterers.

Sheehan, a Democrat running for a third term, says the Kenmore will factor into making downtown a "welcoming, happening place."

"This is what we imagined, what we dreamed of. And it happened because we came together, we work together. And this is the result of that. And there is more and more and more to come."

The Kenmore was built in 1878 by Black business mogul Adam Blake. Known as the Rain-Bo Room during the 20s 30s and 40s, the ballroom stage hosted stars including Frank Sinatra, Sophie Tucker, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. Eventually, the ballroom faded into history along with the Big Band era. The Kenmore itself gradually declined until a 1980s renovation turned it into an office building. Revitalization planning began in 2017.

Redburn Development Partners' Jeff Buell says the Kenmore's rebirth and reopening was originally set for the fall of 2020 but got pushed ahead by the pandemic.

"And this thing outside of COVID, it would have been chaos, right? And then like COVID. What, like we can't have events? Yes, we can't know we can't we're $2 million in this project. What the hell are we going to do? And I mean, there was some times there were, look, you guys are incredibly smart people, you were successful already. And you did not need to do that. And I think as we look at our, our cities and our economy and our region, we will grow over the next 20 and 30 years, if more people are willing to say 'I don't need to do this. I'm going to do it anyway.'

Downtown Albany BID says support included $5 million in grants from Empire State Development, a National Grid grant, and state and federal Historic Tax Credits.

Albany entrepreneur Katie O’Malley-Maloney and her husband Nate will manage the ballroom. "I know that we all believe in share the same vision for the revitalization and prosperity of the capital city. Your support of the business commit small business community is vital in projects like the Kenmore which will energize other entrepreneurs to make investments here. We're already seeing it with our retail neighbors... and we look forward to hosting many campaign celebrations here."

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