Schenectady, N.Y., June 9, 2021 — The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority today approved a $50,000 grant to support the expansion of the COCOA House located at 869 Stanley Street in Schenectady.
William Rivas, Executive Director of the COCOA House said, “As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, the COCOA House is grateful to Metroplex for investing in turning the blighted neighboring property into an expansion of our youth and community programming. COCOA House is thrilled to partner with Metroplex, the Land Bank, SEAT Center, Union College and the City of Schenectady. Together, we are better!”
Richard Ruzzo, Chairman of the Capital Region Land Bank and a member of the Schenectady County Legislature said, “The Land Bank is pleased to work closely with COCOA House, Metroplex and other sponsors to renovate a vacant, unsightly property that was taking away from neighborhood progress and replace it an expanded, renovated, connected property that will benefit the community.”
Mayor Gary McCarthy said, “The COCOA House provides a critical service to youth and families in Schenectady. The City is proud to partner with Metroplex and the Land Bank to support such a crucial asset for the future of our community.”
Ray Gillen, Metroplex Chair said, “Metroplex is pleased to support this expansion that will transform a vacant building connecting it to the powerful neighborhood advocacy work done at COCOA House. This project adds to the development momentum on the Albany Street/Craig Street corridor.”
Founded in 1996, the Children of Our Community Open to Achievement, known as COCOA House, is a 501(c)(3) started as an after-school academic enrichment program. It is located in the city’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood. COCOA House is now a community-led hub with mentorship programming and a focus on connecting families in the neighborhood to services. It is well-known for its long-standing relationship with Union College. The college provides students who mentor students at COCOA House.
The expansion project connects the organization’s existing location at 869 Stanley Street with an adjoining property at 867 Stanley Street. The two properties will be connected providing additional room for a new teen center and an expansive front porch. The adjacent building requires extensive repairs including asbestos abatement and a full gut renovation. Working with the Capital Region Land Bank, COCOA House has secured an asbestos survey, bid out the abatement work, and defined the scope of the renovations. Schenectady’s SEAT Center, which has already completed interior cleanout, will serve as the general contractor as well as provide construction management and workforce training opportunities for youth as construction gets underway.
The project budget is $195,000. The work will be funded by a combination of private donations, Land Bank funding and City of Schenectady CDBG funding. Metroplex’s participation involves a $50,000 grant for exterior improvements including the new front porch connecting the existing COCOA House to the vacant building. The project is being designed by Schenectady-based SRG Architects.