#DowntownWorks For The Blake Annex

October 11, 2021

Coworking spaces – like so many businesses – had a scare at the start of the coronavirus pandemic when all but essential industries were shuttered for a time in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. But the founders of The Blake Annex, which occupies 25,000 square feet of space in the Kenmore Building at 1 Steuben Place, remained committed to their vision.

Kenmore, Blake Annex, DowntownWorks, Capitalize Albany Corporation

The Blake Annex, one of the newest offerings on the downtown Albany coworking scene, focuses specifically on nonprofit organizations in hopes that gathering them together under a single roof will help spur creativity and collaboration while streamlining costs.

Though the groups and individuals located at The Blake Annex might seem very different on the surface, they actually have a lot in common, according to Angelique Powell, community manager for the space, launched and run by United Way of the Greater Capital Region.

“Everyone is mission driven in the non-profit sector, but a lot of missions are aligned in the idea that we’re working towards a more equitable, more inclusive and more diverse Capital Region community,” says Powell, who formerly worked as development manager at Park Playhouse and in community engagement for the Palace Theatre. 

The Blake Annex is designed and run to encourage participants to get out of their designated spaces and communicate in order for, as Powell puts it, “organic collisions to occur naturally.” For example, the entire facility has just one shared kitchen and personal tea kettles or coffee makers are not allowed. The Annex provides snacks and beverages to get people to “come out and get those conversations happening with like-minded individuals,” Powell says. In addition, the furniture in shared spaces can easily be moved to facilitate different groupings and events.

“For the nonprofit sector, we’ve always done things the way we do because of this idea that this is the way we’ve always done it,” Powell explains. “Covid allowed us to look outside that box and this type of shared space is now something nonprofits are more willing to consider. Because it is a shared service space, this new work-from-home model – a hybrid model – allows for this to really flourish.”

The Blake Annex is following all CDC guidelines when it comes to preventing Covid-19 and will be adjusting as necessary as the situation continues to develop.

Though The Blake Annex is geared toward nonprofits, it not exclusionary – anyone can join even if they aren’t affiliated with an official 501(c)(3), the designation given to nonprofits by the IRS to classify as tax-exempt by virtue of their charitable programs.

“We’re not going to turn you away,” Powell says. “The community is specific in that its mission driven. But some might not yet have that status and are headed in that direction, being a part of that community might help them determine if it’s the right route for them or not.”

United Way of The Greater Capital Region - Capitalize Albany DowntownWorKS back To Business, Blake AnnexIn addition to the coworking rooms, The Blake Annex has private office spaces, meeting, and conference rooms, and a 2,500-square-foot training facility, as well as high-speed internet and Wi-Fi. There’s also the added bonus of a rooftop deck, fitness center, swimming pool and indoor dog run, which are part of Redburn Development Partners’ renovation of the Kenmore and the adjacent former Steuben Club.

These are perks that most nonprofits, the majority of which operate on shoestring budgets, would not normally be able to access. 

Powell says The Blake Annex is working with organizations to be flexible when it comes to pricing, with costs ranging from as little as $100 a month to several thousand dollars, depending on how much space a group or individual needs. Day passes are available for $25. The facility had a soft opening on June 1 and is now at about 33 percent capacity.

The Blake Annex is named for Adam Blake Jr., who was a highly successful Black entrepreneur in 19thCentury Albany. Born to a slave, Blake rose from working as a waiter to building the Kenmore Hotel in 1878. After his death in 1881, Blake’s widow, Catherine, ran the hotel for the next nine years.

“In modern dollars (Blake) was worth $10 million, which is pretty incredible for any person, but especially for someone whose father was enslaved at the Van Rensselaer Manor,” says Powell, referencing one of the most prominent and wealthy Albany-area families of the time. “This is an opportunity to tell a story that has not been fully told.”

Powell says it was particularly important for The Blake Annex to be located in a downtown urban center because the United Way firmly believes that nonprofits “should be in the communities they serve.” Being able to step outside to grab a meal, run a quick errand, or take a walk is also critical, she adds.

“Often in our industries, you’re still working while you’re doing all these things,” Powell says. “There’s a vibrancy that comes along with being downtown.”


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About #DowntownWorks

Downtown’s offices have in part operated remotely over the past several months and downtown Albany is eager to welcome visitors and the business community fully back when the timing is right and as downtown’s reopening progresses.

National, and local trends signal the trajectory for progress and success downtown hasn’t slowed — businesses have adapted, and key strategic investments are taking shape. Now is the time to experience for yourself or remind yourself, why downtown works — why start-ups, Fortune 100 and world renowned international companies are containing to invest and grow in downtown Albany, and why downtown Albany has proven successful for your organization.
The many companies occupying downtown Albany offices, and their talent, are innovative and resilient. As more return to the office, Capitalize Albany Corporation and the Downtown Albany BID are gathering insights from industry experts to support office occupiers in making informed decisions. And in speaking with local businesses we’re also learning more about upcoming plans and opportunities, new businesses opening, remote-work balance strategies, and of course — why downtown works.  

Learn more and share your stories at #DowntownWorks on social media, visit #DowntownWorks on CapitalizeAlbany.com, and www.DowntownAlbany.org/DowntownWorks.