“One groundbreaking achievement that stands out is the floating solar array on the water reservoir, a project that makes Cohoes the first in the nation to generate 100% municipal electricity while offering 40% surplus energy to the school district. This has not only been environmentally conscious but also instrumental in promoting Cohoes on a national and global scale, attracting the attention of businesses and governmental bodies.”
A Conversation with Cohoes City Planner, Joseph Seman-Graves
In the heart of New York’s Capital Region, Joseph’s journey has been part of the driving force behind the resurgence of Cohoes. Born in Greene County of CapNY, he embarked on a path that took him from Albany to Seattle and back again, eventually leading him to become the City Planner of Cohoes in 2019.
With a background in city planning and hands-on experience in construction oversight acquired in Seattle, he wound up in CapNY with a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm.
He discovered a unique niche in working on energy-related projects, not only saving the city money but also allowing them to reinvest in critical programs such as social services and capital projects. Over the span of four years, he and his team leveraged an impressive $35 million in public funding to attract and retain private investments.
In the past two years, Cohoes has seen a remarkable transformation guided by three key pillars: infrastructure development, the restoration of historic buildings, and environmental sustainability,.
Cohoes has invested heavily in infrastructure improvements, including upgrading sidewalks, planting trees, enhancing parks, and creating a stunning waterfront park complete with a dock. The emphasis on green spaces and livability has attracted new businesses, residents, and investors, marking a notable difference from seven years ago. The city has also introduced charging stations for electric vehicles, making it more attractive for environmentally-conscious individuals and businesses.
Cohoes recognized the value of preserving its historic architecture. Significant funds have been allocated to restore iconic buildings like City Hall, the library, and the music hall. What’s particularly innovative is the city’s commitment to making these buildings carbon-neutral, pioneering the removal of gas and making them the first of their kind in the state and the nation. The Cohoes Music Hall stands as the first carbon-neutral music venue in the country, showcasing Cohoes’ commitment to sustainability.
To encourage private building and homeowners in downtown Cohoes to modernize their properties while respecting their historical significance, the city has offered open tax incentives. This initiative breathes new life into the city’s architecture while preserving its rich heritage.
Cohoes is now witnessing the development of new rental and commercial units, creating a more dynamic and attractive urban landscape.
Further contributing to Cohoes’ transformation, the introduction of new recycling bins for every member of the community, combined with efforts to improve street lighting, has been instrumental in securing additional grants and enhancing the city’s appeal.
One groundbreaking achievement that stands out is the floating solar array on the water reservoir, a project that makes Cohoes the first in the nation to generate 100% municipal electricity while offering 40% surplus energy to the school district. This has not only been environmentally conscious but also instrumental in promoting Cohoes on a national and global scale, attracting the attention of businesses and governmental bodies.
A Magnet for Entrepeneurs
Cohoes has become a magnet for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The city’s unique blend of history, compact downtown, and picturesque waterfront location, free from high-rises, sets it apart. Its strategic location near Interstate 787 and the Thruway offers untapped potential for investment and growth.
Local businesses are thriving, with establishments like Smith’s Taproom bustling with activity from afternoon to evening. Cohoes’ strong sense of community, combined with word-of-mouth recommendations from established entrepreneurs, has drawn businesses, breweries, and restaurants to the city.
The city’s downtown area is a prime example of revitalization, with a single main street boasting historic storefronts, commercial spaces, outdoor dining, and parks, all within a compact .75-mile radius.
A Hidden Gem
Cohoes Falls, a hidden gem, attracts 20,000 visitors annually without any advertising, showcasing the city’s natural beauty and the potential for further growth. The beauty of spots like Cohoes Falls and Peebles Island State Park offer resons for residents and tourists to explore the area.
The Cohoes Music Hall, which hosts concerts, ghost tours, and events like the Mac and Cheese Bowl, is a cultural hub that brings the community together. The city has cultivated a strong sense of community through events like the Trunk or Treat and the Rock the Block concert series.
Cohoes is home to many people with rich histories, who deeply care about the place they call home. This is reflected in the city’s welcoming and warm atmosphere.
Cohoes also nurtures the growth of unique businesses and groups, such as The Planter, Chocolate is Self Care, Chee-Bog, and Bye-i Brewery. The city’s local art scene has also flourished, with partnerships like the one with Albany Center Gallery, leading to stunning murals and galleries that have attracted art enthusiasts.
Cohoes’ transformation is a testament to the dedication and vision of people like Joseph Seman-Graves, who has brought about significant changes in land use, development, and environmental sustainability. The city’s unique blend of history, location, and community spirit has attracted businesses and residents, breathing new life into this historic city. Cohoes stands as a shining example of urban revitalization, showcasing what can be achieved with innovation, vision, and a strong commitment to preserving its heritage.