New York

Albany Black Chamber of Commerce opens doors at former University Club

ALBANY — The Albany Black Chamber of Commerce and Social Club kicked off the start of Black History Month on Wednesday by unveiling their new home in the former University Club building in the heart of downtown Albany.

The mission of the newly formed group is to strengthen black entrepreneurship and drive economic growth in the city. Business for Good, a Capital Area nonprofit focused on investing in minority-owned businesses, donated the landmark building on Washington Ave.

“When we started Business for Good about two years ago, our primary reason was to use our business and entrepreneurship skills and network to help black and brown people achieve their dreams of growing businesses and entrepreneurship – and this building probably symbolizes the biggest thing we’ve done since we’ve been here,” said Ed Mitzen, co-founder of Business for Good, who called the three-story, 20,000-square-foot building “the finest black chamber building in the country.”

Located on the corner of Washington Avenue and Dove Street, across from the Albany Institute of History and Art, the colonial-style red brick exterior of the building embodies its rich and far-reaching history. However, its interior has undergone a makeover that has transformed what was once a private social club into a blueprint for community building and collaboration.

Aesthetically curated amenities include a large common room, lit by natural light and filled with a variety of seating options to encourage socializing among guests. A private conference room and collection of workspaces are also available on the ground floor, as is event space for community gatherings.

The upper portions of the building, while not yet open to the public, are intended to serve as rentable office space for black-owned businesses. And in the basement, a bowling alley will be accessible for recreational use, the Business for Good website touts.

North Albany Middle School assistant principal Nicole Newman attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony in the building on Wednesday morning and said the new center for business owners of color represents the journey she hopes to inspire her students to take.

“It’s not enough just to educate them; We want them to come and see what can happen when we invite them to be entrepreneurs, to come here and be supported by people in the Chamber who can help make their visions come true, and leaders here to have people are who look like them,” Newman said.

When her children were younger, Newman said she considered moving out of the city to an area with more resources for black students to surround herself with diverse leaders in business, education, and other fields of study. The Black Chamber of Commerce is now filling that void, Newman said, and she looks forward to planning a school trip soon so her students can see the opportunities available to them.

For Deshanna Wiggins, who was appointed CEO of the newly created chamber in October, the new headquarters are a necessary step to transform the capital region’s landscape and expand the presence of black and minority-owned businesses.

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