BY R.J. DELUKE
“Our goal is that 50 years from now people
will still be flocking to this room,” CaffÃ¨
Lena Executive Director Sarah Craig said
at a Jan. 26 news conference, standing on
the stage of the historic folk music venue
on Phila Street in Saratoga Springs.
Those words were spoken at the announcement
of a $500,000 philanthropic
partnership between the venue and Saratoga’s
Bonacio Construction that will further
revitalize not only the 55-year-old CaffÃ¨,
but its neighborhood, because as part of
the Campaign for CaffÃ¨ Lena, Bonacio assumes
the CaffÃ¨’s parking lot at Phila and
Sonny Bonacio announced from the stage
plans to construct a mixed-use building,
which will feature an elevator and stairwell
shared with the CaffÃ¨, at 47 Phila. The apartment
space, with an address of 55 Phila St.,
will have eight residential units.
He said if all goes well, the project could
be started in the spring and completed in a
large part by the end of 2016, with interior
work being finished up into early 2017.
CaffÃ¨ Lena itself will have to close for a
time, but Craig said there will be “satellite”
concerts held at other venues in the city,
so that the organization and its board of
directors can continue to bring top-flight
concerts to the area, as it has done since its
1960 opening by the now legendary Lena
Performers including Bob Dylan, David
Bromberg, Jerry Jeff walker, Arlo Gurthrie
more played music there in their younger
CaffÃ¨ Lena purchased the building in
1998, but many renovations were needed,
including an elevator to the second-floor
venue for handicapped access.
Bonacio’s contribution brings funds
raised for the $1.25 million capital project
to $825,000. With continued fundraising
through winter and spring, groundbreaking
on the mixed-use building and launch of 47
Phila Street renovations is expected to take
place in late spring.
With guidance from Frost Hurff Architects,
the CaffÃ¨ will begin long-planned
major renovations, including: overhaul of
the 47 Phila St. infrastructure; expansion
of the listening room from 85 to 110 seats,
with enhanced sightlines, sound and listener
comfort; modernization and relocation of
kitchen, green room, administrative and rest
room spaces; and improvement of existing
“This work is a giant step towards our
future,” said Stanley McGaughey, president
of the CaffÃ¨’s board of directors.
“We’re excited to energize Phila Street
and sustain the historic CaffÃ¨ at the same
time,” said Bonacio, whose company will also
update flooring and roofing of 47 Phila St.
as an aspect of the partnership.
The building also houses Hattie’s Restaurant,
Cole’s Woodwind Shop and Sweet
Mimi’s Cafe & Bakery.
Bonacio said all details aren’t complete,
but estimated the residential units would
sell in the $600,000 to $700,000 range for
The entry to the facility, now a small door
with a narrow stairway, will be about 20 feet
wide with a lot of glass on the facade. It will
be about 20 feet recessed from the sidewalk,
allowing for a small, landscaped courtyard
area with benches.
Bonacio said the neighbors have been
supportive of the project. In the coming
weeks, he will be seeking the necessary city
Craig said after buying the building,
there was some discussion of abandoning
the original music room and finding an arrangement
with a first-floor venue and more
parking. It was rejected.
“This room is irreplaceable,” said Craig.
“It’s the only club left where the ’60s folk
music revolution took place.” The spirit of
that era and the music that continues today
is “Inextricably linked to the brick and mortar
of this building.”
Bonacio called it “an amazing amenity to
Saratoga Springs,” adding that “live music
is something that our culture deeply needs.
McGaughey said improvements to the
room itself will include addition of 25 seats,
for a capacity of 110; a state-of-the-art sound
system; a higher ceiling and revamped flooring;
and improved air conditioning.
While modernizing for comfort and
safety, the modifications, said Craig, “will
accentuate that feeling of history and magic
that’s in the room.”
CaffÃ¨ Lena is on the National Register of
Historic Places. Its website is www.caffelena.org.