Caffe Lena lot sold to Bonacio Construction; Historic Cafe to undergo summer renovation

Caffe Lena will sell its parking lot on Phila and Henry streets to Bonacio Construction. The sale will help the historic cafe - which has been operating since 1960- with its $1.5 million renovation fundraising campaign and ensure that it remains a viable venue into the future.

"We formed a partnership with Bonacio Construction," says cafe manager Sarah Craig. "They approached us about developing a building in our parking lot and we talked to them about creating a shared elevator, so there will be a connector between their building and our building. They are building the elevator for their building, but also to serve Caffe Lena. That took a huge chunk off our hands that we were going to have to raise money for. They are also taking on the responsibility for some of the large construction components of our building: the roof, the flooring structure, stabilizing the façade. They are also making a donation to the café, so the entire value in terms of our campaign is $500,000.”

The cafe, which has also applied for a liquor license to sell beer and wine, will close for renovations in the summer and stage a grand re-opening in October. In addition to the elevator and other construction work, the renovation will include a new state-of-the-art sound system, lighting, floor, dressing rooms - in the former Black Box theater - and a performance space that will grow nearly double in size and increase in seating capacity from 85 to 110

The steep entryway staircase will be reconstructed, but the original furniture and entryway wall peppered with a collage of performers and artist flyers will  remain. “That will be our historic entrance to Caffe Lena,” says Craig, who adds that the organization is cognizant of the historic value of things such as the original floorboards being removed. “We will have a crew of people rescuing anything that looks rescue-able.”

Caffe Lena will stage  concerts off-site at a variety of venues in Saratoga during the summer renovation.

“We saw the lot years ago as: I wonder if this lot is what will get us to go where we need to go in the future," Craig says. "Sonny Bonacio’s vision of what he could do for us was what we envisioned might be possible, so it was an easy relationship to get into, because we came into it with the same idea.”  Preliminary plans call for a multi-story mixed-use building to be developed atop the current parking lot, which sits adjacent to the Saratoga Springs Public Library.

Tuesday's presser at Caffe Lena with cafe executive director Sarah Craig (l) and developer Sonny Bonacio (r) depicting plans for the new mixed-use building and the connector between the cafe and the new building

New dressing rooms under construction in space formerly occupied by the Black Box theater