NATURE Lab to help transform Troy neighborhood

Program aimed at raising awareness to renovate, move into larger space

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Will Waldron / Times UnionThe Sanctuary for Independent Media plans to develop 3319 Sixth Ave. in Troy into a community lab.

Troy

The NATURE Lab is continuing in a revitalized building its mission to bring together art, science and media to help revitalize North Central, the city’s poorest neighborhood, by awakening environmental awareness.

The Sanctuary for Independent Media has operated the lab’s programs since 2013 using small quarters in a multiuse building at chance for people to cooperate and design,” said Toler, who is in private practice and belongs to the Open Architecture Collaborative, asocial justice group that works with communities on projects.

Students, residents and volunteers devised ways for transforming the building. Toler advised them to knock down walls on their plans and use their imaginations.

“With a building this old, it’s easier than with a well-maintained building,” Toler said about gutting the residential structure to repurpose as a center for learning and connecting residents to their local environment. 3334 Sixth Ave. It will move across the street to 3319 Sixth Ave., an abandoned building purchased for $7,500 from the Troy Community Land Bank.

The name NATURE Lab is an acronym for North Troy Art, Technology and Urban Research in Ecology. It hosts artists and provides opportunities for people to explore their creativity with projects related to the surrounding environment.

Cameron Toler, the New York City-based architect and designer for the $250,000 grant-funded project, said it’s been a community collaboration to regenerate the unused hulk of a building.

“It’s been great. The project is a chance for people to cooperate and design,” said Toler, who is in private practice and belongs to the Open Architecture Collaborative, a social justice group that works with communities on projects.

Students, residents and volunteers devised ways for transforming the building. Toler advised them to knock down walls on their plans and use their imaginations.

“With a building this old, it’s easier than with a well-maintained building,” Toler said about gutting the residential structure to repurpose as a center for learning and connecting residents to their local environment.

There will be display space that could show lead pipes and lead paint so residents are aware of environmental and health issues in their homes and other local buildings. And there are plans for experiments involving water from the Hudson River that is just a two-block walk to the west.

The Sanctuary for Independent Media has been developing projects since moving 13 years ago into its building, a former Lutheran Church, at 3361 Sixth Ave. The new NATURE Lab has been about five years in the works. Construction is expected to begin this fall and take two years to complete.

The space the lab occupies at 3334 Sixth Ave. will be converted into housing for visiting artists or interns, said Steve Pierce, executive director of the nonprofit Media Alliance that operates the Sanctuary.

The lab ties together the Sanctuary’s work with the media, culture, the environment and the community, Pierce said, “We have high hopes for it.”

• kcrowe@timesunion.com • 518-454-5084 • @KennethCrowe

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