Good to know: Welcome back to our college town-in-a-city

Between classes, Saint Rose senior Ashlie Garcia sometimes walks down Madison Avenue to buy groceries at Price Chopper, or sit with a cappuccino at Tierra Coffee Roasters to study for an exam, or simply forget about it for a few minutes.

“It’s a great place for coffee and a good environment to get some work done in,” said Garcia, a communications major who was among perhaps a dozen students on a recent weekday working on a laptop or phone, or chatting with a professor at one of Tierra’s big wood tables.ashlie 1

Among its many strengths, Saint Rose boasts the most college-friendly college neighborhood in the region.

Not more than five minutes from the classroom or residence hall, students can get to the always-open Price Chopper, the coffee house, a CVS, a row of restaurants ranging from The Curry House to the Pour House and a vintage movie house. They can see a dentist, get a haircut, catch live music, grab a bagel from Bruegger’s or a Coffee Coolatta from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Albany’s historic Pine Hills neighborhood is revered for its greenery, Victorian architecture and amenities. Lately, it has gotten even better. The upper Madison Avenue streetscape has been upgraded, a collection of restaurants with trendy dishes and curbside seating has opened. Tierra has been revamped and, next door, second-run movies have begun rolling at the Madison Theater.

“Saint Rose was a huge factor,” Brian Viglucci,’00, managing partner of BMT Management, said of the decision to operate a quartet of restaurants on a single block. “We have a great mix, from college students to professors to retirees to young professionals who raise their families here after college.

Back when he studied communications and business at Saint Rose,Viglucci washed dishes and bused tables at Junior’s, a popular pub. Today, his company owns Junior’s and three neighboring establishments, including The Point, an upscale venue the College uses frequently for receptions.Madison Ave HDR

 Also drawn by the positive vibe on upper Madison were businessmen Darren Grout and Gunther Fishgold, who recently opened the Tierra coffee shop and retail shop and revived the Madison Theater next door. The movie house screens classics and recent runs —  think “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Frozen” — all costing $5. The theater also lets the College show films and hold discussions on social and political topics.

It all works for Ashlie Garcia; the proximity to Price Chopper, the moonshine wings at Junior’s and the Madison, where she recently caught  “The Breakfast Club.”Ashlie Madison Theater

“Not every college has the luxury of having businesses right down the street,” said Garcia, among students and faculty walking back to campus on broad sidewalks dotted with street lamps.

 Virginia Hammer, president of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association, said the strong town-gown friendship is no accident. Her organization promotes concerts and art exhibits at the College’s Massry Center for the Arts. It publicizes College lectures, recreation programs and literacy services and recruits Saint Rose students to sing at its annual block party. Hammer said to expect more collaborations, including an upcoming film festival.

“In our business directory, The College of Saint Rose is listed under ‘arts and entertainment’ and ‘education,’” she noted.  “It’s an absolutely fabulous resource and one of the things that’s wonderful about upper Madison.”

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