Point of view: Why New Paltz needs Zero Place

Rendering of Zero Place from the corner of Mulberry Street and Route 32 North.

Rendering of Zero Place from the corner of Mulberry Street and Route 32 North.

I am David Shepler, the founder of Zero Place and an eight-year resident of the Village of New Paltz. I have two children in the local schools, live a stone’s throw from Zero Place and have a career in technology, not development. I’ve heard from a number of community members about their reservations concerning Zero Place, along with many who have expressed their support. I’ve also read and heard a fair amount of inaccurate facts about the project. Therefore, I write to give both a summary of the facts as well as to make my case for why New Paltz needs Zero Place.

Description. Zero Place, located on the corner of Route 32 North and Mulberry Street, will be a LEED-certified , mixed-use apartment building with 48 residential units (split evenly between one- and two-bedroom units). The ground floor will provide 14,450 square feet of new retail space available for local businesses, artistic pursuits, and other limited uses described in the current Neighborhood Business Residential zoning. It will have approximately 80 parking spots, including 69 spots in the former Park-n-Ride and eleven on the street. Each apartment unit will have an assigned spot and the remainder will be available to the public. The bus stop next to the parking lot, racks for 46 bicycles, broad sidewalks and plaza areas, and the neighboring Wallkill Valley Rail Trail will all contribute to making Zero Place a walkable, community-oriented space — a stated aim of the new zoning.


Origins: The energy and sustainability mission. I began this project well over a year ago, as I recognized that the time was right to pursue a long-time dream to create a net-zero energy building similar to my home but on a larger scale — to demonstrate that this level of energy performance can be accomplished without extravagant funding and using well-established technologies. I aim not only to accomplish this energy goal (including one of the largest solar arrays in Ulster County), but to create a building at the highest levels of sustainability, seeking at least LEED Silver and possibly Platinum (the very highest rating offered by the U.S. Green Building Council). One of my partners, Anthony Aebi, has already put New Paltz on the map as a world leader in advanced energy concepts with his 35 net-zero energy homes. These homes have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy and NYSERDA as achieving among the highest levels of performance in the U.S. Now, along with our third partner Keith Libolt (local minister and award-winning Energy Star builder, including of the Lace Mill in Kingston), we will continue to raise the bar for sustainable development, but this time bringing zero-energy living to renters of all types, including those who qualify for affordable housing.

Addressing a shortage of high-quality housing stock. Our research indicates a significant shortage of high-quality housing in New Paltz, particularly for long-term renters. Our 48 residential units will help meet the demand, offering residences with all utilities included at affordable prices. The units will be modest in size but well appointed with quality kitchens and details. Residents will also not have to worry about paying a single utility bill! We aim to find tenants who share in our energy-efficiency ethics, and we will provide them insights into their energy consumption on the device of their choice.

Providing affordable housing. Added to this, Zero Place will have at least five units that will be classified as “affordable housing” per the village code, helping the village achieve its goals and make a dent in the severe shortage of such housing.

Providing quality retail space to local businesses. Retailers have told us time and again that New Paltz lacks quality retail space, and particularly up Route 32 North. The 14,450 square feet of space will provide seven to ten new retail spaces (depending on size needs), and we are committed to keeping all the businesses local. Many have asked what retailers/uses will be in Zero Place, but it is way too early to know given that it will not be available for quite some time.

Improving the tax base. As most are aware, New Paltz struggles with its tax base, and the combination of retail and residential will add considerably to that.

Improving the aesthetic experience of 32 North. Let’s face it…the 32 North corridor is not attractive. It has a disconnected selection of largely automotive-focused businesses. It’s time we make attractive, walkable spaces with a great variety of retail options (including for the arts)!

Engaging the rail trail. Zero Place will make a wonderful place for the community and visitors to park their bikes, enjoy a local café and generally enjoy village life. We are in discussions with the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Land Trust and Association to improve the common border and walkways and to create a park-like atmosphere similar to the feel of Water Street Market.

Bringing the new NBR zone to life. The village (and particularly former Mayor West) worked hard to make the NBR zone a reality over many years. The logic of the zoning is clear. The village has chosen to accommodate growth by increasing density rather than sprawl — to push up rather than out. Yes, the building is taller than anything else in its immediate area, but I agree with village plans that the major corridor of 32 North is an appropriate place for such density and height (limited to four stories). I am offering Zero Place, a local project committed to sustainability, to push forward the transformation and realize the village’s vision.

I know that some are concerned about the visual appearance and overall height and size of Zero Place. With release of this letter, I am making available our renderings to the New Paltz Times and to everyone through our website www.zeroplace.com. Please see for yourselves how we are striving to increase the green space on the lots, which were almost entirely paved over as the STS automotive shop and Park-n-Ride. We are adding a streetscape complete with trees and benches, that will provide a natural boundary to a plaza-like center that can host patio seating and even small farmers’ markets and events.

Aesthetically, in an effort to tie Zero Place to features of our great village, we are adding brick and blue stone accents to the retail floor and Mohonk Mountain House-like clapboard siding to the upper floors, while preserving a unique look and feel to the building. Zero Place will greet drivers entering the village from the north with an attractive space and remind them of the energy/sustainability commitments by making visible a small subset of the solar array.

Like the rest of my local team, I’m deeply passionate about Zero Place, our environment and the Village of New Paltz. I hope that you will join with me in celebrating everything that Zero Place can be. You can contact me through my website or on Facebook. I will never turn down a phone call or avoid discussing the project with anyone. I encourage you to send me your feedback and provide me ideas for making Zero Place even better for all of us.

David Shepler
Village Resident and founder of Zero Place


P.S. The name “Zero Place” comes from our net-zero-energy, zero carbon, zero emissions goals. To me, “zero” means everything.

There are 21 comments

  1. Zeek B

    We need parking… there’s no place to leave your car without being ticketed or towed the next day if you decide to have more than a single drink and take a taxi home. The whole town is a DUI set up.

  2. Jane

    80 Parking Spots – 48 to the apartments leaves 32 spots, for over 14,000 square feet of retail space – both employees and customers? If 14,000 feet were only 10 businesses, three spaces each for both employees and customers would not come close to enough. Throw in all the residents with two cars (probably most, even in the one bedrooms), then too surely some of the two bedrooms will have three cars, and the parking is not remotely enough. Maybe if you could triple it, it would then be remotely enough.

    Five “affordable” apartments is not a dent, not enough to have that monstrosity on the outskirts of town, whether it is zero or not (by the way, I love the idea of zero emissions, etc – yet the name is cloying at best, really, moreso annoying. “Hey, we are heading out to zero place.” Yeah, no.

    It’s a bad idea. New Paltz is in desperate need of housing. Desperate need. Always has been. This development is not even part of the answer.

    1. love NPZ

      Jane – 14,000 square feet is 3-4 retail spaces at most. The average new build retail space is about 3,500 – 7,000 square feet. That’s the math. It isn’t 10. And you seem to forget this is in the business core – most of us WALK TO DOWNTOWN BUSINESS, not drive. You are over-reacting.

      1. Jane

        Thanks, Patriarch, for saying I am overreacting. That’s always a solid argument when talking to a little lady, isn’t it? Please do forgive me – I forgot how easy it is to park in New Paltz, and all the empty spaces there are everywhere, because we are all so busy walking…

        And I forgot all the large retail spaces there are around town, too. Jack’s rhythms is about to expand to three stories to meet demand, and Handmade is working with the library to build an extension on the library’s lawn…

        What about the tourists? What about handicapped parking? I hope you don’t have more than four handicapped tenants and customers at once.

  3. Bob B

    48 families with children attending our local schools. Impacting teachers, classroom space, school buses, etc.
    And who gets to pay for it all? Local homeowners, as usual.
    Sure there will be some taxes paid by the new property but not in proportion to the new burdens placed on the schools and town.
    Why not come up with a new school tax system where the budget is shared by all residents, not just property owners? This is especially true in the cases where residents utilize the schools and services and contribute zero to pay for them.

    1. Jane

      All residents do pay school taxes – if you rent a home, your landlord has certainly factored school and property taxes into the rent.

      1. Bob B

        I am talking about a direct school tax bill for every resident, just like property owners get. If you use the school system, pay your fair share. Many of our long time residents are forced to move out of their homes because they are living on fixed incomes and school taxes just keep going up and up. Now after last years big one time bond scam to fix the buildings they are going for new buses this year. Really? Most of the buses I see leaving the schools have only a handful of kids on them. It would be cheaper to call a limousine service to chauffeur them back and forth.

        1. Love NPZ

          Bob, roughly 35% of New Paltz residents HAVE NO CHILDREN IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. WE ALL PAY ALREADY. I have NO KIDS and NO KIDS in New Paltz Schools BUT I PAY more than $6,000 annually to the schools. That fair to you? Not really fair to me BUT I AM PART OF A COMMUNITY SO I AM WILLING TO BEAR THAT BURDEN TO EDUCATE YOUR KIDS.

    2. love NPZ

      Bob – Of those 48 apartments (not families, thanks) approximately 2/3 will most likely be rented to single occupant; or room-mate occupant tenants with NO KIDS. Please, stop spinning a lie to support your flawed assumptions. Oh, and LIVING RIGHT DOWNTOWN MEANS YOU ARE WALKING, not driving.

      1. Jane

        Will they work downtown too? Your argument is literally moronic. Will the downtown residents sustain these three very large businesses you purport will be the only business residents.

  4. Love NPZ

    This is an excellent project and the NIMBYs need to knock it off. Seriously. New Paltz will not gain any new housing stock, or retail anytime soon because a very loud and very narrow group have hijacked the free-market economy of this town. NOTHING is ever approved and NOTHING is ever built – except for the Hampton Inn.

    I live here. I love it here. I have nothing to do with any developers – but I am smart, I am travelled and I have lived in similar college towns around the nation. New Paltz IS THE WORST for strangling any new projects. As much as I love our ‘rural, natural surroundings’ the town itself is quite ragged, worn out, tired, and offers NO space for new business or housing. New Paltz’s success IS IN FACT infill development and vertical development. It uses what is now dead space; abandoned space; derelict space; and ties the street level community together.

    As for PARKING – I’ve written here many times and no one ever speaks of the idea – fear of NIMBY’s? Perhaps.
    The parking lot on Plattekill across from the New Paltz Tea Room SHOULD ALSO BE DEVELOPED as a three-level parking structure at the rear build out of brick and other materials that fit the local architectural vernacular. The building frontage on Plattekill should have street level retail space, and the two-stories above that would be residential. A three-level parking deck at that site would service much of downtown – providing 3.5 x the number of space currently available on the sloped surface lot (which by the way is a major source of polluting runoff) because of the topography a 3-level deck actually would appear no higher than 2 stories and fit very neatly into the site. The driveway entrance immediately adjacent to the Dentist Office would still serve the commercial building behind the site.

    It’s great that some folks who already live here are comfortable with keeping new comers and new development out – now that you got yours, you don’t want to share right?! That’s how many of you behave. It is sad and shameful, frankly. You complain about anything and everything ‘new’ – you are what I now coin as PC Luddites…fearing anything that is remotely different. We can’t all survive on juice bars, yoga, and coffee shops.

    1. Jane

      Now you tell us generically to “knock it off,” same thing Hillary said to Wall Street. Bully away, this project is not merely absurd, but unsafe. It will place a lot of strain on town roads, will surely require a new stoplight, turn lanes, etc etc. It’s a terribly flawed plan (the rail trail is not paved in Winter, so there goes that idea – unless of course you want to place an additional burden on the town in maintenance, no small expense) in no way realistic for the space or the needs of a town in upstate New York where, regardless of your assertions to the other – most people drive.

  5. Sam

    New Paltz should be turned into the city like New York and New Jersey. Horrible sized building that will block its natural light of its local residents and visitors.

    It seems like this project will benefit the wealthy and not the well-being of its residents nor the historic meaning of New Paltz.

  6. PC Ludd

    Another big money project to line the pockets of the developer. Our citizens are whining about a one story 5 Guys and CVS. Now we are in favor of the type of urban sprawl & low income housing that is a blight all over Long Island and New Jersey? This project is too big and completely out of character with our town. DISAPROVE THIS PLAN.

  7. Nimby Louise

    What an eyesore this monstrosity will be.
    The only thing missing will be the “New York City Housing Authority” sign that that they put in front of all the city housing projects.

  8. Siu

    New Paltz village or town of New Paltz disapproved having a Enterprise Car Rental in the area but consider approving this money making piece of huge building that doesn’t belong in a nice historic hood of New Paltz? This will ruin the beauties of New Paltz but the businessmen will make the money just like Wall Street of New York City.

    I rather have a Enterprise location like in Highland since the nearest one is in Poughkeepsie or Kingston and only Poughkeepsie serves New Paltz than this ugly piece of building situated in New Paltz. I moved up to New Paltz from Manhattan in 1989 for its nature, its fresh air, etc. and not be polluted by hungry businessmen.

  9. Phil Karsten

    I have a great progressive idea for the currently empty lot/s where STS tire used to stand. Let’s not let anyone do anything with that property. Let’s not even explore any possibility of increasing the tax base for New Paltz in any way,shape or form. Someone might earn a dime for providing much needed housing and even some retail spaces, HORRORS! As I haven’t found the sarcasm font yet, be assured tongue is firmly planted in cheek at this point.
    Last time I drove past this area the parking lot was barricaded off so that surely helps the New Paltz parking shortage situation. That could be a great place to install a Solar Roadways demo project as no cars would ever park there and block the sunlight. But where to send the electricity generated? I mean you NewSprawltzians are against anyone building, rebuilding, expanding or changing our beloved little money pit of a town, er, village.
    One thing to remember folks; If you’re not growing, you’re dyeing.
    When I grew up here not too long ago NP was an IBM bedroom community. And a sleepy little college town. Okay it was a sleepy little college town because many of the students were too strung out to cause much trouble but what the hell it was the sixties and seventies, who really remembers?

    1. Jane

      That’s a brilliant idea, and we just LOVE your economic edict that if we aren’t growing we are dying. I am PRETTY sure that New Paltz is not dying, hence the desire for developers to come on in and build it up beyond any recognition. Nice use of hyperbole, though (it’s pronounced hyperbully).

  10. localgal

    Who looks down this section of our town and sees “historic” and/or “nice” buildings?! Stewarts???? This development is gorgeous and amazing on so many fronts…too many to list here. Those who are against it have been against any change here for years. If you are so happy here in NY why do you sound so angry,negative and scared?! This development is exciting and soooo wondeful!!!!!!

  11. Sam

    We don’t need your Trump tower in our beautiful town of New Paltz. Go build your Trump tower in New York City and/or Los Angeles. Only the wealthy will benefit as a result of this ugly project.

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