A Kingston developer who specializes in converting abandoned industrial space into housing for artists said he got the cold shoulder when he tried to present a plan which would put the site of the former King’s Inn welfare motel back on the tax rolls. Now, with demolition just about complete at the site adjacent to the Ulster Performing Arts Center, Mike Piazza said the opportunity to expand the city’s tax base has been lost.
Over the past decade, Piazza has converted three vacant factory buildings in Midtown Kingston into live/work space for artists. Three years ago, while city officials were beginning to ponder a future for the vacant and dilapidated Broadway motel, Piazza began forming a plan to do something similar there. Working with architect Paul Jankovitz, Piazza developed a plan to recycle the King’s Inn buildings by adding a new brick façade and reconfiguring the spaces into roomy, light-filled living and studio space. The proposal also included ground floor retail and cultural spaces and a paving stone covered “Tuscan Plaza” with tables, chairs and space for outdoor performances.
The proposal called for the city to sell the space for $1 and a five-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement, after which the entire property would return to the tax rolls. Piazza said the reuse of at least some of the existing buildings, footings and groundwork at the site would have saved at least $1 million in construction costs and made the project economically viable.
“With adaptive reuse we could get the rent down to $10 per square foot, which is where we needed to be,” said Piazza. “You’re not going to get anybody paying $20 or $30 per square foot. This is Midtown, you have to be realistic.”
Piazza said that he presented the plan to Mayor James Sottile and a steering committee charged with finding potential developers for the site. The proposal was rejected, he said, for reasons that he still doesn’t fully understand.