A local housing group has embarked on an ambitious plan to rehabilitate a long-vacant factory building and, hopefully, rejuvenate a rugged stretch of post-industrialKingston.
The Rural Ulster Preservation Company announced last week that it’s purchased the property, a looming brick former lace factory adjacent to the railroad tracks near the corner ofFoxhall AvenueandCornell Street. Plans, still at their earliest stages according to RUPCO Director of Development and Construction Chuck Snyder, call for the renovation of the building’s exterior and the reconstruction of the old factory floors and boiler rooms into 50 to 60 units of artists’ housing along with gallery, rehearsal and performance space.
“The building is solid,” said Scott Dutton, a local architect who will spearhead the project. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to work on.”
Dutton and Snyder spoke enthusiastically about the possibilities while walking through the 55,000-square-foot factory which once manufactured lace curtains and brushes, but has sat dormant since the 1980s. The old factory is what Snyder called “classic mill construction” with load-bearing masonry exterior walls and massive wooden support columns inside. The building in split into two wings, one three stories and the other two, divided by a large boiler room. Inside, a massive iron-and-brick boiler towers 20 feet over a debris-littered room, while the former manufacturing spaces feature high ceilings, iron staircases and wooden floors.
Dutton, who bought an renovated the nearby Canfield Supply factory back in 2000 said the old mill was perfect for the kind of adaptive reuse that helped turn abandoned factories in downtown Manhattan into a center of the world art scene back in the 1960s and ’70s. Large windows on the factories’ lower floors could be used to light large, open live/work spaces for artists, while the old boiler room could serve as an exhibition space to draw the public into the building and create a sense of vibrancy in a neighborhood dominated by light industrial operations, old warehouses and the railroad tracks.
“Artists gravitate to buildings like this,” said Dutton. “They gravitate to neighborhoods like this.”
Snyder declined to give the purchase price for the factory, but he said the total cost of the renovation was expected to be around $15 million. RUPCO is currently working to assemble a funding package that, Snyder said, would combine historic preservation and low-income housing tax credits, along with borrowed funds and a collection of small grants. Snyder said the resulting housing units would be aimed at people making 60 percent ofUlsterCounty’s Area Median Income, a strata that he said would encompass “starving artists.” Snyder said that he hoped to begin construction in January and expected the project to take about a year.