Kingston City School District officials have long mulled turning the vacant Frank L. Meagher Elementary School into a new base of operations. Now they have an estimated price tag to make it happen: $7 million.
At a school board meeting earlier this month, representatives of Albany-based CSArch Architecture outlined a proposed project which would turn the dormant school into a combined district headquarters, a maintenance-and-storage facility and a universal pre-kindergarten hub. The plan would allow the district to sell the Cioni Building and stop renting warehouse space; Meagher, which closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year, is on Wynkoop Place in Midtown Kingston.
“What we were tasked to do was take a look at the Meagher school … and do what we would call a feasibility study,” said CSArch managing principal Bryan Manning. “Is it feasible to repurpose this building for certain purposes? The school district had in mind three different purposes: The district administration that’s here in Cioni, a pre-K program, and the maintenance and warehousing operation that the district runs. The question was, is it feasible to take those three different programs and put them here in this building. First of all, do they fit? And second of all, what would it cost to put them all here in this building?”
Meagher opened in 1874, and was expanded in 1917, 1961 and 1996; its current size is 31,600 square feet on a 3.6-acre lot that may make it difficult to expand any further.
“Much of the site is not suitable for construction because of all the bedrock that surrounds it,” said Tina Mesiti-Ceas, a design principal with CSArch, adding that creating additional parking and ingress was deemed too expensive. Further, she said, much of the basement level of the 1917 portion of the building is only usable as storage, mechanical and boiler space.
Among the estimated costs are $1,775,000 for minor renovations; $967,200 for safety upgrades; $694,800 for major renovations; $500,000 to pave and stripe the parking lot; $325,000 for a three-floor elevator; $323,760 for windows; $300,000 for boilers; $75,000 for a drop-off canopy; and $300,000 for a loading dock. Also factored into the estimate was $1,038,152 for incidental costs; $519,076 for contingency expenses; and $389,307 for cost increases.
One area of potential concern is the limited parking on the property. According to Mesiti-Ceas, there’s room for between 70-75 spaces of parking encircling the building on the property.
“We would need about 53 parking spaces for our employees, for this group,” said Superintendent Paul Padalino. “We’ve already reached out and have an understanding with the church [the Reformed Church of the Comforter] across the street that we can use their parking lot. So there’s 30 parking spaces there … We would have ample space for our people, pre-K people as well as our maintenance crew.”
In an interview with the Kingston Times, Padalino expanded upon the parking issue.
“I think it is a sustainable option,” Padalino said. “The church has been there forever, the parking lot has been there forever. There was a time in the distant past, I was informed, that we did use that as a parking lot when Meagher was open as a school. There is another parcel of land attached to the school building that could be used as parking, but one of the things I don’t want to do is be a bad neighbor and pave over a green space in the middle of the neighborhood and park a bunch of maintenance trucks there. To me this was a reasonable option to use that in the middle of the week for our employees, and use the parking lot in Meagher for our maintenance vehicles.”
Padalino said the upfront costs of converting Meagher could be offset over time.
“There’s a couple of ways to look at this,” he said during the school board meeting. “There’s the three-to-five-year look after construction, and there’s the forever look at it, the 50-year look at it. Right now we have [the Cioni Building, the district’s current HQ], which has a real value on the market.”
The district received two bids for the Cioni Building last year — a $658,000 bid was made by Kingston-based Trends Research Institute owner Gerald Celente, while commercial real estate developer Paul Hakim, a consultant for a group of investors hoping to turn the former Nevele resort into a new casino, bid $660,000. Both bids included cost provisions should the district opt to lease the property back for between two and four years while renovations are completed at either Meagher or elsewhere.
“Even without advertising, this building generates interest,” Padalino said. “So we can get our asking price with this building.”