Kingston City School District Superintendent Paul Padalino has often mentioned the popularity of Uptown’s Cioni Administration Building among prospective buyers. But even though the building isn’t currently on the market, the district recently received a $1 million offer from a boutique hotel developer.
The offer came from Grupo Habita, a Mexican-based firm that designs and operates hotels, with its closest — and largest — the 56-room Hotel Americano in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Hayes Clement, a broker with Westwood Metes and Bounds, is representing Grupo Habita, a brand name of Carlos Couturier and Moisés Micha, the founding partners of Habita World. In a letter to Padalino, dated March 2, Clement detailed Grupo Habita’s interest in the district’s current headquarters and the surrounding neighborhood.
“Uptown Kingston and the Cioni Building were selected by Grupo Habita after a lengthy search of potential development sites throughout the Hudson Valley and Catskills,” wrote Clement in the letter. “As with all of its projects, the company is committed to making the Cioni project not just a world-class small hotel, but one reflecting the firm’s most passionately held goals.”
Included among those goals, wrote Clement, was building a hospitality experience incorporating the area’s historic surroundings and local art; using local contractors and labor; and helping create an atmosphere that doesn’t just benefit Grupo Habita and its investors, but local businesses as well.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Clement said the location, the building itself and the property’s 60 parking spaces all made the Cioni Building an intriguing possibility for Grupo Habita.
“The building needs a considerable amount of work, and it’s a testament to my client’s faith in Uptown Kingston that they’re willing to make a very significant investment in bringing that building back to its former glory,” Clement said.
Though the Cioni Building isn’t officially for sale, a proposal first introduced in October by Albany-based CSArch Architecture would see the administration relocate to the former Frank L. Meagher Elementary School, along with a maintenance and storage facility, and a universal pre-kindergarten hub.
And while it’s not currently on the market, the district has put out feelers in the past. As a result, Padalino said, there’s constantly interest in the property.
“I’ve had a lot of real estate agents and brokers call to ask if they can walk a client through the building,” Padalino said this week. “I’m not going to tell people that they can’t, but I’m always very clear that the building is not for sale. There’s nowhere for us to go, but people are welcome to look. Do I anticipate that the building will be for sale at some point? Yes, I think it will.”
Not that the district isn’t considering selling. A proposal first introduced last October by Albany-based CSArch Architecture would see the administration relocate to the former Frank L. Meagher Elementary School, along with a universal pre-kindergarten hub. Adding a storage and maintenance facility to the plan was later scrapped.
Meagher, at 21 Wynkoop Place, closed to students in June 2012 as part of a comprehensive redistricting plan which saw the district reduce its number of elementary schools from 11 to seven over a two year period. 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.
In early February, school officials said the cost of retrofitting Meagher for future use would cost roughly $5.9 million, a drop of over $1 million from the initial estimate. At the time, Padalino said the district was still investigating how financing would work, but he said with around $2.1 million of the proposal dedicated to the pre-K renovations, Albany wouldn’t pony up the remaining $3.8 million. This week, Padalino said he planning on bringing the subject up at a Wednesday, April 20’s school board meeting, after the Kingston Times went to press.
“I think we’ve got a plan in place that I’m hoping the board will look kindly on that would use the Meagher school and allow us to sell this [Cioni] building and put it on the tax rolls and make it an asset to the community,” he said. “But right now, as I said to the purchaser, the building is not listed. It’s a good offer. But the building isn’t for sale.
According to Clement’s letter, the district would have up to 18 months post closing to occupy the property at “reasonable terms.” Neither Clement nor Padalino would expand upon the details of the offer.
The district received two bids for the Cioni Building in 2014 — a bid of $658,000 was received by Kingston-based Trends Research Institute owner Gerald Celente, while commercial real estate developer Paul Hakim 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.
Padalino said leaving Cioni would have to be a very deliberate process.
“I think there’s also a belief that there are eight or 10 administrators in this building and we can easily pick up and move out,” he said. “There are 58 people who work in this building. Finding a place for 58 people because we got a good offer in a district where we just closed four schools and are operating at about 85 percent capacity at our buildings, it’s not as if we can just plop them into Kingston High School, which is under massive construction and has limited parking, or one of our elementary schools where we maybe have a couple of classrooms. It’s just not going to happen that quickly.”
Clement declined to say whether there was a specific timeframe on the offer.
“There definitely needs to be an understanding of how the process would unfold expeditiously for everybody concerned,” he said. “They’ve had a couple of bid processes in the past couple of years for it. We assume it’s still open for discussion and we feel comfortable making the offer that we did and we hope they’re pleased by it.”