The city of Kingston will try a new approach in its long-stalled effort to redevelop the site of a former municipal parking garage in the heart of the Uptown Business District. Mayor Steve Noble said this week that he hopes the combination of local players and the incorporation of an adjacent parcel of land into the project will help the plan, which has languished for more than a decade, finally gain traction.
The site at the corner of Schwenk Drive and Fair Street Extension once held a three-deck municipal parking garage. The garage contained a staircase and elevator that linked the site, at the base of a steep hill, to North Front Street and the Uptown Business District. The deteriorating garage was demolished in 2008 amid safety concerns and replaced with a grade-level parking lot. Efforts to redevelop the site date back to the turn of the century when the New Jersey-based developer The Teicher Organization proposed a 10-story condominium tower and public parking facility for the parcel. That plan eventually collapsed in the face of concerns about the building’s size and impact on the neighborhood’s historic character.
Since then, successive generations of city officials have sought, in vain, a development partner for the project. Most recently, Mayor Steve Noble signed off on a plan to transfer development rights to the site to Kingston-based architect Andrew Wright for $1. The terms of the deal included an 18-month time frame for Wright to develop a plan for the site and bring investors on board.
On Thursday, Sept. 7, Noble is expected to announce that Wright, who has carried out some preliminary design work and studies at the site, would hand off the development rights to three new principals, including Kingston Plaza owner Brad Jordan. Jordan will be joined in the effort by Michael Bonura Jr., head of Orange County-based JM Development Group and Kingston developer Patrick Page.
“We have an agreement on the development rights,” said Noble. “And we have new partners who can bring together their experience and their wide-ranging skill sets.”
Noble described Thursday’s announcement as an “opening conversation” about the future of the site noting that there were, as yet, few specifics. But whatever plan emerges will need approval from the city, which retains ownership of the parcel. The agreement with Wright, which will now apply to the new development team, calls for the project to include a mix of retail, residential and commercial uses, as well as at least 200 public parking spots. Noble said that the plan would also incorporate a parcel of land across Fair Street Extension from the parking lot that is owned by Jordan and holds a warehouse. The idea, Noble said would be to combine that site and the parking lot into a single “transformative” project that could fundamentally alter the climate in the Uptown Business District.
Noble said the potentially game-changing nature of the project made community input an important part of the development process. The demise of the Teicher condo tower plan, after developers spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars putting it together, showed the need to bring community members into the process early to ensure the proposal was something that local stakeholders could support.
“The next six months is going to be about the look and feel, how does the community feel about this project overall?” said Noble. “What you don’t want to do is come up with a plan and then drop in people’s laps.”
Kiosks working by month’s end
Noble said that payment kiosks in municipal parking lots are on schedule to go online by the end of this month. Meanwhile, the city has issued about 270 discounted parking permits since it began accepting the applications last month.
Last year, at Noble’s urging, the Common Council voted to end free parking in municipal lots and charge drivers a 75-cent hourly fee. The new payment kiosks were installed at the end of August. Noble said staff from contractor Parkeon were programming the devices and working to integrate them into the city’s existing parking enforcement system. Once that’s complete, Noble said, he planned to give at least a week’s notice before activating the new system.
Responding to criticism of the pay-to-park plan from some city residents and business owners, Noble implemented a discounted parking pass for regular users of the lots. The $10 permits will entitle holders to park in the lots without further cost through the end of 2017. Applications for the permits are available online at the city’s website or at a self-service kiosk at City Hall. Noble said the city had received a flood of applications in mid-August when they were distributed and a trickle since then. All told. Noble said, about 270 people had signed up for the passes.