Mayor Steve Noble is hoping the wave of interest and investment in Kingston will carry with it the redevelopment of a vacant lot in the heart of the Broadway corridor.
The lot at the corner of Broadway and Henry Streets once held the Kings Inn, a run-down motel that for decades was an epicenter of drugs and prostitution and the city’s most potent symbol of blight and quality-of-life issues in Midtown Kingston.
The motel was torn down in 2011; later, the lot was landscaped and maintained as a green space dubbed “Broadway Commons.” Over the years the lot has played host to a farmer’s market and summer-season “spiegeltent” event venue. Now, Noble said this week, he’s hoping to see the space transformed again as part of a broader effort to revitalize Broadway. Last week, the city issued a “request for proposals” seeking a developer to create a “mixed-use project which will enhance and complement the current structures and use patterns existent in the neighborhood.” Noble said he believed the time was right to issue a formal RFP as there’s been an influx of investment in Kingston and interest in creating denser, more compact urban environments.
“Kingston has really started to discover itself as a community that wants to fill in some of the nooks and crannies that have been forgotten over the years,” said Noble. “And people feel comfortable with the City of Kingston, they think its heading in the right direction and they’re willing to take risks and make investments.”
Noble said the RFP was kept intentionally broad to allow for a wide range of potential uses and creative designs. The document mentions potential uses including mixed-use retail, office and residential space. The RFP also requires publically accessible green space be included in the plan and that the design preserves a portion of the lot designated “Deep Listening Plaza” in honor of the late Pauline Oliveros, a Kingston resident and renowned composer.
The lot stands adjacent to the Ulster Performing Arts Center, which recently underwent a $5.5 million upgrade to allow it to operate year round. Chris Silva, president of UPAC’s parent company Bardavon 1869 Opera House, said the company had no plans to submit a proposal for the site. Nevertheless, Silva said, he welcomed development of the lot despite the fact that it could mean the loss of an overflow parking space for the theater.
“We recognize that this has to be developed so we welcome any major development there with no expectation that we’re still going to be able to use it,” said Silva.
Alderman Bill Carey, whose Fifth Ward borders the site, said he sees development of the lot and another vacant parcel across Broadway on Field Court as a potential “game changer” for Broadway.
“To me, it doesn’t seem like there’s been a lot of interest to this point,” said Carey. “But it’s a key piece of Kingston right in the middle of Broadway and whatever happens there is pretty important.”