Online poll up for 11 possible Uptown Kingston projects for state’s $10m

(Photo by Will Dendis)

City residents are getting one more chance to weigh in on how to spend a $10 million grant for Uptown Kingston before state officials make the final call on how the money will be spent.

In September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to Keegan Ales to announce that Kingston had been awarded $10 million under the state’s “Downtown Revitalization Initiative.” The program awards money through a competitive application process with one major award going to the top applicant in each of the state’s 10 economic development regions. Kingston’s application, prepared by Mayor Steve Noble and a team of city officials and volunteers, beat out dozens of applications from communities in the Mid-Hudson region for the funding. In 2016, the first year of the program, Noble’s application focused on Midtown. The city did not win the grant. In 2017, the new application sought DRI funds for Uptown. Noble said he believed the neighborhood fit better with the program’s stated goal of accelerating economic development in compact, walkable neighborhoods that had seen in infusion of private-sector investment in recent years.

Cuomo’s announcement kicked off a six-month project to develop priorities for spending the money. The state’s Regional Economic Development Council appointed a committee of 17 city residents and stakeholders to begin the process of prioritizing and refining potential projects identified in the DRI application. A series of public forums sought additional input.

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Now, city residents are getting another shot with an online survey available at www.kingston-ny.gov.DRI.com. The survey lists 11 projects on the table for DRI funding and asks respondents to rate them in order of priority. Taken together, the projects come with a $16 million price tag, while the city has roughly $9.7 million to spend. (Some $300,000 of the DRI grant will pay for state experts to evaluate and help implement the plan.)

“We can’t fund everything so we have to prioritize,” said Noble. “And we’d like the public’s help doing that.”

The projects listed include:

• The Kingstonian: Private developers have proposed building a mixed-use commercial, residential and hotel building on what is currently a city-owned parking lot at the corner of Wall and North Front streets. The city has proposed using $3.8 million in DRI funds for public improvements to support the plan. The money would pay for construction of a pedestrian bridge across Fair Street Extension to link the Baxter lot at the corner and the municipal parking lot and plaza, demolition of underground structures and relocation of utilities.

• Upgrades to Dietz Stadium and Andretta Pool: This proposal calls for spending $2.5 million in DRI funds and another $380,000 in city funds to make improvements at the stadium and pool. The money would fund a new PA system, new locker and bathrooms, lighting and landscaping and other improvements at the complex.

• Repair the Fireman’s Hall and Museum: The proposal calls for spending $560,000 in DRI funds to repair the roof, replace windows and repair masonry at the Fair Street museum.

• Implement the Uptown Stockade Transportation Plan: The proposal would spend $5.4 million in DRI funds to upgrade and rework roads and sidewalks in the Stockade District in accordance with recommendations contained in a 2006 study by the Ulster County Transportation Council. Proposed changes include reversing the flow of traffic on Wall, Fair, John and Main streets. The proposal would also upgrade eight intersections in the neighborhood and replace sidewalks on Crown and John streets.

• Improved signage in the Stockade District: This proposal would spend $430,000 to implement a “wayfinding plan” to help visitors navigate Uptown Kingston.

• Updated mapping of and structural study for the Kingston Uptown Levee. The proposal would spend $130,000 in DRI funds and $170,000 in city funds to inspect and model the levee, which protects Kingston Plaza and an adjacent apartment complex from flooding on the Esopus Creek. The levee was decertified by the Army Corps of Engineers over concerns that it did not meet new specifications. Carrying out the study could lead to the levee’s recertification, and lower insurance rates for area property owners.

• Improvements at Academy Green Park: $560,000 in DRI funds would pay for improvements at the Uptown park. Upgrades would include new walkways, better lighting and electrical systems, a mobile stage and new landscaping.

• Upgrade Frog Alley Park: $472,500 in DRI money and another $185,875 would go towards stabilizing the ruins of the historic Louw-Bogardus house upgrades to the surrounding park.

• Reconfiguration of Schwenk Drive: $987,102 would go towards transforming Schwenk Drive into a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly “Complete Street.” The project would include installation of bike and parking lanes, upgraded traffic signals and installation of ADA-compliant intersections. The project would help link the street into the proposed Kingston Greenline system by offering better access to a rail trail running between Kingston Plaza and Cornell Street.

• Funding residential and commercial building improvements in the neighborhood: $600,000 in DRI funds would go towards a residential rehabilitation program that offers homeowners making less than 80 percent of the area median income up to $20,000 for home improvements. A portion of the funds would also provide grants to commercial property owners to make façade improvements.

• Uptown print and digital marketing campaign: $250,000 in DRI funds would go towards a marketing campaign aimed at advertising local businesses and marketing Uptown as a destination for tourists and new residents.

Noble said the local planning committee would take public input into account when preparing the final action plan for submission to state officials. The committee would also take into account the city and the state’s goals and objectives for economic development in the area. Once the plan is complete, it will go to the Regional Economic Development Council, which will decide which projects to fund and for how much.

“There’s going to have to be a whittling down of these requests and it will be up to the state to do that,” said Noble.

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