Rupco has closed a deal with the Ulster County Economic Development Agency to purchase the site of the former Kingston alms house. The closing comes as Rupco continues to seek city approval for its plan to create 66 units of low income supportive senior housing at the site.
The site at 300 Flatbush Ave. once housed the City of Kingston’s poorhouse, built around 1870. In the early 20th century, the structure, notable for its Italianate-style architecture, was transferred to county hands, where it served as an infirmary for people with chronic illnesses. Most recently, it served as office space for the county Health Department.
In 2014, the Ulster County Legislature voted to transfer ownership of the 21-acre parcel to the Ulster County Economic Development Agency, a move intended to allow more flexibility in the marketing and sale of the site. In March 2016, the UCEDA signed a contract with Rupco to sell the building for $950,000. The deal set an April 30, 2018 deadline to close on the deal for the contract to remain valid. Rupco CEO Kevin O’Connor said that, with the deadline closing in, the decision was made to move ahead with the closing despite the fact that the project still needs final site plan approval from the Kingston Planning Board.
“I would have preferred to have closed after we got that final approval,” said O’Connor. “But we’ve bought other buildings in advance [of site plan approval]. We’ve got the [State Environmental Quality Review Act] approval, the zoning issue is behind us and we’re ready to move forward.”
Rupco’s proposal calls for remaking the historic former Alms House into “Landmark Place.” The plan would create 34 studio apartments in the former Alms House and 32 one-bedroom apartments in a new four-story building on the site. The design also calls for new parking lots, walking paths and landscaping to create a “park-like” setting. The apartments would be reserved for those 55 and over making no more than 60 percent of the Area Median Income. Some units would be set aside for the disabled, recently homeless, veterans and those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The Rupco plan also calls for on-site nursing and other support services. O’Connor has said the project, which will receive some funding through a state supportive housing initiative, is intended to provide permanent housing for a population that currently resides in local boarding houses and other substandard accommodations without support services.
The proposal drew pushback from neighbors and others who expressed concern about the population that will be moving in there and its impact on a residential neighborhood of single-family homes. Opponents also have argued that the county didn’t do enough to market the property. They point to two bids on the site, one from a Singapore-based hotel chain and another from local developer Mike Piazza that came in shortly after Rupco signed the contract with UCEDA. Both bids were held in a backup position pending the closure of the deal with Rupco. UCEDA Director Suzanne Holt did not return multiple calls seeking comment, but O’Connor said he doesn’t put much stock in opponents’ contention that private-sector buyers were ready to invest in the site.
“No one has called me in the two years we’ve been struggling through this to say, ‘Hey Kevin, we’ll give you $2 million for it,’” said O’Connor.
RUPCO’s project still needs site plan approval from the planning board. A final public hearing on the issue was held on April 16. The board, however, opted to keep the comment period open, and accept formal written comments until April 30. This week, Ulster County Legislator Brian Woltman, who represents the area around the Alms House, said it was unfair for UCEDA to close the deal while public comment on the proposal remained ongoing.
“It wasn’t the most orderly process, to close this prior Rupco getting all of the land-use approvals through the city,” said Woltman who believes the Landmark Place proposal represents a “squandered opportunity” to redevelop an historic site. “I don’t think it’s fair to the residents who were hoping to comment by the end of the month.”