A plan to build a mixed-use residential, commercial, hotel and parking complex will receive $3.8 million of the $10 million state grant for improvements in Uptown Kingston. Other projects that received support include $2.5 million for improvements to Dietz Stadium and the Andretta pool; $1.34 million to improve access to and circulation around the tangled streets of the Uptown business district; almost a million dollars to redesign and reconfigure Schwenk Drive; $472,500 for stabilizing a historic stone building on Frog Alley; and $600,000 to fund targeted small grants and loans in the neighborhood.
The awards were announced Monday at the Best Western Plus hotel on Washington Avenue. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky joined local officials and private developer Joe Bonura Jr.
The funding comes through Empire State Development’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. In its third round of funding this year, the DRI program awards $10 million to one community in each of 10 upstate economic development regions through a competitive grant-writing process.
The program rewards compact walkable downtown areas with a mix of residential and commercial properties. It’s particularly aimed at neighborhoods that have begun to see a surge in private investment that could be bolstered through state funding for infrastructure and other improvements.
During the first round of DRI funding Kingston mayor Steve Noble and a team of grantswriters filed an application focused on Midtown. The application was rejected. Last year, the city reoriented the application for Kingston’s Stockade district. The switch paid off. In a September 2017 event at Keegan Ales, Cuomo announced that the city would be one of 10 recipients statewide of the DRI award.
Eleven projects in Uptown Kingston chosen by a local planning committee were vetted at a series of public hearings over two and a half months and examined by state officials for another two and a half months before this week’s announcement. Some $300,000 of the grant has already been spent to create a “strategic investment plan” to guide development of the district. Monday marked the final stage in the approval process.
The funding for the Kingstonian project would support an estimated $50 million private-sector venture by Bonura and Kingston Plaza owner Brad Jordan to transform the former municipal parking lot and an adjacent warehouse into a mixed-use development. Not yet submitted to the city planning board for examination, the plans for the Kingstonian call for the creation of 132 residential units and a 34-unit hotel, 8,500 square feet of commercial space for dining and retail establishments and a 420-space parking garage with 250 spaces set aside for public parking. The state money will pay for the removal of existing infrastructure at the site and creation of a pedestrian bridge across Schwenk Drive to link the new development to Kingston Plaza.
Dietz Stadium on Washington Avenue would undergo a major upgrade including improvements to bleachers, water fountains, fencing, lighting, locker rooms and food vending areas. The money will also pay for improvements at the Andretta pool and picnic area adjacent to the stadium.
Other projects on the city-prepared wish list did not receive DRI funding. These included a $600,000 marketing campaign, $560,000 for repairs to the Firemen’s Hall and Museum, $550,000 for improvements in Academy Green Park, $260,000 for an engineering investigation of the Uptown levee protecting Kingston Plaza and $430,000 for signage of an extension to Kingston’s Wayfinding plan.
At Monday’s event, before a crowd of local business and political leaders, Cuomo, who’s facing a primary challenge from fellow Democrat Cynthia Nixon, said the DRI program was a small part of a larger commitment to revitalizing upstate New York after decades of neglect and decline. Cuomo added that the DRI program was aimed at creating “cool” walkable urban environments designed to appeal to young people who, he believes, are key to any revitalization effort, but who’ve long been accustomed to leaving upstate in search of better jobs and a more interesting urban life.
“Kingston was our state’s first capital, and has the opportunity to be a future hub of economic energy and excitement for the region,” said Cuomo. “These projects will transform the Stockade District into a vibrant neighborhood, boost the local economy and drive growth throughout the Hudson Valley.”
“For Kingston, the DRI is a chance to build on the progress we’ve made and unlock the full potential of our community,” added Kingston mayor Steve Noble. “With New York State as our teammate, we are accelerating the renaissance of the city.”