Survey: Most want Kingston canopies preserved (except Uptown property owners)

(Photo by Will Dendis)

The results of the city of Kingston’s survey on what should be done with the canopies in Uptown Kingston are in. A wide majority of the 628 total responders – 77 percent – favor repairing and rebuilding the canopies. An equally wide majority – 74 percent – of the responding property owners (14 of 19) who have Pike Plan easements favored tearing the canopies down.

Reasons given for preservation include the charm, character and uniqueness to Kingston as well as protection from the elements. Several warned of making the same mistake as was done when the city tore down the old post office. Many of the comments in favor of teardown include ongoing, persistent structural problems, the look of an old Western, not being historic to Uptown’s architecture, and opening up the sidewalks and storefronts to more natural light.

The survey was conducted by paper ballot and online from Feb. 25 to March 8.

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“I want to thank all of our engaged community members who participated in the survey. We wanted to make sure we gave the public a say, and to hear as many voices as possible,” said Mayor Steve Noble. “I presented the results from both surveys at the Common Council Finance and Audit Committee meeting on Wednesday night, and the Council will now take all the comments into consideration before making their decision.”

The Common Council Finance and Audit Committee will reconvene to discuss their final conclusion about the Pike Plan canopies on April 1 at 6:30 p.m.

The canopies, often referred to as The Pike Plan after original designer John Pike, were built in the 1970s and renovated in the late 2000s.

Kingston officials wrestle with Pike Plan’s fate, but this time it could be the canopy’s end

There are 10 comments

  1. Anonymous

    03/14/19. Please note that the following is an e-mail sent to the Mayor and Aldermen last week in response to a survey request received from them.
    KEEP THE CANOPIES IN PLACE.

    March 8, 2019
    Dear Mayor Noble:
    Re: Pike Plan

    Before stating my position I would like to inform you that I preferred to have chimed in anonymously on this issue but was unable to, or blocked from, logging into your “https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/——-“ survey platform, even though I used the 7-letter code exactly as it was sent to me. So, now what I write is probably much more than I would have been otherwise able to. My apologies if I bore you.

    As a building owner, business operator, and resident directly affected by the Pike Plan canopies, I want to thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion on its’ value as it applies to maintenance vs. removal.

    To begin with, I believe that it is in the best interest of Kingston to keep the canopies in place:

    1. One, because of the unique beauty it lends to the area. No single picture signifying and commemorating the beauty of the Stockade District, and Kingston in general, does so more than the iconic photo taken at the intersection of Wall St. and N. Front St. facing south with the Old Dutch Church tower in the background. It is one of the most incredible street scene pictures in the entire United States. Without the canopies in place it will still be a beautiful picture, much like pictures of many beautiful streets throughout the nation. The church tower will still look dramatic. But the photo will lack the current unique iconic beauty it now has with the canopies. Of the many thousand business communities throughout the nation that also experimented with canopies during the 1960’s-1980’s, very few still remain. Almost all were taken down once it was realized that the canopies were ineffective against the retail environment brought on by the massive mall shopping scene wherever one was built. The greatest number had been erected in California. Most have since been removed. But I can tell you as a fact, having lived in California for 15 years, that all the streets that had them looked more beautiful before removal than they did after removal. But their beauty pales in comparison to the natural beauty as captured in photos of our own Wall St. For example, a large accounting firm with offices in Hudson and Lake Katrine, but no office in Kingston, uses the Wall St.-canopy-church tower scene to grace the front page of their website. Why? Maybe because beauty is a force, as is wisdom or physical strength, but effortlessly absorbed through the eyes before any effort of willful mental or physical restraint can be applied, thereby absorbing the seer into a world of curiosity and desire to see and know more.

    2. Two, because of the practical security afforded to those walking on Wall St. or N. Front St. during rainy and, especially, snowy conditions, coupled with the obviously reduced need to shovel snow from the sidewalks. In this sense, the canopies are a big success. Shielding strollers safely from the elements was one of the principal reasons for building the canopies in the first place. They thought that by protecting shoppers they would be less likely to automatically go to the malls. Maybe for some it did work, but not enough. For other reasons, though, the fates have been turning against the malls, and against brick and mortar stores in general. And that is due to online shopping. Nothing we can do about that. But regarding climatic conditions, no town shopping district in the region is better suited than we are to deal with bad weather. So let’s not act in too much haste and foolishly throw away our advantage to the benefit of our neighbors in other towns who would be all too happy to see us do so.

    3. Three, and most importantly, its’ incredible historic value reflective of that turbulent period (1960’s-1980’s) when individual businesses as well as entire business districts in towns small and large throughout the country, went out of business because of the development of strip malls and large shopping centers. Desperately, many believed that canopies could help as a shield against economic decimation. They were wrong. Now, however, history seems to be repeating or reversing itself. The same shopping malls that caused the economic ruin of many business districts and stores both large and small, are now themselves experiencing huge economic declines as a result of the latest phenomenon “online shopping.” No one can say for sure what the near and long range future has in store, so it would be wise not to step too quickly into the unknown. Let us retain our advantage a while longer to find out. The numbers are already moving in our favor. Is not the increase in the value of local real estate a good sign? Is not the talk of gentrification, or the willingness of people to move here who might possibly have greater means than the average Kingston resident, a good sign. Without doubt these are very good signs. Naysayers beware. These are the signs of a town on the rise. Just wait and see!

    Regarding the historic value of the canopies, please consider the following. Without disagreement, I believe we can all affirm that Kingston is a community justifiably filled with pride for its’ great historical tradition going back hundreds of years. In every century beginning with the 1600’s, there are incredible memories of events, some of which are reflected in physical remains from those times.

    The four building structures from the 1600’s on the corner of Crown St. and John St., and the present Old Dutch Church structure, are reflections of the earliest settlers ever to come to America. The Senate house from the 1700’s recalls to mind America’s greatest moment, The American Revolution, and our incredible struggle for independence. The 1800’s, the Civil War, and going forward into the early 1900’s, are emblematic times of the impact our region has had in the North’s struggle to provide claim for all indigent groups to all the rights guaranteed in The U.S. Constitution for minorities, women and children, through the court system right here on Wall St.

    Now, as a city that loves its’ history, we have another opportunity to preserve a period of our, and our nation’s, history through the preservation of the canopies. The canopies represent a very specific period of U.S. history when towns across the nation sought out a solution to survive the negative economic impact shopping malls were having in drawing away business. As previously mentioned, thousands of business districts throughout the nation did what Kingston did. They built canopies around the stores. Most have since been removed. The few still remaining are historical icons to those times in the 20th century when growing prosperity created a need for a more complete shopping experience, that was also faster and with greater variety. The only way to do this at the time was to bring all the stores together in one location. The canopies represent the lengths that people were willing to go to in order to protect their hopes and dreams which were being swallowed up by malls. The canopies wherever they exist are now an iconic part of our nation’s, and Kingston’s, history. They must be kept, in my opinion, almost as much as any other historical icon in the city, and more so due to their practical benefits.

    Two final thoughts. Since 2005 I have personally met thousands of visitors to the uptown Stockade shopping district. Not one person ever thought that removing the canopies could in any way be a good idea. The only people ever mentioning the canopies in a negative light are business owners who claim that they lose business as a result of them. I can say from knowing them, their business and their business practices, that if they really are not earning or generating the sales they think they should, it’s not because of the canopies.

    Finally, based on your cost estimate for repair of $450,000, and your cost estimate for demolition and facade repair of $868,000, I offer this approach. Keep the canopies and spend the $450,000 for repairs. The $418,000 difference saved from the demolition costs can be applied towards the upkeep and maintenance. That should last a good 15 to 20 years. The canopies are a historic gem. See them in that light, and you’ll know it too.

    Sincerely,

    Anonymous.

    1. Melinda

      Actually, they aren’t “historic gems”. They were added in an attempt to get shoppers to uptown Kingston in the 1970s. As a small child, I remember the buildings without them and it was fine. I say return the buildings to their original glory and tear them down.

  2. Shay

    These things are ugly as sin and a blight. Historic because they were made in the 1970’s? Know what else was made in the 1970’s? Disco. Leisure suits. Platform shoes. Just because something is old, doesn’t make it historic. What are historic are the buildings that these aqua-marine roofed travesties are covering up.

  3. Melinda McKnight, Public Historian

    The Pike Plan is used as an example of WHAT NOT TO DO at Preservation Conferences. It was a bad idea at the time and they should go.

  4. Aphrodite

    The cost to repair and maintain these atrocities will continue to mount while architectural gems are slowly (or rapidly, in some cases) destroyed. Building owners should absolutely have a say in the fate of the Pike Plan.

  5. Tom Hoffay

    Fourteen business owners given the opportunity, voiced opposition to the Pike Plan – that’s out of 50 property owners who have easements under the canopies. Everyone has the right to their own opinion of course, but a whole bunch of owners chose not to get involved. Since the canopies were repaired back in 2011, building owners are no longer charged common fees for electric or maintenance, even though they have lighted pathways right to their door. Every current property owner purchased their building knowing the Pike Plan was attached, as no original owners, pre-Pike remain, The Mayor abolished the Pike Commission, which was tasked with maintenance and I think that was a mistake, perhaps it could be replaced with a Business Improvement District which would include all of the uptown area such as other Hudson Valley communities have. KUBA has done an a very good job with promoting the area and working on issues such as clean ups, but more needs to be done. Enhancing and maintaining the Pike Plan, which has been shown to be so popular with residents and visitors alike is the key to success for Uptown. Combine that with the new Kingstonian Project and perhaps some upgrades to the historic four corners and Kingston has a showpiece historic business district to be proud of. One last thing, since the city took over the costs for electricity and maintenance of the Pike Plan…it belongs now to the tax paying residents of the city.

  6. Adam Putnam

    I think it would be a terrible mistake to demolish the canopies.I have been building for 40 years and designing buildings for 30 of those years and in my opinion the results of destroying these canopies would be just another anonymous area of buildings. The ambiance, the feeling of The stockade area would be utterly changed and not in a good way.
    I live uptown. I spend a lot of time walking to and from the various establishments in The stockade area and aside from the obvious physical comforts of being out of the weather, whether it is snow or rain or even too much sunshine, the pike plan canopies lend a certain friendliness to an area that would otherwise feel simply anonymous.

  7. Eric Stewart

    Removing the canopies would make shopping and patronizing the restaurants, bars, salons and other businesses in uptown far less convenient and pleasant. News flash: It rains and snows a lot here. Keep the canopies.

  8. Susan G

    I shop in uptown Kingston all the time although I live closer to Woodstock and Saugerties. But there are a lot of businesses that I frequent in the Stockade district. Each time I’m there, I’m struck by the canopies, and not in a good way. In my opinion, they are an eyesore. Yes, they offer protection from the rain, but they also block one’s view of the streetscape as it should be — when you’re walking under the canopy you can’t really see the storefronts across the way. The canopy distracts the eye, is not aesthetically pleasing, and creates a kind of feeling of claustrophobia.
    They are not at all historic either — the 1970s canopy blocks us from seeing the turn-of-the-last century buildings, many of which are architecturally and historically interesting.
    Another comment from a Public Historian posted above really summed it up for me — “The Pike Plan is used as an example of WHAT NOT TO DO at Preservation Conferences. It was a bad idea at the time and they should go.”
    I’m sorry I never heard about the survey; I would certainly have been glad to participate in the survey and let my point of view be know.

  9. Kelly

    Keep the canopies, they are the unique signature of uptown Kingston. They shade the streets in summer, keep them free of snow and ice in winter and make uptown Kingston unlike anything else in the region.

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