The Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley has applied for a building permit that will clear the way for construction of the proposed pub and performance space on Abeel Street. But questions remain about how the nonprofit will finance the project.
The ICCHV backers hope to build a 16,000-square-foot facility on a vacant lot at 32 Abeel St. The center includes a pub, a 171-seat theater and classroom and program space for traditional Irish music, dance, language and sports.
Since the project was first proposed in 2011, the ICCHV has struggled with zoning issues, a series of legal actions from neighbors and the since-overturned rejection of their plan by the city’s Historic Preservation and Landmarks Commission. A year ago, the group received site plan approval and excavated the site in preparation for construction. But the group missed a six-month deadline to secure building permits — something ICC officials chalked up to a “terrible mistake” — and was forced to re-do the site plan approval process with the city planning board. Planners gave a second OK to the project and set a June deadline for the group to get its building permit. Meanwhile, the excavation at the site has been cited by neighbors as causing erosion to a footpath linking Abeel Street to the Strand, as well as erosion damage to adjacent properties. The ICCHV has been cited twice by the city for issues related to the excavation, most recently in April when a neighbor complained that her seven-year-old son had nearly fallen into the pit after the ground beneath his feet suddenly gave way. Mayor Steve Noble and City Planner Suzanne Cahill have both said that they would like to see construction get underway soon and raised the possibility that the ICCHV could be required to fill in the excavation if it did not.
If approved, the building permit would give ICCHV one year to complete the project. After that, the group could apply for a six-month extension. If the project is not complete within 18 months, it would need to go back before the planning board for another round of review.
ICCHV representatives declined to be interviewed by the Kingston Times for this story. But in a prepared statement, the group wrote, “We remain committed to seeing this project through to completion. We believe that the Irish Cultural Center is a beautiful and restorative project that will very much add to the cultural richness and economic development of not only the Rondout neighborhood, but also all of Kingston, Ulster County and our Hudson Valley region.”
A long way to go
But the statement does not address when construction will begin, or the projected cost of the project. According to a 2016 project summary submitted to the New York State Dormitory Authority as part of a grant application, the total projected cost of the center is $4.68 million. The summary lists funding sources as $2 million in state grants through the Dormitory Authority and the state Economic Development Capital Program, $1.7 million in donations and a $986,000 bank loan. A “Form 990” — a federal tax document required of nonprofit groups — shows that at the end of 2017, the group listed $518,884 in assets. Of that, $464,272 is listed as land and equipment. Revenue is listed as $58,884 while the nonprofit logged $21,597 in donations.
At least one critic of the project has expressed concerns that the nonprofit will not be able to follow through on construction. Deanna Baum lives adjacent to the Abeel Street site and claims that the excavation has contributed to damage to her patio and driveway. Baum was one of a group of neighbors who went to court to challenge a zoning board ruling that cleared the way for the center’s site plan approval.
“I’m concerned about the ICC’s ability to follow this project through in a conscientious, timely and professional manner given that we have had serious safety issues and major property damage,” wrote Baum in an email to Kingston Times. “We have already been living next to an open, eroding excavation pit for a full year.”
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who helped secure a $1.5 million grant for the center through the state Economic Development Capital Program, said this week that the grant, and a second $500,000 grant secured by State Sen. George Amedore had no time limit and remained active. The grant will go towards reimbursement of ICCHV once the project is complete.
“Like many in our community, we are hopeful that legal and logistic obstacles are in the rear-view mirror and the project will move forward with dispatch,” Cahill wrote in response to inquiries from Kingston Times.
In their statement, ICCHV officials noted that the group is a nonprofit that relies on donations and community event fees to fund programs. The email also notes the grants from Cahill and Amedore as well as support from local contractors and licensed professionals who had contributed their time to the project.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misstated the amount of the grant secured by state Sen. George Amedore. The Kingston Times regrets the error.