Most of TechCity is being sold to a company that has a track record of filling problematic industrial spaces with job-creating tenants. If Connecticut-based National Resources succeeds in its aspirations for 160 acres of the former IBM site in the Town of Ulster – which certainly qualifies as problematic – Ulster County government will be on its way to finally putting behind it the unrealized hopes and near-constant headaches that have surrounded the buildings and the land for almost close to four decades.
On Tuesday afternoon, county judge Bryan Rounds was expected to approve a settlement of foreclosure proceedings against TechCity owner Alan Ginsberg. After years of blaming Ginsberg’s intransigence and the site’s sorry history of environmental problems for the failure to restore the TechCity premises to any kind of economic competitiveness, there has been a tentative breakthrough.
National Resources is a diversified real-estate firm whose holdings include numerous parking garages in Manhattan — the word “park” has multiple meanings – as well as residential developments, industrial sites, and some retail in the vast New York metropolitan area. TechCity is further from New York City than most if not all National Resources’ significant investments.
Under the tentative deal, troublesome developer Ginsberg will turn the last 18 parcels of the former IBM property over to the county in exchange for full tax forgiveness. National Resources would pay five million dollars over five years to a county entity and spend at least seven million dollars for environmental cleanup work. It’ll also seek business tenants.
How did this complex deal come together? Ulster County and National Resources have been in contact for more than six months. The county assembled and published a Request for the Expression of of Interest (REFI-UC21-096). On September 16, National Resources president Joseph Cotter responded via email in some detail to county purchasing department head Michael Maphis. The response cited the developer’s considerable experience with other projects amounting to total investments of over a billion dollars.
“Based on its extensive experience with other sites, National Resources is uniquely positioned to take on this long-term initiative, which is projected to occur over five to ten years and require investment in excess of $200 million,” wrote Cotter.
Cotter’s response said the developer would prepare a master plan for the property at its expense. He saw four broad categories of tenants: an agribusiness hub for the processing and distribution of food, a content creation center clustered around the film industry, a place for community arts and culture with an outdoor theatre, and warehousing.
That list is reminiscent of one that the county had in mind, and may not be what is now under consideration. The East Fishkill iPark campus hosts a considerable variety of small businesses as well as its main tenants.
Cotter’s September 12 email anticipated that half the jobs would likely be at minimum wage, and the other half at $50,000 or more.
Other portions of the developer’s ask at the Ulster property involved the possibility of 200 units of housing, medical facilities, and a satellite facility of a college.
TechCity will be rebranded as iPark Kingston, just as the former IBM site in East Fishkill has become iPark84. There are also National Resources iParks in Yonkers, in Norwalk, Connecticut and in Lake Success on Long Island.
County executive Pat Ryan, whose father and grandfather both worked at the Town of Ulster IBM plant, has made restoring the space to economic viability and hopefully to the job-creating hub of Ulster County the centerpiece of his efforts in economic development. “For far too long, TechCity has been a shell of past economic success,” Ryan was quoted as saying Monday. “Now we have finally reached an exciting and transformative moment, one where we can revitalize this site and remake it as a thriving beacon of new opportunity for our county.”
The Ulster County Legislature is expected this Thursday to give its necessary approval for the waivers to Ginsberg on the back taxes.
But that doesn’t mean the deal is then over the finish line. It’s still tentative. A public hearing is scheduled for the evening of December 21 to hear feedback on the tax waivers for Ginsberg and on the overall course of the way the property sale has been handled.