Greenwich, Connecticut-based National Resources made the first formal presentation of its plans and ambitious iPark 87 project on the site of the former TechCity during a meeting of Ulster’s town board this Thursday evening, drawing back the curtain on the deep-pocketed company’s plans for redeveloping the site.
“We specialize in developing former industrial sites,” said National Resources president Joseph Cotter during a town-board meeting on October 21. “The master plan that we’re presenting tonight represents, I would say, a group effort, a team effort of including a lot of the uses that we believe will work. But more importantly, we tried to listen and see what the community wanted. A lot of this plan is representative of a lot of the feedback we’ve received.”
Some of that feedback shifted the order in which the project could unfold. Last week, Ulster supervisor James E. Quigley, III said he believed some of the planned residential buildings could be moved earlier in the process to accommodate prospective employees of businesses planning to relocate or open at iPark 87.
“We recently had a business come to the town and buy a building that was a former IBM building on Grant Avenue,” Quigley said, “where they proceeded to clean out the interior in preparation of renovations that would allow them to move their 200-plus employee business to the Town of Ulster. Partly the way through the demolition, they came to us and said, ‘We can’t move our business here. We can’t hire employees.’ And that is becoming increasingly evident to anybody in this community trying to hire employees to provide labor for their business.”
Quigley said the town’s demographics might not meet the needs of businesses looking to hire locally. “We’re a retirement community, we’re not an active jobs community,” Quigley said. “And if you look across Ulster County, I think it’s got a similar profile.”
During the National Resources presentation, Cotter said it was important to businesses hoping to attract the best employees that iPark87 is seen as having broad appeal.
Quigley’s observations did not fall on deaf ears.
“I think the most important message is in order to get companies, particularly manufacturing companies and some of the other companies that we’re engaged with, they all want to know where they’re going to eat,” Cotter said. “How’s housing in the area? Where are the employees going to live? How’s transportation going to work? Are there going to be other activities for them that would make companies want to come here?”
If built, the planned iPark87 600-home community — a third studios, a third one-bedroom apartments, and the remainder two-bedroom units — will constitute the largest apartment complex ever constructed in Ulster County, with more housing units than the county count for the last several years added together.
The county government has been trying to get the localities to commit to their fair shares of affordable housing. It has been slow going.
Moreover, what will be available will be few-frills decent workforce housing, neither the McMansions sold to city refugees nor additions to the ample supply of Airbnb rentals of recent years. Cotter mentioned adding reserved apartments for employees to the list of inducements offered to companies thinking of locating at iPark87.
With county help, some of the units might be set aside for workers of limited means in exchange for a tax break.
The housing would be constructed on the Boice’s Lane side of the iPark87 site. The buildings will be made from all-sustainable building materials, with only electric vehicles permitted to enter the residential campus.
A portion of the food consumed here will be grown on campus.
Cotter said work on the home community could begin as early as the spring of 2023.
The developer has been in talks with Boces and SUNY Ulster to discuss training the workforce locally, with iconic Building 1 fronting on Enterprise Drive a likely training center.
Work to remove piles of demolition debris from the site was recently completed, and Cotter said the building still required a full scrub of all surfaces, which should be completed by spring 2023.
It’s all part of the developer’s focus on improving the site infrastructure.
“For this plan, we believe our best opportunities to attract good companies are to offer not only the workforce training but [also] to offer really good properties that have infrastructure to try to attract manufacturers in particular,” Cotter said. “That’s at the core of what we’re trying to do. Job creation is essential for the site.”
The infrastructure left behind following IBM’s departure in the Nineties, Cotter said, was not in good shape, but could be resurrected.
“The electric power system has been severely damaged, but we’re working on repairing it,” he said. “But it still does have 20 MW of power, and in today’s world some of the manufacturers that are emerging very much need infrastructure, and number one on their list is meaningful power.”
What will go where
Cotter said numerous manufacturers in the battery storage industry were looking at [part of] Building 1 as a new home, with two in particular he said would lead to at least 500 jobs each.
Building 2c, on the Ulster town hall side of Building 1, could be earmarked as an industrial center. There’s interest from a company that makes dairy products, Cotter said.
Building 2d, on the south side of Building 1, might be focused on companies with an interest in cold storage.
Upriver Studios, which operates a soundstage and production facility in Saugerties, is interested in two potential film studios at iPark 87. “I think it would be appropriate for this community because of the history of creativity and the arts,” Cotter said. That non-profit company also does considerable workforce training for local people.
A video on the National Resources website identifies other areas not covered during the presentation before the Ulster town board. In addition to around one million square feet of manufacturing and logistics space, a further 300,000 square feet for food and other manufacturing space could also be in the works, along with a hydroponics facility.
A medical complex and wellness center with schools for nursing and hospital management, a medical mall and an on-site health club are also planned. A food hub, including a brewery or distillery, and an arts center are also on the site-plan map.
Things can change
At the philosophical heart of iPark 87 is what National Resources claims will be the first zero-carbon footprint residential community in the country, powered entirely by renewable energy.
National Resources officially kicked off iPark 87 in early June of this year, eradicating $10.82 million in unpaid taxes by former owner Allen Ginsberg in exchange for 18 parcels of property The deeds were transferred to the Ulster County Economic Development Alliance, and then sold to National Resources for $5 million to be paid over a five-year period, with a commitment to cover a minimum of $7 million in environmental cleanup costs, removal of debris, and completion of interior demolition of abandoned buildings.
Cotter said an official submission of the plans for iPark87 are likely to occur within a four-to-eight-week timeframe.
“We’re hopeful to get it in before yearend,” he said.
Ulster’s town board will be happy to see it.
But as Joe Cotter well knows, development plans are subject to the vagaries of the ever-changing marketplace. He’s always alert to opportunities.
That’s a good thing.