RUPCO recently received a sizable award from the Empire State Development Grant Program (ESD) through the New York State Consolidated Funding Application (CFA). In early December, RUPCO received notification of a $1-million award for its Priority Status community development proposal to be called “The Metro,” located at 2 South Prospect Street, Kingston, which the Regional Economic Development Council named a “Priority Project.”
“We’re so excited to be a part of the change happening in Kingston,” notes Guy Kempe, Vice President of Community Development at RUPCO. “This CFA round was highly competitive. We’ll direct these funds for acquisition of the property we’ve held on option since August 2016. Overall, we stand amidst a solid CFA tidal wave of funding for the City of Kingston where the city, Ulster County and 4 other organizations won 11 awards amounting to $5.3 million.”
This funding comes on the heels of Governor Cuomo signing into law the New York State Film Tax Credit Program, extending a 40% tax credit to television and film studios working in Ulster County. “These tax credits can now be applied to expenses “below the line” of TV-film budgets where most salaries are accounted for. This tax credit is huge to producers and their budgets but monstrous to Ulster County and City of Kingston,” notes Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at RUPCO. “We’re grateful to Ulster County Executive Mike Hein for his work behind the scenes to get this credit extended to Ulster County. With the County’s support and our partnership with Stockade Works, RUPCO will supply the location for TV-film production studios, a post-production & training center plus several Makers’ Spaces for local artisans and light manufacturers. Stockade Works, a nonprofit TV/film production company lead by director-actress Mary Stuart Masterson, will bring new training opportunities and TV-film industry work to the area.” The New York State Film Tax Credit Program, available in all 62 counties, is designed to increase film production and post-production industry activity and secondary economic impact. In 2014, to further incentivize film/TV production outside of New York City, state officials increased the fully refundable tax credit to 40% for shows and films with budgets over $500,000 that are made in 40 upstate counties.
According to a recent press release, StockadeWorks “will provide a co-working environment for industry professionals in the Hudson Valley looking to connect with their colleagues. The space will accommodate outside productions looking to find a film-friendly location. With hot desks, a conference room, event space, production offices, soundstage, picture/visual effects/sound editing suites, 100-seat state-of-the-art screening room, and film/tech-oriented maker space, the project will connect local talent, attract outside production, and provide a training ground with hands-on access to industry professionals. The studio will produce everything from TV shows to mobile apps and podcasts, and host program classes, workshops, screenings, local food and moth-style spoken word events.”
“It’s not just about new jobs in TV and film; it’s about the ancillary economic boost that the TV-film industry brings with it. It brings new people to the area, who visit and then maybe move here permanently,” says O’Connor. “This multiplier effect — the impact of one dollar recirculated among our area’s small businesses like delis, gas stations, Main Street eateries and hotels – benefits our local economy in new ways. Introducing new business opportunity — we call it Community Wealth Building — fortifies our communities by creating what we consume here, keeping local dollars local. Introducing TV-film studio space within an easy commute to New York City is the right thing at the right time. Studios on Long Island and in the City are booked well into 2020. This new creative industry is the economic boost we’ve been waiting for, to restore density to our City center and people to frequent local businesses.”
Adjacent to the local baseball field, the 70,000-square-foot MetLife building will be renamed The Metro. In addition to the TV-film amenities, The Metro will include a number of makers’ spaces for light industrial use. “This effort at The Metro is about creative placemaking, transforming midtown Kingston, improving community where people want to live, work, play, thrive, hang out,” adds O’Connor. “The Metro anchors the transformation that started at the Brush Factory and the arts-based businesses within Midtown. It expanded to The Lace Mill at the far end of Cornell Street and gained legs with the City’s Midtown Arts District. We’re poised to add new construction of mixed-income, mixed-use space at E2: Energy Square at the corner of Cedar and Iwo Jima to provide a home for Center for Creative Education, Hudson Valley Tech Meet Up and 57 families. The Metro extends this transformation to the other end of Midtown, solidifying Kingston’s creative juice throughout the City.”
“We’ve still got our work cut out for us, raising capital to secure historic tax credits and new market tax credits to preserve and renovate The Metro,” adds Kempe. “But we’re confident in the momentum generated by, and support of, the City of Kingston and Mayor Steve Noble, Ulster County and Executive Mike Hein, and area residents who stand ready for pivotal change in Midtown.” Projected improvements include historic preservation in conformance with the standards set by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior standards, such is restoring the building façade to original architectural plans. Site development will include landscaping and roofing upgrades; energy-efficiency improvements such as a new geo-thermal heating and cooling system; and an interior sub-division of rental spaces. The building lends itself to the maker’s space model: a single-story building with loading bays, easy access, parking and loading capacity, and high-ceilinged spaces ideal for sound stage or light manufacturing uses. Capitalization of these improvements is projected at $11.5-million. RUPCO and StockadeWorks will apply to a combination of resources such as private investors, private mortgage, New Market Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, Environmental Protection Fund and ESD funding. The project currently enjoys a “Priority Status” from the Regional Economic Development Council which positions the project favorably to access further state economic development sources.
This project is included in Kingston’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) drafted to promote the redevelopment of vacant and distressed properties in midtown, as well as the removal of blight and impediments to revitalization. The adaptive reuse of the MetLife Building was identified as a signature project for DRI funding by The mid-Hudson Regional Council. This initiative will remove neighborhood blight, preserve an historic structure, create jobs and move people from persistent poverty to skilled employment. The location for this project is Census Tract 9521.00 in Ulster County, a “distressed community” which is designated by HUD as a “Qualified Census Tract” (QCT.) A QCT is any census tract in which at least 50 percent of households have an income less than 60 percent of the Average Median Income. In Ulster County as of 2016, this represents a family of 4 less than $45,540.
Creative entrepreneurial commerce exemplifies the neighborhood with area businesses Bailey Pottery, American-Made Monster, R&F Handmade Paints, M&E Manufacturing, Cornell Street Studios, ColorPage, Brush and Shirt Factories leading the charge. RUPCO’s award-winning Lace Mill anchors the midtown movement at one end with 55 homes for artists and their families. At the Ulster Performing Arts Center crossroads of Broadway and Cedar/Cornell Street, new galleries and eateries provide a business base for residents of the proposed net-zero for living mixed-use, mixed-income E2: Energy Square with 57 apartments replacing the defunct bowling alley three blocks from The Metro. Midtown’s transformation blends a mix of housing types with business ventures, historic rehabilitation and new construction of underutilized and blighted properties to revitalize the neighborhood.