New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas today announced the groundbreaking of Energy Square in Kingston, a $22-million development that replaces a dilapidated, vacant bowling alley with 57 homes affordable to residents at a variety of income levels, over 11,000 square feet of civic and commercial space, and an elevated urban park. Developed by RUPCO, Energy Square will house the Center for Creative Education, a community-based nonprofit that provides art education and job training for young adults. Energy Square’s design advances the Governor’s clean energy goals by meeting a “net-zero for living” standard which combines solar panels and energy efficient features to make it HCR’s first affordable housing development in the Hudson Valley that produces as much energy as it uses.
Energy Square complements investments being made in Kingston through the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative. In July, the State announced six DRI projects that provide open public space, and community amenities, improve walkability and access to transportation, and support small businesses.
Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Energy Square is a unique, sustainable and exciting development that breathes new life into an outdated property and makes it possible for people of all ages and income levels to call one of Kingston’s most vibrant city neighborhoods home. By connecting residents to education and job training, while at the same time removing blight and creating state-of-the art affordable apartments for approximately 100 New Yorkers, we are realizing Governor Cuomo’s vision of making Kingston and the entire state a better place to live.”
Energy Square’s 57 affordable rental apartments will be located on the upper floors of the 5-story building. There will be 2 studios, 44 one-bedroom, 7 two-bedroom, and 4 three-bedroom apartments. Two apartments will be reserved for homeless adults and another 7 apartments will be set aside for homeless young adults with services funded through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, which provides operational funding to providers for the development and operation of supportive housing for New Yorkers identified as homeless with special needs or other life challenges. RUPCO will provide supportive services for these apartments.
Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at RUPCO, said, “Energy Square is the centerpiece of our placemaking efforts to help transform mid-town and the City of Kingston. Energy Square is leading the way with a sustainably designed, mixed use & income building that gathers people to live, work and play in the heart of Kingston, a city that is poised to thrive again in the 21st century.”
The building will include over 11,000 square feet on the ground floor for civic and commercial use. The Center for Creative Education will provide comprehensive community-based art and job training for young adults ages 18 to 25. The building will also include a tech meet-up space/incubator. Rents plus utilities will range from $441-$1,428; homes will be affordable to residents with earnings below Ulster County’s area median income.
Energy Square will incorporate solar panels that will produce enough energy to meet electricity usage for the entire building, providing an additional cost savings to low-income and nonprofit tenants. Additional green features include Energy Star appliances and an exterior green space on a raised platform above the parking area. By incorporating energy efficient features, the project helps move the State toward its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in 2030, including a target the State set in April that achieves one-third of that reduction by 2025 – the equivalent of energy used to power 1.8 million homes.
Energy Square will be constructed on the 1.3-acre site of the former Mid City Lanes bowling alley at 20 Cedar Street. Energy’s Square’s location in the heart of Kingston’s Midtown is within walking distance from jobs, healthcare, library, retail, restaurants, and SUNY Ulster.
RUPCO is partnering with Affordable Housing Concepts, Ulster County Workforce Development Board and Ulster YouthBuild to recruit, train and hire a minimum of 12 modest-income young adults ages 17 to 30 from the surrounding neighborhoods to participate in the construction of Energy Square.
New York State’s investment in Energy Square comes through New York State Homes and Community Renewal programs, including $11.7 million in federal and state low income housing tax credit equity and $4.8 million in subsidy programs. The New York State Energy Research Development Agency provided over $1-Million in grants and incentives. Additional public and private partners include the City of Kingston, Chase, National Equity Fund, and the Community Preservation Corporation.
City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble said, “Energy Square is a vital part of our Midtown revitalization plans, so we were pleased to support this effort by securing funds through NYS Restore to off-set the costs of demolishing the former bowling alley on this site,” said City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble. “Witnessing the transformation from a vacant building to a vibrant center for quality housing and community is a truly exciting moment for our community. I want to thank NYS Homes and Community Renewal, RUPCO, and all of the partners who came together to make this project possible. I look forward to welcoming the first tenants to their new homes once the project is complete.”
Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “The development of this extremely high energy efficient housing project underscores Governor Cuomo’s commitment and investment in reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state’s housing stock. I congratulate all of the Energy Square partners for making affordable housing a priority and ensuring the community and its residents have access to high-quality, comfortable places to live and work.”
Dave Walsh, Northeast Regional Manager for Community Development Banking, Chase, said, “We’re proud to support the development of Energy Square, which will continue to help transform Kingston into a sustainable community with safe, innovative and affordable green housing. We’re dedicated to helping foster community development and our firm has a long-term commitment to advancing environmentally sustainable solutions.”
As part of Black History Month Kingston, RUPCO hosted historic interpreter Deborah Zulle of Saugerties and her performance of Sojourner Truth’s famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech at the Old Dutch Church, Wall Street, Kingston, NY. Sojourner is one of Kingston’s most famous women, and most famous person of color, and vocal advocate for the rights of women, blacks, and slaves. WEith the support of a NeighborWorks Pride in Place grant, RUPCO brought this history moment to life to share. Below are three videos from the February 24, 2018 event:
- A recap of the February 24 event with audience perspective and commentary (above)
- Sojourner Truth’s powerful speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” performed by historic actor Deborah Zulle (below)
- An impromptu interview of Sojourner by historic actor David Kent, aka local fictional reporter Jimmy Nolsen (bottom)
According to WIkipedia, Sojourner Truth was born Isabella (Belle) Baumfree; c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, in 1828 she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Read more about Sojourner and her impact on the civil rights movement here.