The Daily Freeman recently published an article about The Kirkland. We feel it helpful for you to have all the facts and access to our original responses which we forwarded to reporter Paul Kirby last Tuesday. We feel the real story about The Kirkland is our delivery of jobs, taxes, community space, and synergistic influences percolating inside one of Kingston’s historic gems. The larger story, of course, is how this small project jumpstarted a transformation that began Uptown and is now seeing it’s way to Midtown.
“It’s been 8 years since we completed the building” notes Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer. “The rental units and the office space have been rented since Day One but as we all know, the market downturned in 2008. That’s the main reason a restaurant didn’t take hold at The Kirkland. In addition, the capital expense to outfit a commercial-grade kitchen and restaurant fit-up required a new tenant investment of $100k-$200k beyond our investment and that proved problematic. We started marketing the property in 2005 and showed it to several restaurateurs we even used commercial brokers but had no takers. At the time, the location was a little off the beaten path, parking limited, and many opportunities with established commercial kitchens already existed.
“When we started this project, we promised and delivered mixed use space. We cobbled together 17 different funding sources to complete the project including a $1.5M mortgage from Key Bank that RUPCO is paying. In 2010, when we converted our community space at the Stuyvesant, we invested more money to outfit The Kirkland’s Senate Room as new community space. Since 2008, RUPCO has grown from 28 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) to 65 FTE jobs, including 13 FTEs employees who now work at The Kirkland. Indeed, we’ve created more good paying jobs with benefits than what a restaurant would have delivered.” The Kirkland headquarters RUPCO’s Green Jobs | Green New York Program (GJGNY), a homeowner program designed to improve home energy efficiency through energy audits, weatherization and solar installations. GJGNY leads New York State in homeowner education, energy audits and retrofits, channeling over $5.3-million into the Hudson Valley economy; the program also saves homeowners money on their utility bills.
Originally built in 1899, the Kirkland Hotel fell into disrepair and remained derelict for over 30 years, a blight at uptown Kingston’s entryway. “We helped preserve history and put the 19th-century landmark doomed for demolition back on the tax rolls,” says O’Connor. “ Last year RUPCO paid over $55,000 in school, city and county taxes. Since we took ownership in 2005 and restored this building to its original grandeur – rebuilding the original domed cupola, installing an original wrap-around porch, improving the neighborhood – we’ve paid over $573,000 in taxes.” Winner of Best Historic Preservation Award from Friends of Historic Kingston, The Kirkland remains the gateway icon to Kingston’s Historic Stockade District.
“We hold homebuyer education classes in the Senate Room, which enabled 81 people achieve their dream of homeownership last year,” continues O’Connor. “Another 300 Housing Choice Voucher Program recipients learned about how the program works and what it takes to be good tenant. We also invested $58,000 this past fall, hiring local contractors to rehab and paint the exterior to keep it looking top notch this fall. This building has provided value to Kingston for over 100 years; we continue to do the same into the next 100.” The Kirkland is also home to eight mixed-income rental apartments providing much needed rental housing uptown.
Circle of Friends for the Dying, Ulster County Continuum of Care, twelve-step groups, Friends of Historic Kingston and O+ Festival hold monthly meetings, annual gatherings and diversity workshops here. “Once the central site the Kingston Clinic, Healthcare is a Human Right used the first floor for many years until they switched locations to The Lace Mill to meet the community demand there,” says O’Connor. “Women’s Studio Workshop and Kingston High School art students, NYC-based Center for the Study of White American Culture, Hudson Valley Tech Meet Up and local citizens have also used the space for their events. The Kirkland has consistently met the needs of our neighbors and we’re proud to adapt in ways that benefit our community as times change.”
RUPCO most recently invested in a high-tech audio/visual configuration to answer the community’s call for meeting presentation capabilities. “We continue to reinvest in the building,” says O’Connor. “We are good stewards, pay big taxes and create a large number of jobs! The Kirkland is just one spark to the economic fuel that is driving community wealth building in the Hudson Valley.”