Understanding the Latest Changes to the Irish Cultural Center

WHAT
Come to the public hearing at City Hall, Council Chambers, on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 pm, and weigh in on the latest changes to the proposed  Irish Cultural Center (ICC) project.

WHERE
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY
Council Chambers (top floor)

WHEN
Monday, July 10th
6:00 pm
Sign-up to speak at 5:45pm

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit the comments in the body of this EMAIL and any other additional concerns you might have. The email will go directly to the Kingston Planning Board and City of Kingston.  We will receive a copy, too, and will compile a packet to submit to the Board at the public hearing on July 10th.

Deadline for email submissions is July 7th.

WHY
Public input on this project proposal so far has helped to make for a stronger Irish Cultural Center proposal. The public needs to keep weighing in until the project fully fits the Kingston waterfront community, or the ICC determines another location that is suited to their goals.

 

 

By Hillary Harvey 

The Irish Cultural Center proposed for Abeel Street on the Rondout in Kingston has just come back to the Planning Board with the latest in a series of updates to their project site plan.

ICC Site Plans, March 8, 2017     VIEW
Floor Plans, March 2, 2017      VIEW

Included are responses to the State Historic Preservation Office, the City of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Ulster County Planning Board, all of which were presented at the June 12th City of Kingston Planning Board meeting.

VIDEO: Planning Board Meeting 6/12/2017   VIEW

 

What the ICC Looks Like Now.

The Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley is proposed to be a 16,213 square foot newly constructed building on a 0.43-acre parcel at 32 Abeel Street with rights, granted by the City of Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals, to follow the zoning for West Strand Street.  New designs indicate a red, brick building of three stories measuring 49.5′ from the Company Hill Path side (South Elevation), with one story underground on the Abeel Street side (North Elevation).  There would also be an elevator accessible roof garden, with outdoor seating and a 12’ tall room that rises above the height of the building.  On the Company Hill Path side, there would be three full balconies with exterior gathering space that each run the width of the building.  The building would be a “community center” with a 171-seat theater, exhibition space, commercial kitchen, 70-seat pub/restaurant, flex space, offices for the ICC and the Ancient Order of Hibernians (the ICC’s parent organization), radio station, map room, etc.  The project would have 8 on-site parking spots and seek a parking waiver from the Planning Board for 47 parking spaces.

There will be a public hearing on these changes at the City of Kingston’s Planning Board meeting on July 10th, during their regular meeting, and comments can be made via email to the Planning Board before July 7th.  We encourage everyone to weigh in.

What still needs to be addressed.

1.  Size and Scale
The Irish Cultural Center cites the D&H Canal Offices as their inspiration, which stood at the top of Company Hill Path before being demolished long ago. Their latest updates show the building to rise 49.5′ from the South Elevation grade, which exceeds the maximum allowable height for a new construction building for the R-T zone by 12.5’ and ½ story.  VIEW

In their December 9th, 2016, comment, the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission wrote, “A visibility study using multiple vantage points along public thoroughfares would illustrate how the building’s scale and massing will impact sightlines.  The West Strand from the waterfront is arguably our most cherished panorama in Kingston.  Any new development affecting this vista must be carefully scrutinized.”  

CONCERN:  These visibility studies were not included in the latest materials submitted, but are needed in order to fully understand how the ICC would appear in relationship to its surrounds. We anticipate the ICC will return to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission on July 13th in City Hall’s Conference Room 1 at 6:30p.

 

2. Parking and Traffic
While the new inclusion of landscaping for a parking lot on the Abeel Street side of the ICC’s proposed building mimics the driveways on this residential block, this means that the parking capacity for the center has been further reduced.  The new changes increase the parking waiver being requested of the Planning Board to 47 spaces. A comparative study of the YMCA and UPAC, both in Midtown, and BSP (Backstage Productions bar/concert space) in Uptown is provided, none of which relate geographically or functionally to the Rondout Historic District or the proposed ICC. The City of Kingston Planning Board is requiring parking based upon square footage for a community center. The Ulster County Planning Board disagreed with that decision, saying that there is no definition of community center in the zoning, so parking requirements should be based upon uses, which would mean a greater number of spots are needed.

In their response to the UCPB, the ICC argues that they have provided adequate traffic and parking analyses, and state: “It is unreasonable to expect literal compliance with parking requirements for this particular ‘desired’ project…”  VIEW

The Rondout Historic District is a neighborhood hard hit by urban renewal in the 1960s and ‘70s, making it vulnerable and in need of protection. Thus, parking regulations are more particular for new construction in the historic district.  The zoning laws are specifically in place to protect the welfare of residents and should apply equally to everyone in the city. A parking waiver is not a parking solution.

CONCERN:  A professional analysis of shared parking in the Rondout, including known future development and cumulative effect, is needed.

 

3. Blasting
In their May 24th, 2017, response to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, the ICC wrote, “Geotechnical analysis for the site suggests that excavated rock can be removed using a rock hammer. If by chance blasting would be required, all applicable permits and precautions would be conducted in accordance with the City of Kingston regulations.” VIEW

In their original comments, the Ulster County Planning Board made the following Required Modification: “The planning board should require the applicant to determine if blasting will be required and what alternatives may be available.”

CONCERN:  Nearby historic structures date to the 1800s.  The ICC should be required to conduct further study to determine definitively whether blasting will be part of their construction, prior to any potential site plan approval.

 

4.  Noise
While noise concerning industrial trash pickup has been mitigated by proposing curbside trash pick-up, with the changes comes the addition of four HVAC units on the roof.  The sound implications of this need to be studied.  Additionally, sound from the three terraces, particularly during high-occupancy events, will be heard over Gallo Park and the Rondout Creek.  Rondout dwellers and visitors know from experience how this direction of noise echoes and reverberates throughout the neighborhood.

CONCERN:  The implications of the rooftop HVAC units and the four proposed outdoor areas for noise disturbance on businesses on West Strand Street and Broadway, as well as on the neighboring family residences, need to be studied.

 

5.  Company Hill Path

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office are both in support of the ICC’s proposal to remove and replace a bluestone retaining wall that has been damaged by erosion and runoff after the ICC removed all the trees on the property in 2013.

In response to the Ulster County Planning Board’s comment that Company Hill Path would not make a suitable primary entrance for large-scale traffic, the ICC is now proposing to use permeable pavers, accent lighting, and a railing on the portion of the Path leading up to their entrance.  VIEW 

If the City of Kingston were to allow the ICC to make these alterations to this National Historic Register Site, it would leave the majority of the Path undeveloped in this way, and create a non-cohesive look.  The City needs to have a full understanding of the lasting impacts this decision could have for the other properties adjacent to Company Hill Path.  Will those property owners be required to pay for the city to do the same to their part of the Path?  Will property owners adjacent to the Path now be required to maintain the Path?

CONCERN:  The decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals to allow the ICC to use Company Hill Path as a sidewalk changed the essential nature of the historic Path, and any further allowances to alter the Path need to fully assess lasting implications.

 

CALL TO ACTION – WHAT THE PUBLIC CAN DO.


Come to the public hearing at Kingston City Hall, located at 420 Broadway (Council Chambers), on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 pm, and weigh in on the latest changes to the proposed Irish Cultural Center project.

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit the comments in the body of this EMAIL and any other additional concerns you might have, to be delivered to the Kingston Planning Board and City of Kingston.  We will receive a copy, too, and will compile a packet to submit to the Board at the public hearing on July 10th.  Deadline for email submissions is July 7th.

Public input on this project proposal so far has helped to make for a stronger Irish Cultural Center proposal. The public needs to keep weighing in until the project fully fits the Kingston waterfront community, or the ICC determines another location that is suited to their goals.

For the complete set of updated documents, VISIT and scroll down to ‘Irish Cultural Center – Abeel Street.’  To research further into the history of the ICC application, VISIT and scroll through the posts.  Read more about Hillary Harvey’s experience with the Irish Cultural Center application VISIT

Hillary Harvey is a photographer and writer, and a zoning code activist, working for transparency and responsible development that considers the welfare of residents and small businesses. Together with her neighbors, she runs Grow the R-T Responsibly,  a neighborhood collective dedicated to that cause.  A yogi and devoted traveler, she lives in an old house in Kingston’s historic Rondout district with her college sweetheart and their three muses.

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