By Kevin O’Connor, CEO RUPCO
Kitty McCullough’s recent article on RUPCO’s newly proposed mixed use project — to build new housing while relocating the Center for Creative Education and providing space for other civic needs like a tech incubator and a café/bakery — references a vague disconcert on the part of some residents. We recognize this malaise all too well. In fact, we understand it and see it nearly every time we propose new housing. It’s that age-old part of human nature: fear of change.
Kitty laments the lack of citizen and stakeholder engagement in the recent development of the City’s Comprehensive Plan and towards creating a sustainable and equitable vision for Midtown’s revitalization. Of course, we agree that community input is vital to creating plans and visions, but we must point out that this year, there is a special urgency to this project:
This year, the Governor has announced a ONE-TIME, $1.5-BILLION, that’s right, a $1.5-Billion competition called the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, (URI). What does that mean for Kingston and the local region? It means that 7 regions of the State (including the Mid-Hudson Region) will compete for access to this $1.5-BILLION; ONLY 3 Regions will win $500-million each. While the URI applications are not due until this October, our MidHudson Region (MHR) has made it clear that MHR projects seeking these URI funds need to apply in this year’s Consolidation Funding Application (CFA), due July 31, just 34 days from today. Like it or not, we – RUPCO, the City of Kingston, the Mid-Hudson Region, New York State for that matter — are in competition to win funding and attract jobs – two things that are CRITICAL to any undertaking or desire for community revitalization. The clock is ticking.
While we welcome public input and citizen engagement, frankly we believe the project is — as Kitty first surmised — a “no-brainer!” Simply put, adding housing density (people) in the center of the City’s downtown district, providing mixed use for cool civic uses – not meant to compete with Broadway commercial but at the same time, adding people to support Broadway’s commercial businesses – in a Midtown-sensitive, highly efficient “Net Zero for Living” design is what every city comprehensive plan aspires to do. It is Urban Planning 101.
To understand the timetable for this project in context, it’s important to know that in May 2015 RUPCO negotiated an agreement to acquire the property with the owner. At that time, RUPCO submitted an application for site plan review plus a Special Use Permit under the City’s mixed-use overlay district, and also a zoning change (from 0-2 to C-2) to permit the residential use. The review of this application is presently underway. The Zoning Change is being addressed by Laws & Rules Committee of the Common Council, which has already referred the application to the Ulster County Planning Board for comment, and to Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and to the City Planning Board for review. The City Planning Board declared itself lead agency for a coordinated environmental review under SEQRA. Upon approval of the zoning change, the proposal will be returned to the Planning Board for approval of the site plan and Special Use Permit. These actions will involve public meetings, published notices and public hearings to provide for public participation and input.
Indeed, Ulster County’s Planning Board (UCPB) has already weighed in and found numerous areas of consistency and agreement with the City’s latest planning efforts. In the UCPB Recommendation Letter #2015-061:
“Accordingly, the UCPB looked for consistency in this document and found multiple areas of agreement as follows:
- Goal 8: Promote a new planned commercial node in Midtown centered around Education, the Arts, Entertainment and Ethnic Diversity;
- Objective 4.4: Increase population density in main street areas and neighborhood centers through zoning for mixed use.
- Strategy 1.1.1: Concentrate residential density around three mixed-use cores of the City.
- Strategy 1.1.2: Require affordable housing for any new or expanded residential building ordevelopment project.
- Strategy 1.1.5: Allow mixed-uses in the C-2 Districts.
- Strategy 1.1.6: Abandon Mixed-Use Overlay District in favor of City-wide standards for adaptivereuse and affordable housing.
- Strategy 4.4.2: Encourage mixed use developments on large undeveloped greyfield sites withinthe City in order to strengthen the fabric of neighborhood centers.
- Strategy 5.1.9: Encourage human-scale infill development to present a continuous façade alongcommercial corridors throughout the city, with purposeful placement of public squares or marketplaces to add texture and diversity to the streetscape.”
More recently, RUPCO has increased its focus on the City of Kingston following the loss of SCORE, a non- profit Neighborhood Preservation Company that previously served Kingston. Our concern is demonstrated by our multi-year effort to gain control of The Lace Mill – a once-derelict structure — and restore it to artists’ housing as a creative placemaking approach to community revitalization. In developing The Lace Mill, RUPCO hosted countless meetings and building tours with artists and art- related groups to ascertain a local-artist vision of what The Lace Mill could be and to best serve the community. As the project now comes to fruition with the first residents moving in, the overwhelming response from the community has been amazement as to the transformative aspects of the project.
Additionally, we’ve demonstrated our commitment to Kingston by partnering with the City to secure and administer $700,000 in federal HOME funds to help folks buy and repair homes exclusively in the City of Kingston. When this funding is utilized, nearly 30 first-time homebuyers will call Kingston their home base. In 2013, RUPCO collaborated with the City of Kingston Office of Community Development and Midtown’s Everett Hodge Center (Kingston Cares) on a Community Impact Measurement Survey (CIM) to study and evaluate housing and mixed-use (commercial/residential) properties within two low- moderate income census tracts (#9520 and 9521) in Midtown Kingston. We discovered that this neighborhood is in transition, home to 24.8% minority population (African American and Latinos of any race). Within this target area, a majority of housing units were built between the 1920s and 1940. Many of these older homes suffer from structural deficiency and poor maintenance. Accordingly, RUPCO set out to collaborate with residents, artists and other stakeholders in the emerging local creative economy to preserve an historic structure, to stabilize the neighborhood, to develop sustainable housing, and to identify opportunities to transform the neighborhood with both new and improved housing opportunities. This involved forging new strategic partnerships with community organizations like the Center for Creative Education. In devising our latest concept, RUPCO was also able to rely on its participation in the visioning sessions for The King’s Inn site. In 2010, Chuck Snyder and Guy Kempe of
RUPCO participated in the design charrette for The King’s Inn site (615 Broadway) which, prior to demolition in 2011, was one of the City ’s most notorious derelict properties. Teams of architects, community members, city officials and business leaders came up with 20 assorted concepts envisioning a re-birth of the property. Many of the concepts developed had elements in common with our vision for revitalizing Midtown: apartments, retail establishments, affordable work spaces for artists and retail space, possibly in newly constructed buildings. RUPCO has, in fact, developed this concept starting with CCE’s need for a new location and based on the concept on decades of experience in community building, recent and local design charrette input, and access to the most innovative community development responses from around the country.
Kitty also poses several questions:
Is this the best way to address affordable housing in Midtown? First, we are always thrilled when anyone mentions affordable housing and suggests that they want to join the conversation about how to affect it. Second, the need for affordable housing is tremendous and it exists in every community in the United States. Kitty points out the poverty rate in the City of Kingston but fails to mention that, too often, the existing Midtown housing stock (typically in privately owned, 1-to-4 unit buildings) traps people in unaffordable, inefficient housing plagued by environmental hazards including gas leaks, lead, mold, radon and vermin. Almost without exception, this housing stock is inaccessible for those physically disabled or frail elderly. Do these housing conditions need to be addressed? Yes. Do these housing units often offer buying opportunities for first-time homebuyers or other young professionals moving to the area? Yes. Do these housing units answer all of the City’s housing needs? Of course not! In 2009, RUPCO was one of several entities that participated in a landmark housing needs assessment for the three Counties of Ulster, Dutchess and Orange. The study, written by economist Jeffery Carr, demonstrated the need for affordable homeownership and rental housing for every municipality in the three Counties. The Tri-County Housing study forecasts the affordable gap for the years 2010, 2015 and 2020 and called for a “to be built” number to help alleviate the gap. The study recommends that over 900 units of new rental housing be built in the City of Kingston by 2015. At 61 new rental units, this proposal is a mere drop-in-the-bucket compared to the need, but will help the City of Kingston remain competitive in the Hudson River Valley for job creators who recognize the need for a broad range of affordable housing units.
Kitty also questions the $18.9-million (not $20-milllion as stated) spent on The Lace Mill to create 55 units of housing, suggesting that this money could simply be spent on rehabbing Midtown homes. This naïve view is understandable due to Kitty’s lack of knowledge regarding how State, Federal and private funding streams specifically target housing projects. We believe any serious concern for housing conditions in the City of Kingston should invest time in understanding how funding for these types of programs work. Illustratively, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, governed by IRS rules, requires the investors who purchase the credits to own the property for a minimum period of 10 years. Therefore, the funding only works for single-entity-owned housing and does not work for rehabilitating scattered site, individually owned properties.
For those who question spending millions on The Lace Mill or new housing in Midtown, we’d like the record to be clear. The idea that this is public money can be misleading. The main funding sources for The Lace Mill again include the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (created by Congress in 1986 under President Reagan), along with federal and NYS Historic Tax Credits. While the allocation of tax credits comes from federal and state governments, private investors purchase the credits with private money. Morgan Stanley invested $14 million to purchase the tax credits allocated to The Lace Mill and entered into a limited partnership with a RUPCO-controlled entity to own the property for the minimum 10 year period. Public allocation of tax credits? Yes. Private investment? Yes. City of Kingston property tax dollars? NO!
Of course, we understand that some people may not agree with current tax policy at both the federal and state level of granting tax credits for the purposes of building houses, eliminating blight, or preserving historic properties. But it is current policy and it has been in effect at the federal level since 1986. It is important for people to understand that the funds directed toward The Lace Mill were already appropriated for very limited and specific purposes. If we hadn’t brought them to Kingston, they would have been awarded to Rochester, or Binghamton, or Wyoming. The same is true for the funding we are seeking for the new Midtown project. The money has already been appropriated for very specific, limited uses and if we don’t apply or win, the funding will simply go to other parts of New York State. Fortunately or unfortunately, the time is now for the City of Kingston to step up and compete for the largest pot of money ever available in New York State. With your support, we have 34 days.
Kitty wonders if RUPCO will consider attracting other public funds to assist with Broadway corridor revitalization. Of course! RUPCO is adept and has a long track record of helping communities to articulate their vision and attracting funding to help create the vision.
Finally, Kitty raises an important issue about where, when and how we create affordable housing. On the one hand, we need to be mindful that for too long, zip codes have been social determinants for life outcomes. As a society, we are and have been segregated by poverty and race. Families have been unable to access opportunity when they are trapped in neighborhoods riddled with crime, poor schools, lack of jobs, etc. It is valid to point out that, too often, affordable housing is concentrated in cities while neighboring towns and suburbs avoid building their fair share of affordable housing. RUPCO takes a back seat to no one on this important issue and successfully fought for 10 years to locate affordable housing in the Town of Woodstock. In recent years, RUPCO has built or serves as manager for senior housing in Rosendale, Lloyd, Marlboro and Milton; built new affordable, homeownership in Ellenville; and proposed new intergenerational housing in Saugerties.
In Kingston, RUPCO’s work has been fairly nuanced including the restoration of buildings like The Stuyvesant and Kirkland to mixed-use; homeownership at The Pettit House; artist housing at The Lace Mill; and now proposing mixed-income housing in Midtown. RUPCO has been careful not to concentrate poverty but rather to affect revitalization and community uplift by eliminating blight, preserving historic buildings, and creating new housing that contributes to the diversity and economic vibrancy of the City.
READ RUPCO’s Midtown Housing Project by Kathryn McCullough
VIEW this post on RUPCO’s Site
VIEW updated RUPCO “White Paper”
10 thoughts on “Why an Affordable and Mixed-Income Housing Project Makes Sense.”
In that light of expanding our collective knowledge base on affordable housing, here is a link to the 2015 State of the Nation’s Housing report from The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/research/state_nations_housing .
Tara Collins, Director of Communications & Resource Development, RUPCO
Turning Our Backs on Midtown Neighborhoods
Thank you to RUPCO for responding to my comments about their proposed project for the bowling alley site in Kingston. I welcome the dialogue. At the same time, I wish the tone of the response were less dismissive of those of us asking for clarification about the project and seeking more informed public engagement in planning Midtown’s future. Disparaging our attempts to understand the project won’t move our community toward clarity and effective public engagement.
In its current iteration, the draft Comprehensive Plan lacks a cohesive vision and plan for Midtown, leaving the community unprepared to evaluate projects such as the one proposed for the bowling alley site. Ultimately, RUPCO would tap nearly $40 million in public funding and tax incentives available to support revitalization ($18.9 million for the Lace Mill plus $20 million for the bowling alley site) and that would take us a long way toward RUPCO’s vision for Midtown. Is it the community’s vision? We can’t say whether the vision RUPCO’s projects pursue aligns with a community vision, because we haven’t had the opportunity to articulate a shared community vision. Key voices in our community have expressed discomfort with that and others have yet to be engaged in the process, particularly those living in the immediate neighborhoods.
RUPCO’s response characterizes me as “resistant to change” and “naive” about how funding for affordable housing works. I don’t think anyone looks at Midtown without seeing that change is needed. The questions remain: What kind of change? Who decides? What projects can best bring about equitable and sustainable change?
So-called “goals, objectives and strategies” from Kingston’s draft Comprehensive Plan are cited to support RUPCO’s proposed project. This continues to beg the question in a number of ways:
• The vision and recommendations for Midtown in the Comp Plan draft lack an overall strategy that can lead to sustainable and equitable Midtown revitalization.
• Informed public engagement is the sine qua non of effective comprehensive planning, and — as has been widely decried — such engagement was missing from the preparation of the draft plan’s Midtown section.
• The bowling alley project may not be the best way to meet community goals and objectives captured in the Comp Plan or elsewhere and it is certainly not the only way to do so.
The community is asking for help “understanding how funding for these types of programs works.” Giving us a link to a 42-page government publication isn’t an effective way to help us onto the learning curve. There is a lot of discussion in national policy circles about how public funding for housing can help institutionalize, sidestep and/or ghetto-ize poverty. We don’t want that to happen here. Proactive communities have moved on from “silver bullet” expectations to look for more nuanced solutions carefully matched to local needs. Some have even found ways that integrate public funding programs for housing to help create those more nuanced solutions. We want that here.
RUPCO notes it has awarded $700,000 to 30 families to support affordable homeownership. That’s an average $23,334 per family, compared with $343,636 per rental unit at the Lace Mill. Are we missing some information that would help us see a balance to be achieved by creating another 60 new units on that higher end at the bowling alley site? A $9.2 million project in Savannah, Georgia rehabbed 70 existing homes as affordable rental housing ($131,428 per unit average). http://www.preservationnation.org/magazine/2007/november-december/housing-for-all.html#.VXDVrs9Viko
In a recent analysis using the “Adjusted Total Development Costs Concept,” the Center for Housing Policy found that acquiring and rehabilitating existing multifamily rental housing may be significantly more cost-effective than new construction.” In comparing a sample of 200 properties, they found that the costs of “new construction were approximately $40,000 to $71,000 (25 to 45 percent) higher per unit than those of acquisition-rehab properties” (CHP, 2014, http://www.nhc.org/media/files/CostComparison_NC_AR.pdf).
Instead of looking to new solutions, a five-story monolith is proposed that would literally turn its back on Midtown neighborhoods as if they weren’t even there. I worry that those who speak of Kingston as a barbell don’t know that there are neighborhoods there, both “behind” the proposed project and throughout Midtown. Is there a plan to integrate those neighborhoods into the new RUPCO project? We don’t know because the grant deadline doesn’t allow enough time to effectively include the public in such discussion.
RUPCO has been less than fully successful in filling the commercial spaces they have developed in Kingston using revitalization grants and incentives. The building proposed for the bowling alley site will create space for the Center for Creative Education (CCE) and the Hudson Valley Tech Meet Up. Will RUPCO fully subsidize ongoing occupancy for these organizations? CCE was to have space in the Carnegie Learning Center but was unable to meet that commitment, perhaps due to the recession. Would these two organizations have — or be able to develop — the capacity to remain tenants in the new building?
What will RUPCO need to do to ensure these organizations have the necessary capacity? What should we as a community be doing to ensure the capacity of our nonprofits to play their needed role in community and economic development? No time has been made for such questions critical to the success of RUPCOs projects and Kingston’s future.
Kingston has a history of believing in silver bullets. Projects have been proposed as magic solutions all the way back to 1960’s Urban Renewal. In Rondout, a decade-plus hole in the ground marks the spot where a developer was given carte blanche to build a hotel that was supposed to single-handedly create a tourism economy. A string of waterfront properties languish where a single owner dangled the promise of a “Maritime History Park” more nearly a decade ago. Nearby at Tech City in the Town of Ulster, hundreds of thousands of square feet of space that could be generating jobs also languish because their purchase was tied to overly generous property tax provisions. Now we are asked to turn the visioning and planning that Midtown needs over to one organization whose nearly $40 million in affordable housing projects would set the de facto vision for the heart of our city.
Isn’t it due diligence to ask whether the formula deployed for the Lace Mill is enough? Will putting another $20 million into essentially the same formula help ensure Midtown’s successful revitalization — or even the success of the two projects? RUPCO says “everyone deserves a home.” Home is more than the apartment or the building in which one lives. Home also includes — at the very least — the street and the neighborhood where one lives, and access to decent work, food, schools and affordable transportation. Will these major RUPCO projects be able to gain traction and have their projected impact if we aren’t developing parallel, proactive strategies for the streets, neighborhoods, and job opportunities that make up Midtown as a whole?
I, for one, agree that tax incentive programs designed to attract private investment to help us with revitalization are among the best tools we have for community and economic development. However, to claim that the nearly $40 million to develop these projects isn’t public money is to point to a distinction without a difference. We pay taxes to help address shared needs. Some of the taxes collected go to public programs that directly address identified needs (highways, education, streetscape revitalization…). Some of the taxes that could be collected instead stay with private investors for projects that address identified community needs.
It is only diligent for us to make sure that our community’s ability to qualify for both tax funded grants and tax-subsidized investments (which ability is based on the city’s low-income demographics) goes as far as possible towards an equitable, effective, and sustainable revitalization strategy. Of course it is true that, as RUPCO states, “No one project can be the answer for all things,” but many community members are asking whether nearly $40 million could go further toward helping us retrofit the cohesive vision and comprehensive strategies required for effective — and cost-effective — Midtown revitalization.
We are told that moving forward quickly now is critical because the funding source has a very tight deadline. Those of us who spent our careers in the nonprofit sector were already realizing in the 1990s that creating projects to chase grant guidelines was not the best way to meet community needs. “Best practice” grew to mean helping your community articulate its vision for the future, aligning your organization’s mission toward achieving that shared community vision, and then outlining goals, objectives and strategies to work toward the vision. Money that “has already been appropriated for very specific, limited uses” is only right for us if it carries us toward shared community goals.
Our questions are characterized as “a vague disconcert” and a “malaise” (“vague or unfocused feeling”). Dismissing public concern and disparaging individuals who speak up will not build a stronger community nor lead to a shared vision for Midtown that gets everyone pulling in the same direction. How can RUPCO — which has a scale of budget and professional staff that few organizations in our region have — help us ensure a shared vision for equitable and sustainable Midtown revitalization that builds within itself the capacity to succeed?
As our community development corporation, RUPCO could help us inform ourselves, articulate a more complete and cohesive vision, goals and strategies for equitable and sustainable Midtown revitalization, then ensure that public funding leveraged for Midtown projects moves us toward that shared vision. Once we have a well-articulated vision, goals and strategies for Midtown, perhaps the Common Council will help us “retrofit” them into the draft Comprehensive Plan that is only a stack of papers until they adopt it. Then we will have a shared vision by which future proposals may be judged.
Thank you again, to RUPCO for the dialogue and to Kingston Citizens for providing a forum.
Thanks for your posts, Kitty. Can you clarify better your concerns as to why you feel the midtown portion of the Comprehensive Plan “lacks a cohesive vision and plan for Midtown”? What has or has not occurred in your opinion during the Comprehensive Planning process in this way?
I have read with interest Kitty McCullough’s two posts and the reply from Kevin O’Connor and welcome such a robust dialogue. There is little point in repeating Kevin’s rationale for this project as he does a very good job of laying out the reasons behind it. Instead, I want to focus on the role of the Center for Creative Education and why we are such strong advocates for it.
Last February, I came into our studio in midtown to find parents and students sitting in the entryway. Our waiting area was full and both the dance studio and our percussion room were full to capacity. My first thought was “we are going to need a bigger boat.” It is a good problem to have and we are grateful that our programs have been growing so steadily over the past few years. We love our current space but recognize that we cannot continue to develop our programming without additional space.
So, we reached out to RUPCO and began a discussion about how to find a new home. We looked at a number of potential spaces along the Broadway corridor but could find no adequate solution. We explored the possibility of doing something at the former King’s Inn site but found that unworkable. Then Kevin suggested the former bowling alley which given its size and location will make for an easy transition and provide us with room to grow.
We plan to have three movement studios, an expanded instrumental space, a much larger computer arts technology room, a daycare center and an internet cafe.
We have been wanting to work with younger children and the new daycare center is much-needed in midtown. It will allow parents to bring their kids to a safe, nurturing and creative environment while they take a fitness class or learn new skills in the computer lab. The cafe will not only serve our clientele while they are waiting for their children to finish dance class but will add an important amenity for midtown residents. We will also be able to offer a wider array of performing arts and wellness classes while providing a better space for POOK and the Energy Dance Company.
The Center for Creative Education has worked in midtown Kingston for almost twenty years now. Most of our kids come from the neighborhood and we want to work with even more in the years to come. Over 85% of our students are low-income and receive tuition assistance. We provide the only after school performing arts activities in midtown and our kids need positive, creative things to do after school. This new facility will go a long way to filling that need.
Finally, a note about the Carnegie Library. CCE was the moving force behind the renovation of that historic structure and helped raise $850,000 for the project. Kitty offers an erroneous speculation about why we are no longer involved there. Soon after the renovation was completed, there was a change in leadership at the Kingston City School District: a new superintendent, a new school board president and a new principal at the high school. We had to begin lease negotiations anew and rethink the programming at the Carnegie. After discussions lasting many months, it was decided that the District wanted to go in a different direction and lease the building to BOCES. From a financial point of view, this made a lot of sense and though disappointed we even agreed with the decision at the time.
And now, we are thankful that we are not locked into a long-term lease in a building that is too small to meet our needs. This has left us free to pursue the development of our own dedicated space and we are excited about our partnership with RUPCO and the tremendous potential this has for a transformational project in our beloved midtown Kingston.
and the school board a new president which also called for a reevaluation of programming at the Carnegie.
Thanks for your post, Evry. It is great to hear from you on the RUPCO proposal – and in general, as the community appreciates having an organization like CCE in town for the children and parents alike.
That said, one question that occurs to me after reading several times, is that the concerns that have been posted by Kitty have to do primarily with the RUPCO project as it pertains to affordable housing in Midtown – and, other concerns have to do with process (which people differ on) and the project being ‘pushed through’ in order to achieve a grant deadline application by July 31st.
Here, you describe the need for a larger location for CCE, and how the project could serve your organization in this way. But could you, in addition, speak to some of the other concerns as it applies to both process and the questions regarding the proposal itself?
Dear Kingston Navigator:
This project has gone through the regular city process as far as I can tell. There has been a review by the UC Planning Board and the upcoming meeting tomorrow night will be the third one held by the City’s Planning Board. The need for affordable housing in Kingston is well documented and all of us know that the revitalization of midtown is crucial to the health of our city. We are moving as quickly as we are so that we can make application for a one-time funding opportunity but though the process appears fast to some, we at CCE and RUPCO have been working on and thinking about these issues for many years and our plan is based on our long experience in the community.
A wise person once said, “by their fruits you shall know them.” The fruit produced by RUPCO and CCE is there for all to see and we are proud of our accomplishments. The new Lace Mill artist housing complex is the best thing to happen in midtown in my twenty years here and the project under consideration will help solidify the progress being made. We envision a dynamic community hub just off Broadway that will create even more positive momentum to this long-ignored section of the city.
Replying to Evry Mann’s comments of 7/10:
Thank you very much for this explanation of CCE’s hope for a new home at the bowling alley site. I apologize for any error about your earlier plans at the Carnegie Learning Center. My summary may have been mistaken, but it shows you in better light than the common understanding of the Carnegie project. I like having the facts so that I can counter misunderstandings when they arise and I’m grateful to KingstonCitizens.org for providing a forum for this clarification.
Also, I want you to know that I believe the proposed CCE facility would be an excellent addition to Midtown and hope that our community will do everything it can to support CCE in developing the capacity to realize.
My central questions about CCE’s participation in the RUPCO project remain:
Will RUPCO subsidize ongoing occupancy for CCE and the Hudson Valley Tech Meetup? Do you have — or will you be able to develop — the capacity to remain tenants in the new building?
You note that CCE plans “to have three movement studios, an expanded instrumental space, a much larger computer arts technology room, a daycare center and an internet cafe.” Before we support the RUPCO project that proposes to house these spaces, the community has a responsibility to ask more about that plan and the capital plan to fund it. Answering such questions will also be an important component of the capital fundraising plan to make the new space a reality.
What will RUPCO need to do to ensure that you have the necessary capacity to be its tenants? What should we as a community be doing to ensure the capacity of our nonprofits to play their needed roles in community and economic development?
No time has been made for such questions critical to the success of RUPCOs projects, CCE’s relocation, and Kingston’s future. The public – stakeholders, residents, elected officials – have a responsibility to ask these and the other questions throughout my earlier comments and to persevere until credible and complete answers are on the table.
Thank you again for the continuing dialogue.
Responding to the KingstonvNavigator post of 7/12/15:
The short answer to what didn’t occur in the Comp Plan process for Midtown is here in Jordan Scrugg’s remarks at 22:46 and 31:00 on this video from the Comprehensive Plan Committee public meeting on March 19, 2015: http://www.kingstoncitizens.org/2015/03/20/city-of-kingston-comprehensive-plan-public-hearing-31915/
The medium answer is that Kingston lacks “public participation infrastructure”:
1. City officials do not know how to ensure and manage effective public participation and therefore they miss opportunities to help the public learn how to participate effectively. Over the past several decades, “best practice” for public participation has wonderfully improved, but unfortunately City offices are too short staffed in key areas to make time for learning new approaches. It also appears that they often actively block effective participation to keep things under control and moving toward the outcomes they’ve decided are best for us.
2. Community and arts and cultural heritage organizations are a woefully underdeveloped sector in Kingston and no one is assessing and addressing the gaps. Effective, equitable, sustainable change requires transparency, accountability, and informed public engagement and the latter, in turn, requires strong organizations and community groups.
3.. RUPCO is one of few Kingston organizations with adequate budget and professional staff. They have the capacity to help build our community and nonprofit sector. Their development fees for the two Midtown projects are said to be between $2 million and $3 million. They could afford to help us secure an independent consultant who would honor the public’s call for due diligence by answering our questions rather than obscuring both questions and answers behind a wall of words.
The long answer lies in a public process to parse the existing Midtown Section of the draft Comprehensive Plan “chapter and verse.” The constant refrain from City officials throughout the comp plan process has been “it’s in there” regarding any and everything anyone asks for. This “kitchen sink” approach allows many to go home feeling “heard” but it doesn’t add up to a plan and strategies that can ensure we are moving toward equitable and sustainable economic and community development.
The kitchen sink approach doesn’t address priorities (what we as a community value) and it doesn’t address strategic priorities (what threshold challenges must we address to succeed). Now a RUPCO plan that will determine for us both the vision and the priorities our community will pursue has caught us all by surprise.
For my part, I will “clarify… (my) concerns as to why … the Comprehensive Plan lacks a cohesive vision and plan for Midtown”? as quickly as my day job allows. It would certainly be helpful if a “team” would galvanize around this question. It is never too late to do the right thing and our elected officials and candidates have an opportunity to lead the public through the steps to understand and participate in a shared vision and plan for Midtown.
Thank you again for the dialogue and to Kingston Citizens for the forum.
As always, Kitty raises some very good questions and I will do my best to answer them from our point of view. CCE is certainly aware that we face a large fundraising task to cover our share of the proposed project and we have had many discussions about this including some with our current funding sources. We also have a list of other sources of funding for capital campaigns and many of those look promising. It will require a strong and focused effort and we will, indeed, need the active support of our community.
A mentor once told me that it takes just as much energy to dream small as to dream big. We are dreaming big here but that is the only dream we are interested in. We have a a proven history of successful fund raising and believe this project is worth the effort to realize it. We are certainly open to input on how to shape the project to better meet community needs and we welcome that dialog going forward.
Thanks again to everyone for this discussion. I hope everyone will come out tonight to hear more.
One additional question:
How should we understand RUPCO’S repeated citation of Ulster County’s projected affordable housing need of 900 units by 2015?
How does RUPCO’s proposal for the bowling alley site correspond to the projected 900 unit demand or Kingston’s actual need? I believe RUPCO is citing “A Three-County Regional Housing Needs Assessment: Dutchess, Orange and Ulster Counties From 2006 to 2020” which may be found at http://www.co.dutchess.ny.us/countygov/departments/planning/tcrhassessment.pdf
On page 42, the study states: ” On the renter side of the tenure ledger, affordability pressures are experienced by households at the lowest income level, 50% of median household income and below. At the higher income levels, there appears to be sufficient affordable rental housing units in the counties.”
A chart on page 44 shows that virtually all (99.98%) of Ulster County’s need for affordable housing is at the 50% level or below. RUPCO’s “white paper” shows that all of the units proposed for the bowling alley site will be at 60% of median income and above (some as high as 90%). The white paper may be found at: http://www.rupco.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/Bowling-Alley-white-paper-20150630-FINAL.pdf
In addition, 67% of the Lace Mill units are one bedroom and 80% of those proposed for the bowling alley site are one bedroom or studios, for a total of 73.5% of the two projects not really suited to families.
It makes sense that building a tech hub with affordable units for emerging techies whose current income qualifies them for affordable housing would be a good way to move Midtown toward a more robust “mixed income” profile. If that’s what RUPCO is after here, they should say so. Their proposal should be able to stand on its own merits rather than bending housing study data that say something else entirely.
Finally, on page 39, the housing study notes, ” The building of additional affordable units is not a ‘magic bullet’ solution and this supply side strategy is likely to be effective only when part of broader efforts to remedy the situation, including both demand and supply side initiatives. Solutions to housing affordability challenges usually include other strategic economic development efforts that seek to create and retain jobs in the local economy, as well as increase the incomes earned by residents in the community….It should be emphasized that constructing additional affordable units would only address a portion of the overall affordability gap.
We are asking for that full range of “strategic economic development efforts” that can ensure Midtown and Kingston the success they deserve. We look forward to the economic development symposium that the Comp Plan Committee voted to include in the plan toward achieving an equitable and sustainable economic development plan for Kingston.
Thanks again to all.