More than $1 billion in development projects are underway in the City of Poughkeepsie.
And, Mayor Rob Rolison said, many of the projects will improve the quality of life for city residents.
A $10 million project is expected to transform a set of vacant buildings into a fresh food market.
Mixed-use residential projects are aimed to attract people back to the city and boost the economy.
Community members have been invited to suggest how a former YMCA building can return to public use.
“We have to remember growth for the sake of growth is never a good thing,” Rolison said. “Smart growth and good growth, as it works in conjunction with what we want the city to be, is the way to do it.”
As the city looks forward to the next year, Rolison said promoting such development is crucial to continuing to boost an economic picture which he said has stabilized.
Though the city continues to face challenges, including a budget deficit of roughly $11 million and hundreds of vacant buildings, Rolison is confident in the city’s direction.
Hours before delivering his State of the City address Thursday, Rolison said the city has been able to increase its development and attract new jobs to the region while “at the same time recognizing the basic responsibilities of city government when it comes to the people that live here.”
However, members of the city’s Common Council are torn on the progress the city has made. While 5th Ward representative Yvonne Flowers said she is “optimistic” about where the city is headed,” Council-Member-At-Large Ann Finney cautioned the city still faces steep challenges.
“Lets not lose sight of how complicated they are,” she said. “Yes, the city is more stable than it was but we still have problems that require more than raising taxes.”
Rolison credited Poughkeepsie’s development to the efforts of its planning board and partnerships with other organizations, including the county. He noted, when he took office in 2016, the city did not have a planning department. Now, he said, the downtown corridor is a hub of growth.
“Like so many communities across this country, downtowns became more desolate as suburban life took on a whole new energy,” Rolison said. “Now it’s the other way around. They are coming back to the city. So how do we accommodate that?”
In February, the Common Council approved updates to the city’s zoning code for downtown to create what is known as the Innovation District. The zoning includes the “historic core” of Main Street; the “creative edge” of Church Street in the south and Mill Street a few blocks farther north; the “urban village” encompassing Cannon, Academy and Hamilton streets; and the “civic corridor” stretching up and down Market Street.
A number of projects have already been completed or are ongoing:
► The Hive: A $10M development at 33 and 35 Academy Street, which will create a fresh food market, a food hall, a craft brewery, apartments and more. It is in the beginning stages and is scheduled to open sometime in 2020.
► 40 Cannon Street: The multi-purpose development features apartments, King’s Court craft brewery and 1915 Wine Cellar, a coffee shop and an art gallery.
► Queen City Lofts: The apartment complex at 176 to 182 Main St. includes 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments reserved for income-eligible artists, and another 19 units open to anyone who earns the median Dutchess County income or less.
► Crannell Square project: A proposed project at the corner of Mill and Catharine streets would create a mixed-income residential development.
► One Dutchess apartments: A development on the former Dutton lumber yard on the city’s Hudson River shore calls for the 300 new apartments, commercial space, apartments and a public trail.
► Former YMCA building: The city obtained the former YMCA building on Montgomery Street that has been vacant since 2009. They are seeking ideas for future development.
► Trolley Barn: The historic building on Main Street turned art installation received $1 million for rehabilitation.
Rolison in his speech was poised to also caution against measuring “success solely by the number of cranes in the air,” noting the city “will engage in solution-minded conversations about the risks that accompany development booms.”
Rolison noted the arterials “severed neighborhoods,” and development “of the Main Mall that turned a part of Main Street into a desolate area.”
Finney said a stronger dialogue between the city administration and Common Council about projects concerning the city is needed.
“This administration has inherited a number of flawed real-estate proposals, particularly along the riverfront and park projects, that require a lot of thought as to what’s best now for the city while protecting everyone’s rights and preserving the upside for the whole community,” she said. “Those projects have been dragging.”