Many people saw the boarded-up factory in midtown Kingston, N.Y., as a blight on the community, but Kevin O’Connor, CEO of RUPCO, saw its potential to be converted to housing.
For eight years, the Hudson Valley nonprofit tried to purchase the building that had been constructed in the early 1900s as the U.S. Lace Curtain Mill and last used as a factory in the early 1980s, but the owner wouldn’t return the calls.
Finally after losing some warehouse tenants, the owner decided to call back and sell the building to RUPCO. The large windows, open space within the building, and high ceilings set up well for adaptation to housing.
But the developer wanted to go beyond just providing housing, it wanted to take a creative placemaking approach to help revitalize the midtown neighborhood, which is made up of single-family homes and manufacturing facilities. With a thriving arts scene in Kingston, it decided to transform the building into 55 live/work units with a preference toward artists earning 50% and 60% of the area median income.
“This was a good project to take this building that just sat there blighted and turn it around. It really fits into the fabric of what was already going on,” says O’Connor. “It was about lifting a community and creating a much more interesting place where people can live and work.”
The Lace Mill celebrated its grand opening in August with an arts-filled block party and was expected to be fully leased by the end of October. Residents of the studio, one-, and two-bedroom units include writers, dancers, graphic designers, musicians, painters, photographers, and even a puppeteer.
The development also features 8,000 square feet of public gallery, studio, and meeting space. A first for RUPCO is the partnership with BEAHIVE, a Hudson Valley company that provides a shared work environment for entrepreneurs, microbusinesses, consultants, and artists. The co-work space is free to all residents and is available to the outside community for a monthly fee.
“We think it’s a good fit to help artists better connect to the community and help them connect on the business side,” says O’Connor. “We hope it’s a great pollinator of ideas and connections.
The development team also focused on making the historic building more energy-efficient, which was a challenge, O’Connor says. The team brought in Boston-based Building Science to look at the useful life of the brick and how to introduce insulation, which the building never had. Local architect Scott Dutton, who converted a former mill in Kingston into his family’s residence, also introduced new windows that are energy efficient and historically accurate. Affordable Housing Concepts served as the construction manager, and Heritage Consulting was the historical consultant on the project.
The $18.9 million adaptive-reuse utilized 4% low-income housing tax credit equity as well as federal and state historic tax credit equity, provided through syndicator National Equity Fund and investor Morgan Stanley. JPMorgan Chase was the underwriter of the bond financing. It also received additional financing from the city of Kingston, NeighborWorks America, the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, and the TD Bank Charitable Foundation.