A nonprofit developer is converting a hulking eyesore in Midtown into a hipster haven.And I have to admit that this project sounds great. So, what's the downside according to Novinson?:
The Rural Ulster Preservation Co. plans to create 55 residential artist lofts in a 56,470-square-foot brick manufacturing building that has sat dormant for decades.
"Artists are a leading indicator of economic revival," said Guy Kempe, RUPCO's director of community development.
The $16-million project will be financed through low-income housing and historic preservation tax credits.
Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2013, and the Lace Factory lofts are slated for a spring 2014 opening.
At least 85 percent of the units will be rent-subsidized. That worries Mike Piazza, who owns 135,000 square feet of mostly market-rate artists housing in Kingston. He's not happy about the influx of cheap housing for artists, which he says will depress the market and erode profit margins.Yes, adding subisdized housing to a community could have an impact on local market rates, no doubt. But are there any other concerns with this project? How about I outline a couple obvious ones?
"It's like David and Goliath," Piazza said. "I can't compete with a company with full-time employees who write grants and (tax) credits."
First, how many empty units is RUPCO currently sitting on? The reason I ask this is that I don't know. I do know that I keep reading stories about how the agency seems to be having problems filling/selling existing units in Kingston, Woodstock and Ellenville. So why are they taking on another project? Under these circumstances, I think a newspaper conducting a brief survey of RUPCO's housing stock would be a worthwhile endeavor.
Secondly, the argument presented in the article is tautological. This is a fancy way of saying the logic is circular. Artists are typically attracted to rundown urban areas because you can get a lot of space cheaply. But for artists used to East Village rents, this entire area is cheap. This is why we've seen explosions of arts communities in towns all over the Ulster County. The lace curtain project might be able to attract a few of these folks, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they'll be able to bring in the kind of tenants they say they want. It's a bit like saying, "If I build a bank I'll be rich, because banks are where they keep all the money." You need depositors, no?
Thirdly, and not least, what if non-artists submit applications? What about single moms with no artistic background? Are you going to turn them away? No, because you can't. Federal housing law doesn't allow for this kind of discrimination -- unless the city planning board added this as a provision. In other words, If I understand the law correctly, it would be legal for the planning board to designate the project as "artist housing," but I've read absolutely nothing that suggests they did so when approval was granted. This should be looked into.
This project is going to cost a lot of money. While its goals are noble, and the idea of restoring the old factory is a grand one, there needs to be more careful, critical analysis from the press on this stuff. Get cracking, Michael.