Home Construction Exclusive: An inside look at the Hudson Heritage project

Exclusive: An inside look at the Hudson Heritage project

Hudson Heritage
Martin Berger on the Great Lawn in front of the High Victorian Gothic building known as the Kirkbride. Photo by Bob Rozycki

A cold wind was whipping up the hill from the Hudson River as Martin Berger emerged from his SUV. No suit for the development manager of EFG/Saber Heritage SC of Armonk, just work boots, jeans, open-collar shirt and a very warm jacket.

Berger took time out from his busy schedule to afford the Business Journal a personal tour of the massive $300 million-plus development that Saber Real Estate North LLC and EnviroFinance Group LLC are in the midst of creating on the grounds of the former Hudson River State Hospital in the town of Poughkeepsie.

Berger and company are turning the neglected 156-acre property – long a scavenger’s delight and a veritable eyesore visible for miles – into an intergenerational live-work-play community called Hudson Heritage that will eventually include:

  • 750 residential units;
  • 350,000 square feet of commercial and retail space;
  • assisted living housing;
  • a 150-room hotel and conference center;
  • 40,000 square feet of urgent and primary care medical facility/office space; • a 24,700-square-foot education/performing arts center;
  • walking trails; and
  • more than 60 acres of open parkland and access to a planned 2.7-mile rail trail for walking and biking.

Berger said what initially drew him to the site was demographics – the growth of adjacent Marist College, the Culinary Institute of America and Nuvance Health, which includes Vassar Brothers Medical Center, just to the south.

“So you have 40,000 high paying, quality, prevailing wage, union wage jobs within a mile and a half. And you have such a need for multifamily housing, hotel, retail, restaurants and a supermarket,” he said.

“So what attracted us was first and foremost the demand generators in the immediate corridor combined with the lack of services. We love to do these live-work-play centers. We’ve found if you can offer somebody the opportunity to live, work and play on one site you get higher rents, higher values. You create synergies, so there’s a purpose. We’re seeing multifamily (developers) want to be here because we have the amenities, the retail space, hotel.”

Saber has been involved in a number of developments in the New York region, including The Duet, a luxury rental complex under construction at Hale and Maple Avenues in White Plains; Rivertowns Square, an open-air village with dining and shopping in Dobbs Ferry; and The River Club, luxury apartments and retail in Bogota, New Jersey.

Hudson Heritage Martin Berger
Martin Berger takes a look at the new ShopRite. Photo by Bob Rozycki

A similar but smaller live-work-play campus, 60-acre Eastdale Village on Route 44 in the town of Poughkeepsie recently began its next construction phase for four retail tenants. Eastdale Village, which is planned to have 400 residential units, is being built by Kirchhoff Cos.

Berger said Marist College gets about 68,000 visitors a year with 24,000 inquiring as to where they can stay nearby. So a hotel was a natural for the property, he said, and it could be branded by Marist with its Red Fox logo. In addition, they wanted a “Main Street retail” component.

So, in the overall plans, Berger said there will be 350,000 square feet of commercial, including a nearly finished 65,000-square-foot ShopRite that intends to open early next year with plans to hire 200 workers.

Several other businesses signing leases are:

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill, 2,300 square feet. The chain has roots in the Hudson Valley as founder Steve Ellis is an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America.
  • CVS Pharmacy, 14,866 square feet.
  • Starbucks, 2,100 square feet.
  • Burger King, 2,570 square feet.
  • Smoothie King, 1,345 square feet.

Several other tenants have also signed letters of intent to open at Hudson Heritage. Charter Realty & Development of Westport, Connecticut, is handling commercial leasing.

Berger proudly spoke of the project as he drove through the property from Route 9 to the back by the east gate where on the other side sits Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel, which was once part of the psychiatric center until St. Peter’s Church bought it in 1999 and restored it.

Restoration and adaptive reuse were also on the mind of Berger as he stopped next to the “Kirkbride” administrative building, which commands a majestic view of the Great  Lawn – designed by the renowned Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux – and the Hudson Valley beyond.

The High Victorian Gothic building was designed by Vaux, Withers & Co. when the psychiatric center opened in 1871. Workers were placing new trusses on the roof of the “Kirkbride,” which had 360 of its windows replaced.

The Kirkbride and five other buildings – including the 7,500-square-foot director’s house – will be preserved, which Berger suggested could be used by a law firm or doctors.

Berger said he found inspiration in the old buildings and the ones that had to be torn down. So much so that “We’ve taken brick from the demolished buildings and reusing them in the pylons and monuments throughout the site. We’ve taken windows out of the old buildings and stained glass and using them in some of the retail buildings. Some of the grates, and gates and ornamental metal, etc.”

Berger said, “We’re going to reuse and rebuild the old greenhouses. It will be an amenity for residents who want to plant vegetables and so forth.”

Hudson Heritage Walkway over the Hudson
A view of the campus construction from the Walkway Over the Hudson. Photo by Bob Rozycki

Saying “it’s a shame some of these buildings are coming down” and that already the crews have “taken down about half million square feet of buildings,” Berger is quick to point out that all but the steel ands tons of asbestos and lead that was shipped offsite, has been reutilized.

“Everything else gets processed. So all the material that we’ve used – rather than bring in 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 truckloads of material – we’ve used everything on site.”

In what will be the parking lot for the ShopRite, one worker operating a front loader outfitted with a giant magnet on it, removed bits of metal from the broken brick and concrete. Another front loader pushed the material onto a conveyor belt that sent it through two crushers. The end material becomes clean fill or stone for road beds, with the crushed brick used for liner for laying underground pipes.

Berger characterized Hudson Heritage as his hardest project.

“We’re the master developer. We’re doing all the infrastructure and we’re building the shopping center (for) $80 million,” he said.

“This is really eight or nine or ten projects at once.  You have to think about it, typically one company does the commercial, and then another company will undertake restoration, and then another company (will) build a hotel, another multifamily.”

Construction is expected to take three to six years. Once finished, Hudson Heritage will create 750 permanent jobs and generate $8 million in annual property taxes, including $2 million to the town.

“So we’re fairly far along. About 65 to 70 percent pre-leased. …Out of the 750 residential about 600 plus under letter of intent or contract. We’re up in the air on the hotel and we’re up in the air on the administration building,” he said.

“I can’t tell you who, but we’re going to contract with a developer who is going to build 360 units, they plan to restore and reuse the church, chapel, library and one other building.”

The tour ends with a smile.

“When we’re all done, it’ll be spectacular.”

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  1. How much did NY state — the owner of this property — make on this deal. And, not likely, will the money realized from the sale be used for mental health services in New York?

    • The property was transferred from New York State to the town of Poughkeepsie several years ago. The property sat vacant and neglected for almost 2 decades now with a couple previous developers backing out on any redevelopment. So to answer your question the purchase was not from New York State, And without any knowledge of the purchase agreement it is probably safe to say that zero has been contributed back to mental health. On a positive side in relation to the property formally being at Center for mental Health, there has been multiple preservationists working with the developers to preserve the history of the property.


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