A New York City developer is proposing to repurpose the former Wallace’s department store at 331 Main St. in downtown Poughkeepsie as part of a multibuilding, mixed-use project.
The overall development is intended to revitalize a section of the city on the west side of Catharine Street between Mill Street and Main Street, part of the city’s Innovation District Historic Core and Urban Village districts.
The proposal includes a 7-story structure to the left of the Wallace’s building on Main Street and a 6-story building fronting on Catharine Street.
The development would consist of 214 mixed-income affordable apartments — 79 studios, 110 one-bedroom and 25 two-bedroom units. Also part of the plan is a 10,197-square-foot daycare facility, a 29,000-square-foot community fitness center and climbing gym, and 6,416 square feet of retail and commercial space. The site is about a mile from the Metro-North Railroad station.
Also included in the project is a 1-acre privately owned and publicly accessible park to be known as Wallace Green.
The green would be open seven days a week during daylight hours and would be designed to serve the needs of those who live and work in downtown Poughkeepsie. A small seating area would allow the park to be used for events and community gatherings, which could include poetry, dance and acoustic music performances. A walkway would create a mid-block pedestrian connection between Main Street and Mill Street.
The applicant for the project is Wallace Campus Manager LLC of Astoria, Queens. Its address is the same location as that of real estate developer Mega Contracting LLC. Named in the application is Emanuel Kokinakis, who is the development manager for Mega Contracting.
The project includes approximately 277,333 square feet of building redevelopment and new construction. The new buildings would be designed to be compatible with the existing downtown architecture.
The 6,416 square feet of new retail spaces would be along Main Street and the 39,197 square feet of community service facilities would be along Catharine Street, including a community recreation facility with climbing wall in the Wallace annex building and a community day-care facility on the ground and cellar floors of the new Catharine Street building.
The former Wallace’s department store is four stories with a parapet that increases its height to be comparable with that of other five-story buildings along Main Street. The building’s annex has been dated from around 1860 and contains approximately 118,536 square feet of space. The developer intends to bring it back to the way it looked when the store was a signature building during the heyday of retailing activity in downtown Poughkeepsie.
The developer suggests that its project would provide major streetscape improvements in the area surrounded by Main, Catharine and Mill streets. It said that the residential units would serve households earning from 30% of the area median income up to 80% of AMI as defined by the Dutchess County AMI tiers.
Among the zoning variances the developer is seeking is for building heights and frontage requirements.
The developer noted that through arrangements with other property owners it is being provided with 62 parking spaces to help meet requirements for the project. It also provided a study showing that there are up to 1,116 parking spaces within a 600-foot radius of the site, including 980 in four public lots.
The developer applied to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for participation in the Brownfield Cleanup Program. The developer said that DEC approval would provide an opportunity for cleanup through a Remedial Action Work Plan under the New York State Brownfield Voluntary Cleanup Program.
What residents think
Public reaction to the Wallace Campus proposal has been mixed. More than 50 residents had signed up for a virtual hearing to provide comments to the Poughkeepsie Planning Board.
Many residents focused on the developer’s representations that the project would help serve the city’s need for affordable housing and welcomed the idea.
Resident Lydia Hatfield who lives in downtown Poughkeepsie, said “My neighborhood also is gentrifying and last year my landlord tried to raise my rent by $400 a month. We were ultimately able to negotiate a lower rate but there were no laws to protect us and someone like me who makes less than $30,000 a year there were no options on where to go next.”
Another Poughkeepsie resident, Eli Mann, said, “When income and wages are stagnant but rents doubling and tripling it’s hard to survive.” He said that he hopes the city would consider the needs of current residents who continue to need affordable places to live.
Resident Michael de Cordova expressed the belief that the buildings are too tall, not enough parking is provided and the overall project is not right for the city.
“This proposed development is massive. It is truly massive. It will change our downtown forever, certainly for the 50 years that the low-income tax credit restrictions remain in effect,” de Cordova said.
“For such a transformational project the simple questions are, ‘Where is downtown Poughkeepsie today and what do we want downtown Poughkeepsie to be in the future?’ This is not an inconsequential project. Do you picture a vibrant downtown with lots of residents and visitors with enticing commercial and retail establishments?”