Dutchess County has far too many massive sites in dire need of redevelopment – places that used to employ dozens to thousands of people but have become obsolete. Many were state-run facilities, including former Harlem Valley and Hudson River psychiatric centers that have been sold by the state but have not yet been redeveloped.
The now-closed Beacon Correctional Facility is still in the state’s hands, and a clear plan must emerge regarding what to do with this pivotal piece of property.
New York’s chief economic development agency officially addressed this issue recently, saying it is seeking new owners, or even tenants, for the former minimum security prison for women, which closed last year. The approximately 278-acre site has more than 20 buildings including former dormitories.
As prison downsizing and consolidations have taken place, the state has struggled to sell the properties for a variety of reasons. The state at least has plowed some resources into studying how best to market the vacant Beacon site as an economic development opportunity. And New York economic development officials might be in a more advantageous situation with the Beacon facility than some other upstate former prisons in light of the city’s progress.
Significantly, the agency, Empire State Development, is touting Beacon’s growing arts and entertainment fields, in addition to the facility’s location, about a mile from the city’s downtown. The state notes the facility has water and sewer lines, important aspects in attracting any developers. The state also says developers would be eligible for up to $6 million in grants toward certain capital costs relating to the site’s redevelopment.
Beacon officials smartly have said they are uninterested in seeing the site become a cluster of new residences but rather something more along the lines of an educational center, business venture or research facility. With that in mind, the state’s “request for proposals” document states clearly “proposals solely for residential uses will not be considered.”
Since it is owned by the state, the property, a small part of which is in the Town of Fishkill, has been tax-exempt, and getting it back on the tax rolls in some capacity also would help the municipalities.
It’s imperative the public stays involved in this redevelopment process and has ample time to offer input when appropriate. The Beacon area has a chance for a substantial long-term gain with the prison’s closure but the state’s sale of the land has to be handled with the community’s best interest in mind.
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November 30, 2014