July 13, 2016

Hudson Valley Psychiatric Hospital Redevelopment, Poughkeepsie, NY

Long shuttered, occasionally set on fire and frequently looted and vandalized, the former Hudson River Psychiatric Center has taken its first tangible step toward its transformation into one of the largest residential and retail developments in Dutchess County history.

Developers and local officials gathered Wednesday for a ceremony typically marked by a single turn of a shiny shovel. Instead, a giant demolition claw marked the beginning of the end for most of the buildings on the 156-acre property in the Town of Poughkeepsie.

The Hudson Heritage project, now pegged at a quarter of a billion dollars, calls for 750 residential units, including multifamily apartments, townhouses and detached single-family homes, as well as 350,000 square feet of retail space and 80,000 square feet of hotel space.

Build-out is expected to take between eight and 10 years.

In terms of residential space, only the Toll Brothers development along Merritt Boulevard in the Town of Fishkill stands completed with more units — a total of 848 on 323 acres, according to the Dutchess County planning and development department.

The developers, EnviroFinance Group based in Colorado and Diversified Realty Advisors of Summit, New Jersey, have obtained clearances to knock down the first five of 52 derelict buildings. In all, 1.5 million square feet are targeted for demolition.

Five buildings, including the architecturally significant administration building, will be preserved. The administration building is to serve as an 80-room hotel.

Although the project still remains under review under the State Environmental Quality Review law, the developers were able to obtain permits for the initial demolition after the Town of Poughkeepsie determined there would be no impact under SEQR.

“Often times, it is difficult to demolish buildings during a SEQR process,” said Nicholas Minoia, managing partner at Diversified Realty. “But this was kind of an extreme situation because of the condition of a lot of these buildings. This is a health, safety and welfare issue.”

In addition to being contaminated with asbestos, the buildings are routinely looted and vandalized. Developers have purchased and installed metal shutters to keep trespassers out of some of the buildings.

And arson continues to be a problem.

Fairview Fire District Chief Christopher Maeder said firefighters respond to between one and two intentionally set fires at the site per year. In the first half of 2016, there have been two, he said.

“It’s really nice to see some of this stuff come down,” Maeder said. “To take some of that fire load away makes the job safer for my guys, which is really important.”

The project’s environmental impact statement is being reviewed by the town. Once the draft statement is complete, it will be subject to public comment.

At the northern end of the site, an environmental cleanup has been launched under the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The program offers tax credits to developers who take on the cost of a contaminated site’s remediation.

Minoia said that area has subsurface contaminants related to the power plant that once operated there, including coal ash.