Anyone familiar with Poughkeepsie has some knowledge of the abandoned Hudson River State Hospital just north of Mid Hudson Plaza. The graffiti-laden high-rise that is most visible to passersby on Route 9, called the Clarence O. Cheney Building, is the subject of horror stories, ghost tales and speculation as to the kinds of squatters who live there.
But beyond the imposing 10-story building is an entire campus that has lied dormant for the better part of 13 years – and now, work is being done to bring life back to the 156-acre property.
The project, dubbed “Hudson Heritage,” includes the construction of 750 residential units, 350,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, and the re-purposing of the hospital’s main building – a 150-year-old High Gothic Victorian construct called the “Kirkbride,” set deep within the campus – into a boutique hotel.
Also making a comeback will be the site’s 18-acre Great Lawn, designed by landscape architects Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead who designed Manhattan’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. As the project’s main goal is to create a residential area where pedestrian-oriented walkways encourage people to go outside and leave their cars in the garage, the lawn will be home to many recreational opportunities.
These plans, among many others, constitute what is obviously a huge undertaking, and having been announced over a year ago, many have pondered its progress. The answer: it’s been pretty slow, said an anonymous source from MWWPR.
As with any construction project, Hudson Heritage is awaiting approval to complete demolition of existing buildings and to begin construction on the site. Standing in the way of the process’s continuation is the Town of Poughkeepsie Town Board’s completed review of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which outlines the quality of the environment for humans on the site.
“We’re moving forward as per our EIS,” Neil Wilson, Director of Municipal Development for Town of Poughkeepsie, said.
“The whole process started in August 2015. It was sort of the kickoff of the public review portion. At that time, the Town Board held a scoping session. The scoping session is the public’s opportunity to review the plans. The scoping document is like the table of contents of the EIS – that was accepted in the fall of last year.
“They’ve been doing studies and the Town Board has not yet deemed the document complete. Public review of the EIS will be probably in December. There’s been no formal acceptance yet.”
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which includes the scoping document, has been made available to the public on the Town of Poughkeepsie website. Wilson touched upon some of the objectives in the DEIS and gave his own insight into how complicated the process can be, even after the official EIS is approved.
“When the project receives approval on environmental review, they still have to do planning – sewer lines, water lines, final details,” Wilson said. “This will take some time. From the time they receive final approval, they still have to take down buildings, still have to do significant asbestos remediation before that – roofing materials, tiles on the floor, they all contain asbestos.
“Once they receive their approvals and they get underway, my expectation is that the demolition phase of it will be a year and half, possibly two years.”
The demolition of somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 buildings will take place mostly on the southern end of the site, closest to Home Depot. This will include the familiar Cheney Building, a long-time eyesore for Marist College students when they look north on-campus.
The northern end of the property, however, does not require as much demolition, and Wilson said that as for the full residential build-out in that area, “frankly it will depend on what the market is.”
So what can we expect in the coming months?
“We will start environmental review in December,” Wilson said. “Sometime next month we will make the EIS publicly available. There will be some offsite work as well – there will be a lot of traffic in that area, and we will be working to facilitate traffic in and out of the site.”
Asked about how long the entire project will take to complete, Wilson said there is really no way to know that as of right now, but he gave a broad, rough estimate of 5-10 years.
When it is complete, the Hudson Heritage Project is expected to drastically boost the local economy while bringing in hundreds of new jobs – and residents, of course – to the Poughkeepsie area.