The Orange County Legislature rejected plans to utilize any of the Grand Street properties for SUNY Orange, but instead are marketing to sell to New York City corporations. SUNY Orange has found an alternate location for their workforce development initiatives.
The three buildings on Grand Street include the American Legion Building, the Masonic Lodge and a YMCA.
SUNY Orange created Innovation Grand Street that would utilize all three buildings for job training and workforce development.
In the spring of 2019, SUNY Orange learned that the county legislature had met with a private developer who had a different proposal for the YMCA building.
“Since we had built the project around all three buildings, our plans no longer made sense [with just the two buildings],” said Dr. Kristine Young to the Mid Hudson Times in July 2019. “There was too much financial risk. The plans that we had really counted on [involved the] YMCA building.”
Young was originally “willing to return to negotiations.”
However, on August 14, Orange County released a statement with an update on these properties. It read, “Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus has announced that he will begin marketing commercial properties to New York City corporations to attract them to relocate to the County.”
The county issued a Request for Proposal for the Grand Street properties.
“Businesses are actively seeking to leave New York City and Orange County has a variety of sites which are perfect for commercial development,” Neuhaus said.
The County Legislature originally voted to purchase the Grand Street properties with the goal of expanding services at SUNY Orange.
Orange County Legislature has not commented at this time on why they rejected the spaces for SUNY Orange and why they instead moved forward with commercial development.
“Let’s have great neighbors for the college,” said Young. “Are these neighbors that would welcome our students for internships? Are they good first jobs for students? Could they be collaborators for our faculty? Are there research opportunities?”
SUNY Orange is moving forward with their workforce development plans, just not with the Grand Street properties. Workforce Innovation SUNY Orange (WISO) is replacing the prior Innovation Grand Street project.
“All of the research, momentum, partnerships, connections, money – everything that we have accrued over these years is still very much in play and going to be deployed just not on Grand Street,” said Young.
The project has been delayed even further due to COVID-19 and they are still in the early conceptual phases.
“There is a different workforce need to respond to than there was six months ago,” said Young. “It’s a devastating development, but really it’s an opportunity to pivot without having committed physically to anything yet. We could be on the leading edge for Orange County or the Hudson Valley to respond to the tremendous unemployment and workforce challenges.”
SUNY Orange plans to use space in the lower level of its Tower Building for the new location.
WISO is planned to focus on workforce development specifically in the food, beverage and entertainment sectors. It will touch on healthcare as well.
The program will consider questions like “how do we help people pivot between industries and how do we help owners of industries get back up on their feet?”
“We remain very upbeat for the opportunities that still exist for the college on this project, just not with the Grand Street address,” said Young. “The Newburgh campus, as it operates right now, is a successful campus. WISO is an effort to respond to helping revitalize Newburgh and we have the space in the Tower Building that allows us flexibility to really develop our efforts.”