The three County-owned properties on Grand Street in Newburgh have been a part of developmental discussions for a while now. At first the former Masonic lodge, YMCA and American Legion Hall were going to be sold to SUNY Orange until they withdrew. When that fell through, the County began marketing the properties to outside developers.
The request for proposal received two proposals. One was from Kearny Development Group and the other from Foster Supply Hospitality.
While Kearney Development Group’s Grant Street Revival proposed a mixed-use application for all three properties that would combine commercial and creative space with 62 residences, ultimately the review committee found Foster’s Urban Resort proposal more appealing.
They proposed developing the three buildings into an 80-room boutique hotel and spa with a fine restaurant, a rooftop lounge and an event space carved out of the former Masonic Temple.
It would utilize Newburgh’s waterfront and revitalized downtown to capitalize on Orange County’s proximity to New York City.
The review committee was made up of people that represent both the county, the city, the college and the community. It was chaired by Deputy County Executive Harry Porr and included SUNY Orange President Kristine Young and SUNY Orange Board of Trustees Chairman Fred Watson. Newburgh’s City Manager was also involved as was the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, who neighbors the buildings.
Orange County Executive Steve Neahaus recommended that the Orange County Legislature award the Grand Street RFP to Sullivan County’s Foster Supply Hospitality.
“While both responses offer intriguing concepts that reimagine the three historic buildings, Foster Supply’s proposal presents a more significant positive economic impact,” said Neuhaus in a letter.
The use of these buildings would allow for more than 80 permanent jobs in the hospitality industry. The staff at the Urban Resort plans to have viable career pathways to help Newburgh residents.
Working with SUNY Orange, students will have the opportunity to build skills in culinary and hospitality management through the Hospitality Academy.
Job opportunities aside, it is also believed that the project will generate “significant economic impact in terms of incremental tax revenues.”
It is projected that it would generate as much as $5 million in City, County and Newburgh school taxes over the course of a 10-year pilot. Additionally, they are expecting $1.3 million in annual sales and occupancy taxes on its 25,000 anticipated guests each year.
The timeline of the proposal is aiming for a mid-2022 opening.
The County originally purchased these properties in 2013 for $3.6 million and both RFPs bidded low.
However, Neuhaus said, “We are not only seeking a return on our investment in these buildings in terms of a sale price, but more importantly, we should measure the return on investment of this opportunity in terms of the long-term impact it will have on the local economy and on the Newburgh community.”
The awarded RFP has sparked conversation within the Newburgh community with some in favor and some not.
“$5 million over 10 years? Seems low for such huge ‘potential,’” said Jennifer Rawlison on Facebook about the projected revenue.
Others were concerned about the jobs that would be created. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic many jobs in the hospitality field have not seen a certain future. However, the more hopeful are confident that by 2022 the job opportunities will be promising.
At the same time, others are happy to see the space finally be utilized.
“Two good ideas to make use of some unused space in a City with great potential,” said Sean Patrick in a comment on Facebook.
Long term resident and neighbor of Grand Street, Victoria Lee, does not think this is the best decision for the space.
“I don’t think a hotel in this area is a continued step in the right direction,” said Lee. “Over the past several years many hotels have been built on or around Route 300 and the Stewart Airport campus to accommodate what was an expected need with more traffic at the airport with the addition of international flights etc. That plan hasn’t exactly worked out and these hotels sit mostly empty more often than not.”
Additionally, Lee advocated for the overnight accommodations that Newburgh already offers with the rise of online rental market places like Airbnb and VRBO.
Others, like Newburgh business owner Jack Smith, are excited for the job opportunities that will be made available, one of the reasons why Neuhaus backed the proposal.
“One of the things Newburgh has been missing for a number of years are employers that employ more than two or three people,” said Smith. “They’re all great but none of them are large employers. The building will be restored in a great way and some folks can get decent paying jobs.”
At this point in time, the review committee is planning to meet again to discuss further and to plan the approval of the sale of the buildings.