New York City Transplants and a River Town’s Natives Fight for Its Soul

One day in the spring of 2017, an art exhibit of sorts went up at 344 Main Street in Beacon, N.Y. A local artist had festooned the fence surrounding the building, under construction, with printouts of a Facebook post that had generated 1,000 comments. The post concerned the front wall of the building, which encroached six feet into the sidewalk. The comments were not positive.

“The sidewalk was reduced to two feet,” said Dan Aymar-Blair, a resident of Beacon. “A woman with a baby carriage wouldn’t even be able to get past it.”

“It was a flash point,” he recalled recently. “A bunch of our neighbors started looking into what construction is planned, what’s at the planning board, what kind of projects are being discussed, and we discovered that there were a thousand new units coming online.”

Beacon, recently remade from a faded industrial city on the Hudson River into a bohemian weekend destination around 2003 with the arrival of Dia:Beacon, one of the largest modern art museums in the United States, is now either selling out to gentrification or reclaiming its midcentury stride, depending on whom you ask.

During the last year, the City of Beacon Planning Board reviewed proposals for the construction of more than a dozen properties, from a 29-unit live-work space for artists to a 307-unit apartment development dubbed “Edgewater.”

These in addition to the Lofts at Beacon Falls, the rentals above the restored movie theater on Main Street, the proposed Factories at Madame Brett Park apartments, among other developments. The future of such construction is currently being contested by residents and developers alike, with 344 Main Street having sparked the ongoing debate.

Mr. Kohn acknowledged that 344 Main is perhaps out of scale with the rest of Main Street, but he maintains it’s the way of the future. All but seven apartments in the building are occupied, renting from $2,600 to $3,600, close to three times the average price for an apartment in town, according to the latest figures from the Census Bureau.

As transplants from New York continue to arrive, they will look for modern residential buildings with urban amenities, such as loft-style apartments, rooftop lounges, and in-house workout facilities, over the single-family homes that make up most of Beacon today, he said.

Unlike Mr. O’Donnell, Mr. Kohn maintains that Beacon’s newest residents, rather than its oldest, are in favor of buildings like 344 Main Street.

“There’s younger people and older people who want different things,” he said. “You can’t satisfy everybody. It’s a different style, a different era. And for the same reason that we have all of these new apartments in Brooklyn, in Manhattan, in Queens, they want them over here as well.”

The moratorium won by the People’s Committee on Development expired in March of 2018. Since then, the committee has supported an ongoing rezoning initiative taken up by the City Council, which would limit the height of new construction, recategorize commercial, residential, and industrial use areas, and protect historic landmarks.

Amid the dozen new proposals that have since been reviewed by the planning board, projects have appeared that will make 344 Main Street look small, such as Edgewater, a 12-acre, seven-building, 307-unit development on the Hudson River in the northwestern part of the city. The developers behind Edgewater have pitched their project as attracting millennials with amenities like a co-working space, and it is currently making its way through the local planning board.

Whether returning Beacon to its heyday or rebuilding its cityscape in anticipation of newcomers, the developers have a vision to advance. Residents may disagree and continue to fight against what they see as the destruction of their city, but even they recognize that they need to provide a comprehensive alternative for Beacon’s future.

“The culture of development needs to shift in Beacon,” Mr. Aymar-Blair said. “A town with the success that we’ve had has every right to be in the driver’s seat about what gets built in this town and not, and to be influential over what we need and what we want and what is going to serve the public interest. We need a vision. We still lack a vision of what we want Beacon to look like in, say, 15 years.”

Sahred From Source link Real Estate

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