GLOVERSVILLE – The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth announced Tuesday the proposed $20 million “Glove City Lofts” 75-unit “artist housing” project to be built at 52 Church St., current location of the former Frontier call center building, which will be demolished.
Ken Kearney, owner of the Kearney Realty Group, said his company has built other artist housing projects in the cities of Peekskill, Westchester County, Oneonta, Otsego County and Rome, Oneida County — all of which have won New York state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grants with Kearney apartment buildings serving as anchor projects. He said the concept of combining a mixture of “middle-income apartments with artist housing” was an idea his son brought to him as a model for downtown redevelopment about six years ago.
He said the “Lofts on Main” project in Peekskill, 75 units built on a vacant lot two doors down from Peekskill City Hall, was the first artist housing project completed by his company, and it proved it can be a successful catalyst to reinvigorating downtowns. He said he’s also done other similar projects in the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon, both in Dutchess County.
“When the city of Peekskill was awarded the DRI, local elected officials credited our project for bringing attention to the city,” Kearney said to a small crowd of Gloversville officials Tuesday at the announcement ceremony.
Center for Regional Growth President and CEO Ron Peters said the CRG acquired ownership of the approximately 3-acre square-shaped lot at 52 Church St. about two months ago from two “out of town LLCs.”
“We approached the previous owner, and we talked about donating the property to us and they donated it to us,” Peters said. “The property has seen better days, and they are from outside of the area, and they said they didn’t want to be involved in it anymore.”
The abandoned call center building features brick-encased steel plate girders, one of which has been smashed, revealing the girder underneath. The property is directly across the street from Gloversville City Hall.
“This building has been empty for 10 years, I hope this will be the start of a new beginning for this section of Gloversville,” Peters said. “For the last 18 months I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ken Kearney. We’re very fortunate, the Kearney Group is one of the most sought-after developers in upstate New York.”
Kearney said his plan will be to demolish the Frontier building and build the apartment complex along Church Street, placing the parking lot at the back of the building, roughly where the Frontier building is now, the reverse of the current configuration. A rendering of what the project might look like included an exterior of brick and Hardie board siding, a cement, sand, and cellulose fiber siding used instead of vinyl siding. He said the apartment units will be loft-style with 10- to 12-foot high-ceilings, common space rooms, including a “painting room” and a “soundproof room for musicians” and a room for dancing artists.
“Glove City Lofts will hopefully be a two-phase project, the second phase is hopefully many, many years out, but the first phase will be 70 to 75 units of a mix of artist, middle-income and workforce housing units, but primarily artist units,” he said. “We’ve rented [at other projects] to well over 250 artists. We have approximately 700 artists on our various waiting lists, and we have developed a means to attract artists through the various social media platforms.”
Peters said the Kearney Realty Group has entered into a 12-month purchase option agreement with the CRG to buy the 52 Church St. lot for $200,000.
“He’s got to nail down his financing, and pretty much that’s it,” Peters said. “It’s his discretion to close at any time he wants to, depending upon his appetite, for either way he wants to go, however he structures his developments.”
Kearney said his company will seek about $1.1 million in federal income-based housing tax credits awarded by the state office of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR). Those credits come with strings attached related to how much in rent the apartment building will be able to charge, based on community income levels. Kearney did not provide the income rules Tuesday, but described the tax credits as “middle income.”
“The housing tax credits, you’re able to give a preference to artists, those involved in artistic or literary activities,” he said. “We have artists in some of our projects making between $30,000 up to $100,000, depending on the county — that would be down in Westchester.”
Kearney said an “Artist Certification Committee” will be established that will vet the credentials of the artists seeking housing in the apartment building.
“You’ll have to be approved by the Artist Certification Committee, so somebody can’t just say ‘I’m an artist,'” he said. “They’ll look at the artist’s body of work, and this independent board will certify them. It’ll come from members of the community who are involved in the arts.”
Kearney said he will raise the $20 million needed for the project by leveraging the federal income-based housing tax credits toward private equity investment.
“Then we’ll have private financing; we’ll ask for a grant, a low-interest loan from the middle-income program,” he said. “HCR awards those. We have a very strong relationship with them.”
In the nearby city of Amsterdam, the proposed but now-defunct $34 million Chalmers Mills Lofts 120-unit apartment project had been contingent upon developers KCG Development obtaining $18 million in “workforce housing” income-based federal housing credits awarded by New York state HCR, but the developer ultimately abandoned the project after failing to be awarded the tax credits, citing a lack of local support after Mayor Michael Cinquanti defeated former Mayor Michael Villa, an ardent supporter of the apartment project. Chalmers Mills Lofts had been an anchor project in Amsterdam’s successful $10 million DRI project.
Kearney said he’s well aware of what happened in Amsterdam, but he does not believe the same thing will happen in Gloversville.
“Ours is a different model,” he said.
Both Democratic and Republican local officials attended the announcement Tuesday, all seeming to express support for the project.
Mayor Vince DeSantis said Glove City Lofts will be the catalyst his city has needed to revitalize its downtown area.
“This is the start of the new Gloversville,” DeSantis said.