It’s no secret that Kingston continues to be one of the hottest cities in the Hudson Valley.
As New York’s first capital, Kingston has always had a dignified charm. In recent years, this Ulster County town’s artsy streets have come alive with creative art hubs, eclectic eateries, and unique small businesses. Shopping trips to brick facades and a historic Main Street are less than twenty minutes from peaceful days at the Ashokan Reservoir or hiking trails in the Catskill Mountains.
For those seeking the perfect balance of urban professional life and access to nature, Kingston is the ideal city. Now, under the ownership of investment collective Aker, four apartment complexes in and around Kingston are being restored to their former glory.
According to Aker co-founder Will Brocker, many of these Hudson Valley apartments have not been updated in 50 years. Overgrown tennis courts, empty fitness centers, unused community spaces, and, most importantly, apartment units are being extensively renovated. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of units in these complexes were completely uninhabitable before the acquisition. Some renovations are as extensive as constructing floors, adding bathrooms, and installing working sinks.
“What we’re really excited to do is just bring back housing to Kingston [because] there’s definitely demand for it. So we’re really excited to bring [these] apartments back online, and bring them back to the market,” Mike Amato, the principal at Aker, says. COVID-19 led to a massive spike in Hudson Valley real estate sales, and the Kingston area has been no exception to the demand.
“We’re actually working closely with the current government on a workforce housing regulatory agreement. When you have a lot of wealth shifting out from New York, [long-term residents] are the ones who get priced. So we’re working on the largest workforce housing regulatory agreement ever in the City of Kingston that we hope to have buttoned up shortly,” Brocker says. Regulatory agreements protect long-term affordability against high rates of future rent appreciation.
The Urban Land Institute defines the core population Aker targets as earning 60 to 120 percent of the average median income (AMI). According to Amato and Brocker, with this renewed availability of quality workforce housing, residents of Kingston can reap the benefits of transplants spending at nearby businesses without being priced out.
“What we are really aiming to do is to cater to the people who live and work in the area. We want to make sure that people who work at those local businesses have a great place to live and a great community to live in,” Amato says.
The second piece of renewal in these Ulster County workforce communities is programming. Free monthly food trucks, live music outdoors, guided hikes, accessible exercise circuits, and craft brewery pop-ups are all being planned for these Hudson Valley communities.
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Residents at many of these complexes find local ingredients and good nutrition important. In response, Amato and Brocker introduced them to Field Goods.
“They link local farms and bring fresh produce directly to your doorstep,” Amato says. “We’ve partnered with Field Goods to offer an exclusive benefit to the residents….their grocery shopping can be done online. That way, we can connect local farmers to these workforce communities.”
Amato and Brocker want to create a positive economic impact across the entire Ulster County small business sector. Programming and residency perks will be directly tied to local spots. Already, they’ve co-hosted events with Kingston Wine Co. and the recently-opened Board, a craft grilled cheese to-go concept out of Kingston. With a focus on recurring activities and promotions, they look to foster long-term relationships between Hudson Valley workers and their neighboring farmers, chefs, brewers, vintners, and more.
Tourism in the Hudson Valley has encouraged new businesses to open up on historic main streets. By linking workforce housing to supporting private business, Amato and Brocker hope maintain sustainable growth for the region.
“The last 20 years were tough economically in Kingston. After IBM left, we actually had more units demolished than built [here], because there was job loss and population loss for quite some time. The Catskills came back in a big way in the last three to five years, and workforce housing is an incredibly important sector right now,” Brocker says.
Each of these communities will have their own distinct benefits and community culture.
557 Broadway, Port Ewen
“Lakeshore is interesting because no one really knows it’s there. The first time [Amato and I] visited the property, we were blown away by the landscape of where it sits,” Brocker says.
A total of 152 units at Lakeshore Villas offer 360-degree Catskill Mountain views. The steel-beam structures line a private lake. From fall foliage to miraculous sunrises and sunsets, anyone seeking privacy surrounded by nature will adore Lakeshore.
“Many of the units actually hover over the lake, and then the rear units cascade up the mountain. So every single [apartment] has a view of a lake that is protected by New York State. Only the residents can use it,” Brocker says.
Gas motors are forbidden on this body of water, but residents can take part in a wide variety of lakeside activities. In the spring and summer months, canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boating, and fishing are extremely popular for Lakeshore denizens. When the lake freezes in the winter, tenants can go ice skating, play lake hockey, and even ice fish.
According to Brocker, Lakeshore has the most amenities of any complex in their portfolio, but is also the largest restoration project.
305 Hurley Ave, Kingston
Under a mile away from the Kingston Stockade District and a stone’s throw away from Interstate 87, Kingston Village has an incredibly convenient location. Plus, the complex has access to the O&W rail trail. Tenants of Kingston Village form a tight-knit community of long-term Hudson Valley residents.
“And what we found about the village is there’s a lot of pride. It’s a lot of tried-and-true, born-and-raised folks who have been through the hard times in Kingston and are very proud to live there. Many of them teach in our local schools,” Brocker says. “I would say our strongest community currently exists in the village, and we’re excited to kind of bring it back and strengthen it even further.”
Parts of Kingston Village fell into disrepair in the last few years, and Aker plans to restore those areas.
111 Hudson Valley Landing, Kingston
“Kingston Waterfront is, I think, hard to debate as the crown jewel in terms of location and history. It’s right on the waterfront,” Brocker says. This complex sits along the Hudson River, not too far from where it meets the gorgeous Roundout Creek. Apartments with river-view vistas are on a dramatic slope near the Maritime Museum.
As part of an urban renewal plan in the 1990s, the builder constructed Kingston Waterfront with heritage masonry techniques. The resulting structures have a distinctly historic feel with many modern luxuries.
The Empire State Trail runs right through the property; residents can walk out their doors and immediately hop on a 750-mile bicycle and walking trail. Additionally, Broadway, a center for Kingston nightlife, is just a stroll away.
30 Black Creek Rd, Highland
“We were most perplexed by what Black Creek Apartments would become. It’s about equidistant from New Paltz and Poughkeepsie, and our smallest complex,” Brocker says.
Black Creek gets its name from the Black Creek Nature Preserve that it faces. An influx of requests from younger tenants have caused Amato and Brocker to rethink programming there. Demand from SUNY New Paltz students is shifting the Black Creek community culture toward a different generation, with a huge emphasis on energetic outdoor activities and entertainment.
A new trail will weave through the backyard right into the Esopus Preserve, a true gem of the Catskills. Additionally, Black Creek may have the most brag-worthy historic connection. Eleanor Roosevelt once owned this historic structure and, before that, it was the workers’ quarters for Colonel Oliver Hazard Payne.
“We’re really going to double down on the outdoor living environment at Black Creek,” Brocker says.