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Kingston’s Energy Square Is a Hub for Affordable, Sustainable Housing

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Photo by Joan Vos MacDonald

The mixed-use building provides affordable housing — plus a café and creative programs for children — in the Midtown area.

Once home to the defunct Mid-City Lanes Bowling Alley, a 1.5-acre lot on Kingston’s Cedar Street is now the site of Energy Square, an attractive mixed-use building that sustainably provides affordable housing for dozens of families, plus a hub with creative opportunities for children.

RUPCO, the Kingston-based affordable housing agency, secured the site in 2017. By the summer of 2020, the bowling alley had been replaced with a five-story building complex that provides 57 apartments for people of mixed incomes, as well as more than 10,000 sq ft of commercial space, a community room with Wi-Fi service, a green rooftop with an outdoor pavilion, and on-site parking. Seven apartments were set aside for young adults, ages 18 to 25, who were homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Energy Square’s sustainable design incorporated a combination of geothermal and solar-power energy sources to provide electricity and heat. The building earned a Net Zero for Living designation because the total amount of energy used on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.

“Energy Square is our first building to achieve LEED Platinum and one of the first projects in New York State to provide Net Zero for Living in affordable housing — meaning that through tight envelope design, solar, and geothermal systems — residents at Energy Square have all utilities included in their rent,” says Kevin O’Connor, RUPCO CEO.

Kingston-based Dutton Architecture designed the building, which was named 2020 Project of the Year: Upstate Region by the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. Funding for Energy Square came from various sources, including grants designed to create affordable and middle-income housing and to foster community development.

Energy Square also houses the café Seasoned Delicious, the arts education program DRAW Kingston, and the Center for Creative Education (CCE), which offers innovative programs with a special emphasis on serving low-income, minority, and at-risk children and youth.

Energy Square

Photo by Joan Vos MacDonald

The center, which hosts classes in dance, music, fitness, theater, spoken word, computer arts technology, and the visual arts, provided an essential resource during the pandemic. The Dyson Foundation, United Way of Ulster County, and New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) are among RUPCO’s many funders. The organization is also partnered with the National Equity Fund and the USDA.

According to the 2021 Ulster County Action Plan, housing prices in the county have increased 16 percent since 2010, while the median household income of renters decreased by one percent, so the need for affordable housing remains a priority.

“Energy Square is a huge asset to our city,” says Kingston Mayor Steve Noble. “This type of mixed-income housing is critical for our continuing revitalization work in the community.”