The Academy Food Hall and Apartments Bring New Life to Poughkeepsie

Led by R.L. Baxter Building and MASS Design Group, The Hive will be a mixed-use coworking, dining, living, and shopping destination in the heart of downtown.

Rendering courtesy of Christian Palikuca

Led by Baxter and MASS Design Group, The Academy will be a mixed-use coworking, dining, living, and shopping destination in Poughkeepsie.

By Sabrina Sucato and Raphael Beretta

Poughkeepsie is thriving.

Thanks to a steady ascent of growth in recent years, the riverside city is fast coming into its glory days as budding businesses and new developments shine a light on local culture. Not just limited to one area of growth, the phenomenon touches everything from housing and shopping to dining and even to the community itself. It’s a movement that’s evident with projects like the Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory, 40 Cannon Street complex, and the Queen City Lofts, to name a few.

The Academy is the next exciting project to hit Poughkeepsie. Once complete, it will function as a downtown live-work-play destination, with an emphasis on attracting younger residents. The Academy features 28 apartment units, a coworking center, a massive food hall, a fresh produce market, and an elegant event space.

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Construction at The Academy (2021) | Photo by David Coppola, Whitewater Imagery

The original concept for the mixed-use edifice came to life nearly five years ago, when Eric Baxter of local building corporation Baxter connected with Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group. The two bonded over their shared experiences as graduates of Poughkeepsie High School and their mutual affinity for the City of Poughkeepsie as a whole.

“Being a City of Poughkeepsie resident myself and a graduate of Poughkeepsie High School, I noticed a lot of my peers and friends left the area,” Baxter recalls. “So, a big passion of mine has always been to figure out how we get young individuals to stay in the area who grew up here. And, how do we attract other young professionals to move into the city?”


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Baxter was contemplating this just after completing 289 Main Street, a Poughkeepsie collective. In fact, the original property was an old bank from the 1980s that sat vacant for years. Baxter added another story to the building and put six apartments at the top of the structure. Then, several Poughkeepsie or greater Hudson Valley-based businesses moved in.

The Academy exterior rendering | Rendering courtesy of Christian Palikuca

Ever since he was young, Baxter remembers driving by another beautiful brick building. He and his father toured the three-story 3537 Main St in 2018.

“My father said, ‘If we’re going to develop this, we have to develop the building next door,’ which is 33 Academy,” Baxter says. 

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Baxter made an offer on 33 Academy, then put the two building together to create The Academy development. It was a nightclub at the time, known to locals under a dozen different names including Confetti, Intrigue, Let’s Dance, and The Matrix. However, its history dates even further back.


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Previously, 33 Academy was once the site of car manufacturing. Vehicles came together piece by piece upstairs. Then, using a ramp, employees rolled completed cars downstairs into a massive showroom. Neighboring 35 Academy produced pocketbooks before housing the Department of Labor for several years. After that, it remained empty for more than a decade.

Photo by David Coppola, Whitewater Imagery

“I think a big way to do this, as you see in Beacon, is to create these types of developments that bring excitement and energy downtown,” Baxter observes.

He pitched his loose concept for the space, one that mixed a food hall with an apartment building, to Murphy, a Harvard Graduate School of Design alum whose firm, MASS, operates offices in Boston, Rwanda, and Poughkeepsie. Murphy said yes, and the two went to work to develop what they first dubbed The Hive, and then The Academy. The two firms collaborated on planning, designing, and getting municipal approval for various stages of the Poughkeepsie complex.


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“We’re very excited to do an adaptive reuse project in downtown Poughkeepsie,” says Caitlin Taylor, a design director at MASS. Indeed, the renovations bring to life a property that long sat dormant in the heart of Poughkeepsie. Once complete, the two edifices will show off a number of structural upgrades that reflect modern amenities while still respecting the heritage of the spaces.

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Due to the scope of the project, Baxter and MASS received a $1.2 million grant from the New York State Consolidated Fundings Applications. The sum, which is part of the more than $2 million total bestowed upon the City of Poughkeepsie, helped the two companies realize their vision with the buildings.

Keepsake at The Academy event space | Photo courtesy of Christian Palikuca

After several years of planning, The Academy finally comes to fruition in 2022. First, the food hall eyes an April 2022 opening. Curious about what’s inside? Managing partner Christian Palikuca provides a preview of the massive small-business incubator.

“What’s beautiful about The Academy is that we really want to revive the neighborhood to the vibrancy that existed there before. We want to become more than a food hall but a community hub and a catalyst for community growth,” Palikuca says. “So, we’re going to have multiple food stalls with a variety of menus. The key theme here is it’s going to be affordable and delicious food made with the highest quality local ingredients.”


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Perhaps the grandest element of the food hall, The Academy Kitchen and Bar aims to be a cornerstone of the entire experience. Culinary Director Rachael Potts curates a modern American bistro-themed menu. This full-service restaurant boasts 75 seats and a massive central bar, which serves both The Academy Kitchen and Bar and the open food hall side. According to Palikuca, classic cocktails with modern twists will be a main focus for the bar.


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If beer is more your thing, The Academy Brew will be the place to go. Located in the food hall among the stalls, this local craft beer store features a rotating selection of curated micro-brews. Drink small-batch ales and stouts on draught, or take fresh-filled growlers, crowlers, and bottles home. Plus, The Academy Brew will make its own artisanal beer—about a barrel and a half per batch.


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In addition, a fresh market featuring produce from local farmers stands near the entrance. For those living at The Academy, getting Hudson Valley veggies or dairy is as easy as heading downstairs. This market also offers curated meats from regional ranchers and seafood from nearby co-ops.

As for staples, find those along the front counter. The Academy also has plans for a coffee shop fueled by fresh-roasted beans from Hudson Valley favorite Ready Coffee.

Since we’re not a Ready Coffee location, we’ll have our own barista menu. However, we’ll certainly benefit from their wonderful product—their beans are fantastic. So, we’ll be able to offer that level of quality on our menu,” Palikuca enthuses.


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Next, local staple Newburgh Flour Shop will open a satellite location adjacent to the coffee shop. In addition, the front of The Academy’s food hall will offer a daily grill and deli.

“We can make made-to-order breakfast sandwiches, as well as lunch and dinner fair. It’s going to be comfort food. If the food stalls in the back are are a little too different for our diners, they can go to their comfort zone in the front,” Palikuca reveals.


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What can adventurous foodies expect at the food halls? To start, there’s East-West. This Asian-fusion concept will specialize in ramen noodles, Bao buns, stir fry, and more. Palikuca mentions that the menu was designed with simple presentation and streamlined service in mind. Of course, elaborate dishes highlight local meats and vegetables.

Next, Smoke 33 aims to satisfy massive appetites. This signature roadhouse barbecue stand slow-smokes meats. Anticipate delicious house-made rubs, sauces, and sides.

“We picture it as ideal for dining in, but also for taking back to the office for lunch or stopping by on the way home for a pound or two brisket or ribs,” Palikuca says. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Valley Greens keeps things plant-based. This grab-and-go concept is perfect for vegan and vegetarian diners, who can design their ideal salad or grain bowl with dressings and toppings of choice.

Keepsake at The Academy set for a ceremony | Photo courtesy of Christian Palikuca

On the second floor, visitors will find Keepsake at The Academy. This 8,700-sq-ft event space boasts a sleek, industrial design. The team strives to serve the community with a flex space for any type of experience, from 200-person weddings to company culture engagements.

As for the apartment units, they will go live in July 2022. Baxter confirms that The Academy will offer eight studio units, eight one-bedrooms, and twelve two-bedroom apartments. He highlights stainless steel appliances, gorgeous stone countertops, state-of-the-art laundry, and other amenities as major draws.


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Plus, Baxter added two stories on top of each buildingfive stories in totalresulting in apartments with magnificent views. A few units sport trendy vaulted bedrooms while others have terraces that overlook the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Although price points have yet to be announced, Baxter and MASS hope to make the apartments an attractive option for entrepreneurs and young professionals who want to make a new home for themselves in the up-and-coming city.

They’re all going to be a mixed-income model. The average is 80 percent AMI (area median income set by Housing and Urban Development.) So, you’ll have individuals coming in at 60 AMI and some at 100 percent AMI,” Baxter explains. Workforce housing remains an important issue for city developers across the Hudson Valley.


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In fact, affordable housing sits near the top of the City of Poughkeepsie’s priorities, according to Mayor Rob Rolison.

“We want those types of housing options for individuals who are looking to come to the City of Poughkeepsie, but, more importantly, better housing options for people who live here now…better housing in an affordable manner,” Mayor Rolison says. “We want to see a city that grows….It is also important to note that there have been people that are moving into the City of Poughkeepsie from different parts of Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley. It’s not just a mass exodus north of the greater metropolitan area, even though there’s a lot of that [in response to] COVID-19.”

On the ground floor, meanwhile, The Academy will be a buzzing center of activity – literally. To promote business and community, a coworking space in the corner of 35 Academy will be open to The Academy residents and locals who work remotely or for themselves. It will offer dedicated studios for budding businesses that need a place to convene, as well as shared work tables for visitors who want to rent out a desk for the day.


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“It will bring a sense of creativity back into the city center and get people living and working downtown,” Baxter says. “I think the most recent trend for development is the live-work-play model where individuals can live downtown, walk to bars, restaurants, and other establishments without having to drive 30 minutes away.”

Murphy agrees, adding that the introduction of a setting like The Academy to Poughkeepsie’s burgeoning landscape takes place at a critical moment in the city’s expansion. “The City of Poughkeepsie has needed new development, new investment for decades,” he says. “This is a chance to bring all our efforts together. It’s a very homegrown initiative.”

As he observes, the union does have far-reaching potential. Already, Baxter maintains a strong presence throughout the Hudson Valley, overseeing projects as diverse as Heritage Food + Drink and Ready Coffee in Wappingers Falls, Mill House Brewing and Hudson & Packard in Poughkeepsie, and Scribner’s Catskill Lodge in Hunter. MASS, meanwhile, brings an inclusive, community-minded design process to the region after establishing firm roots in Rwanda and Boston. Locally, the firm has already made a mark on the city with the design of the Trolley Barn in Poughkeepsie, a project that revitalizes the old downtown trolley building as a new magnet for local artists and creatives.

“It takes all of us to take on the City of Poughkeepsie,” Murphy concludes. “We’re excited.”

Related: Poughkeepsie’s Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital Gets a Live-Work Update

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