With its simple, functional design, the Pilgrim Furniture Factory building had a modern — almost futuristic look — when architect Albert E. Milliken finalized his plans in 1946. Although such design elements may now seem retro, the former Kingston factory is ready to embrace the future.
Plans have been finalized to transform the building, now called The Metro, into a creative hub, tying in film production and other endeavors that will bring jobs and visitors into midtown Kingston.
A few years ago the building attracted the attention of the Kingston-based non profit organization RUPCO, which recently re-imagined Kingston’s Lace Mill into an art mecca and stylish affordable housing.
“The Metro was the last vacant factory in Kingston, sitting there, not doing anything, with overgrown vegetation and in blighted condition,” said Kevin O’Connor, RUPCO’s Chief Executive Officer. “The building, undoubtedly a handsome, historic structure with art deco touches, was located a few blocks away from our proposed mixed-income, mixed-use proposal for Energy Square, which is just a few blocks away from The Lace Mill. We saw the potential early on that the three projects, taken together, could be transformative for midtown Kingston.”
â€‹RUPCO first thought to use the building as a possible storage hub for the area’s food pantries, but that idea fell through and a new plan to revitalize midtown focused on providing space for local makers — artists and builders — to create products.
According to the project’s architect Scott Dutton, who also revamped The Lace Mill, creating space for “makers” is an important part of recognizing a changing economy.
“What we’re finding is that the maker class is re-defining and opening up new business avenues,” said Dutton. “For example, look at the local company Black Creek Mercantile. Ten years ago you might have called them ‘woodworkers’. Bailey Pottery, R&F Encaustics, Fruition Chocolate, Keegan Ales, or Bread Alone for that matter 15 years ago. We think of these companies now as strong businesses that fit comfortably in conventional standard industrial classification categories, but each, at one time, was a startup maker with a vision to make something that did not exist in the market or, if it did exist, to re-define it or do it differently.”
The building is located at a promising axis.
“Broadway is naturally the North South corridor that we all think of as defining Midtown, however, you can start to see the importance of Cornell Street, through to Greenkill Ave (aka Route 32) as an emerging axis for both vehicular as well as pedestrian traffic,” said Dutton. “Having major routes in both directions deepens the potential for redevelopment throughout midtown as opposed to just along one linear axis.”
The vision for the building’s creative potential crystallized when a new partner expressed interest. The non-profit organization, Stockade Works, co-founded by actress/director Mary Stuart Masterson, sought to bring more film production to the area.
“Her idea for a film and TV technology center with a soundstage, post-production facilities, and job training center fit easily as the ‘hub’ for The Metro,” said O’Connor. “Mary’s commitment to job training and creating pathways of opportunity for local residents sealed the deal.”
The 70,000 square foot building was purchased for the price of $1.9 million and will cost an estimated $11.8 million to renovate. Part of the cost will be financed by state and federal historic tax credits, as the building is nominated for both state and federal historic registers. In December 2016 The Metro was awarded a grant of $1 million from Empire State Development, a New York State program which works to revitalize upstate New York. The Metro is expected to create more than 500 jobs in Kingston and many of those jobs might be in film production. In 2016 Governor Andrew Cuomo extended a 40 percent tax credit for film production to upstate counties, including Ulster.
“This creates the opportunity for film production to locate in the Hudson Valley, because the tax incentives are on par with tax credit incentives downstate, upstate or out of state,” said Guy Kempe, RUPCO’s vice-president of community development.
According to Beth Davenport, Stockade Works co-founder and executive director, television production is experiencing an unprecedented boom. More production locations and skilled workers are needed.
“With over 500 television shows in production this year, and over 55 series currently in production in New York City alone, there is a real need for affordable, professional locations and workforce to meet the demand. The Hudson Valley has a lot to offer location-wise — from beautiful locations to local food and beverage. We are also home to top industry leaders and creative class professionals; directors, producers, actors, studio executives, and crew. However, to meet the demands of increased incoming productions, we need to build our local crew base — providing more jobs for Hudson Valley residents.”
Local publisher Luminary Media and RUPCO are working together on a market analysis to determine what kinds of businesses might best co-exist in The Metro, and possibly help support the film industry. If all goes well, The Metro should be operational by spring 2019.
The building’s architect recently released drawings of proposed interiors at 2 South Prospect Street, which both reimagines the site and honors the original design.
“Interestingly enough my associate, Robert E. Milliken, Architect, found the original drawings that his father Albert E. Milliken did in 1947,” said Dutton. “ We intend to honor and celebrate the existing architecture and, as testimony to that, we submitted an application and were successful in insuring that the original building will be preserved by getting it individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building is largely one floor, however it does have a very cool mezzanine that we intend to exploit.”
You can find updates on the building’s progress here.