Poughkeepsie Academy: Food, Craft Beer, Apartments

You may remember it as “La Ruche”.

Three years ago last month, the Poughkeepsie project was officially announced as a mixed-use development that could not only bolster food infrastructure in a city that has food deserts, but also provide affordable housing.

Since then the name and exterior designs have changed. A beehive design motif on the walls has been replaced with a flower mural, reaching into a penthouse still under construction.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also taken its toll, forcing developers to redesign elements and causing shortages that have increased costs. The original plan for a 2020 opening is a distant memory.

But, the idea of ​​combining a food hall, fresh produce market, restaurant, event space and coworking space with housing has never changed.

Developers and officials say when the project, known as ‘The Academy’ since fall 2020, opens in a few months, it will mark another milestone in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Queen City. .

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“We believe that the Academy will not only energize the current revitalization of the city – we want to restore the neighborhood to the vibrancy that existed before,” said Christian Palikuca, Development Partner, “but we also want to serve as cultural catalyst where the best events and food and beverages in the Hudson Valley will be accessible for everyone to enjoy.”

Inside the Academy in the town of Poughkeepsie on February 15, 2022. The Academy will be a mixed-use development with housing, a food hall, event space and beer garden.

The Academy joins other developments that have repurposed vacant space, such as Queen City Lofts, 40 Cannon Street, the Trolley Barn and the Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory, with more completion or on the horizon, such as the Youth Opportunity Union.

The Academy, at 33-35 Academy Street, was originally a $10 million project, but costs have increased by $3 million over the past three years. $1.2 million came from a grant from Consolidated State Funding Requests.

Plans include 28 apartments with income restrictions and a fresh produce market that would operate year-round. However, some details about the food market remain unclear, leaving questions about its accessibility for low-income residents, especially as it is open near an existing supermarket.

The project is a collaboration between RL Baxter Building Corporation and MASS Design Group. MASS is led by Poughkeepsie resident Michael Murphy and has worked on several revitalization projects in the city after gaining acclaim for its work in Rwanda.

Construction on the third floor of the Academy in the town of Poughkeepsie on February 15, 2022. The Academy will be a mixed-use development with housing, a food hall, event space and beer garden.

Mayor Rob Rolison considers the Academy a win for the city, adding another destination for visitors.

“Anything that attracts people to the city – that entices them to live, dine and shop here – is good for the city,” he said.

Development in the pandemic

Eric Baxter tries to see the bright side of things. While COVID-19 served as a hindrance to the Academy’s development, he said there were positives.

“We’ve overcome a lot with COVID, with material delays, labor delays, increased construction costs, supply issues,” said vice president RL Baxter. “But the way it kind of delayed our opening, we’re actually kind of grateful, because when we do open, we’ll be able to fully open without any restrictions.”

The Academy’s 28 apartments include one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and studio options. Prices will range from 60% to 120% of the region’s median income.

Construction on the second floor of the Academy in the town of Poughkeepsie on February 15, 2022. The Academy will be a mixed-use development with housing, a food hall, event space and beer garden.

Baxter described lack of housing as an ongoing concern in Dutchess County that existed even before the migration of residents from the downstate to the Hudson Valley.

“There just isn’t enough housing in all areas, from affordable markets to single-family homes in the Hudson Valley, and especially in Dutchess County,” a- he declared. “We are just trying to do our part and fill this gap by creating new housing for people to live in this area.”

The apartments are expected to be completed by August, with applications opening in April or May, Baxter said.

“Part of this will provide another housing option in what has been a tight market,” Rolison said. “The city needs all types of housing. There is definitely a shortage.”

The coworking space within the development has also been designed with social distancing in mind, allowing for partitioned areas.

The impact of the pandemic also shaped the development’s final layout, as well as some features of its retail offerings.

“In the way we arranged the seating, we created more flexibility where historically in food halls you would have more common seating,” Palikuca said. “We also have very robust delivery, delivery and pick-up components where people will be able to order from any food stand.”

Food hall, restaurant and more

The Academy should become a gastronomic destination.

“The level of expertise of the professionals we have brought together will be able to deliver world-class hospitality and products to the region,” Palikuca said.

The bar inside the Academy catering hall in the town of Poughkeepsie on February 15, 2022. The Academy will be a mixed-use development with housing, a catering hall, event space and cafe in outdoors.

The Academy Kitchen and Bar is the centerpiece of the development’s culinary offering. The 75-seat American bistro will offer an extensive cocktail menu.

The development will also include a food hall comprising four internally managed businesses:

  • Valley Green will offer a selection of salads and cereal bowls targeting health conscious customers.
  • Smoke 33 will be offering a barbecue at the roadhouse, with smoked meats and comfort food.
  • East-West is an Asian fusion concept serving ramen, bao and other dishes.
  • The Academy Brew will be a craft beer retail store selling a rotation of locally produced beers.

The third element of the Development Food Plans is the Academy Market. This section will include a café serving Ready Coffee. There will also be a second location for Newburgh Flour Shop.

“We are thrilled to bring the expertise of (owner) Michael Kelly to Dutchess County,” Palikuca said. “He’s made a name for himself with Liberty Street Bistro and Flour Shop, so we’re thrilled to have him on this side of the river.”

Culinary options are expected to open by the end of May.

Market in the middle of a food desert

Perhaps the least solidified aspect of the Academy is its fresh produce market.

Palikuca said they were finalizing an agreement with an outside operator. As such, exact market details are scarce.

“We are currently negotiating with successful operators in the Hudson Valley to lease this grocery space,” he said. “So the intention for them is to source almost all of their produce from local farmers and get most of the meat and seafood from regional rangers and fishermen.”

Inside the entrance hall of the Academy in the town of Poughkeepsie on February 15, 2022. The Academy will be a mixed-use development with housing, a food hall, event space and beer garden .

The market serves as an attractive amenity for potential Academy residents and workers, but it could also serve as a balm for Poughkeepsie’s food insecurity problem.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Access Research Atlas, the city has five census tracts with low-income residents located more than half a mile from the nearest supermarket. , and one in which low-income residents are more than a mile away. from a supermarket. In each, there are more than 100 housing units that do not have their own vehicles to go to a supermarket.

However, it’s unclear exactly how the Academy’s fresh food market might impact food accessibility.

Food vendor stalls and a dining bar inside the Academy's food hall in the town of Poughkeepsie on February 15, 2022. The Academy will be a mixed-use development with housing, a gym catering, event space and beer garden.

The development is about a third of a mile from Tropical Fresh Supermarket on Main Street. Additionally, the market price could be a barrier for some who struggle to access food.

Still, developers say uniting residents was a goal of the project and one of the reasons the name was changed in fall 2020.

“The Academy makes a lot of sense,” said society president Amanda Baxter at the time. “Obviously it comes from the street name, but it also represents how we create this incubator space for the community.”

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