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KINGSTON, NY-Anyone familiar with the history of the fields in and around Woodstock, NY, shouldn’t be surprised that environmentally friendly development is encouraged. But what may be surprising is the origin of TechCity, a new “green” project that will redevelop an IBM industrial facility into an eco-village, says developer Alan Ginsberg.

Currently a 2.5 million-square-foot industrial facility dating from the 1950s and closed by IBM in the early 1990s, TechCity will be located on 260 acres in Kingston, NY, in the midst of a growing high-tech area in the Hudson Valley. The site also is next door to the fabled Woodstock area–though contrary to popular belief, the 1969 concert took place not in Woodstock, but in neighboring Bethel, NY. Most important will be a number of energy-efficient technologies and economically sensitive development philosophies that its development team says can serve as models for other redevelopments around the country.

“We have one big property, and we need to make it into several parcels and drive it with renewable energy,” says Ginsberg, owner and chairman of TechCity Properties. “I want to be off the grid.”

TechCity already is home to Bank of America and several tenants focusing on renewable energy, technology and communications. But new plans call for the site to become a mixed-use eco-village. The $260-million project will consist of 1.2 million square feet of industrial space; 865,000 square feet of office space; 165,000 square feet of retail space and a multi-family housing component still to be determined. The project is a true public/private partnership, with the town, county, development and design teams collaborating on creating the best use for an existing development.

“[The town is] very green and didn’t want any new industrial developments,” Ginsberg says. “We’re using the already created industrial park. It’s already zoned. We have roads, huge amounts of electricity, and one million gallons of water coming in every day.”

The site also has significant infrastructure and buildings in place that would have been fiscally impossible to recreate–and provides an exceptional opportunity for recycling.”"This was one of IBM’s most important infrastructure facilities,” where mainframes were tested, said Ginsberg, who acquired the facility in 1998. “Imagine one floor of 300,000 square feet with cables below, and multiplying that by five.”

But what works for an industrial building does not work for a neighborhood. The master plan, by White Plains, NY-based land use planning firm Divney Tung Schwalbe, will modernize the property while preserving approximately 40 acres of open space and natural areas. While the industrial buildings remain as a core, the new TechCity incorporates sidewalks, landscaping and a New Urbanist neighborhood.

The key was to demolish 20% of the existing space, says J. Michael Divney, a partner at Divney Tung Schwalbe. The buildings themselves were in fine shape structurally, but their configuration was obsolete, with large sprawling parking lots, little landscaping and no accommodation for pedestrians.

“One principle of sustainability is recapturing the energy that’s already there,”" Divney said. “As we studied it, we came upon a way to remove 500,000 square feet of obsolete buildings and break up the remaining into 15 buildings with landscaping.”

The new design includes the conversion of two long industrial buildings into parking decks broken by a large park, a system of new internal roads, green space, sidewalks, and landscaped spaces, and the retrofitting of existing buildings for greater efficiency. A large central drive is creating a main retail street that Ulster had wanted for its own main street. Clean energy systems, including solar panels and green roofs on the property’s existing large-area, wind turbines and other technologies still being discussed, will be incorporated. Outmoded plumbing fixtures will be replaced with efficient models.

The new energy plan continues a sustainable philosophy already begun at the project. TechCity has shut down the site’s outmoded, oil-burning central utility plant, replaced by individual, low emission, gas-fired rooftop units in occupied buildings that save 100 tons of airborne pollutants emitted annually.

In addition, simply by converting to natural gas from oil, the project saved $1 million in fuel costs, with no money spent on oil at all last year, Ginsberg says. Smart management techniques cut the project’s energy usage from 9.1 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2006 to 5.8 million kWh in 2008–a 36% reduction. The project saved $1 million in energy costs in 2008.

A shuttle to help residents and workers get around the project, as well as its proximity to Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, NY, also help the project’s sustainability objectives, Divney says.

The idea of applying for LEED certification hasn’t really been discussed, Divney says, “But this has all kinds of points, whether we go for it or not. We’re taking 2.5 million square feet of building and renovating it. They’re saving the light fixtures and sheetrock, and [recycling] the pavement.”

TechCity is a true public/private partnership, according to both Ginsberg and Divney, with the Town of Ulster serving the lead agency for TechCity’s State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process, a key initial step in the redevelopment process. The project is being privately financed, with the state granting a number of tax incentives to potential tenants, including business tax abatements, business tax reduction credits and exemptions, employee credits, loans and grants for infrastructure and workforce training, and investment tax credits.

“All of the support a developer would want has been granted to us,” Ginsberg says. “Everyone wants to see this: they believe in us, trust us and respect us.”

The first of its five phases, the incorporation of energy efficiency management into the existing buildings, is complete, and Ginsberg is now on phase 2, the demolition. Phase 3 preparing for new companies to enter the industrial park, should be completed within 18 months. Ultimately, the project should be complete in about 5 years, with residential development contingent on the comeback of the housing market. And it should serve as a prototype that can be adapted around the country.

“There will be more obsolete plants,” Divney says. “There are another 250 acres of land somewhere we don’t have to destroy. There’s no longer a need to start any new greenfield site. We can unlock the energy of existing development.”

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