County projects win major state grants

Culture, transport and housing projects see new funds

ALBANY — The state has awarded $62.7 million to the Capitol Region Economic Development Council to help rebuild and encourage economic growth throughout the 10 counties that make up the region, and some of that money is designated for half a dozen projects in Columbia County.

Three local historic sites in the county — Olana, the Hudson Opera House and the Dr. Oliver Bronson House — fared well in what was a contest for economic development money announced last July by Governor Andrew Cuomo. There will also be funding for Housing Resources of Columbia County and a private wastewater treatment system in Kinderhook. The largest grant, $2.2 million, will be used to build a truck-to-train loading facility in Greenport near the ADM plant on Route 23.

 

“We’re very, very excited. We’re thrilled,” said HOH Executive Director Gary Shiro in a phone conversation about the $400,000 award to his organization. “This will contribute toward the completion of the entire building.” The project, still in the planning stage, includes the complete renovation of the Former Common Council chamber located on the first floor of the former opera house and city hall on Warren Street. It also involves a corner of the first floor and the construction of an elevator tower in the east alley. The renovation of the large second floor theater, funded by a different grant, is also in the planning stages.

Mr. Shiro said that the group has assembled a design team and plans to start work on the building by the end of 2012. The entire renovation will generate the equivalent of 85 full-time jobs, he said.

The Olana Partnership was awarded $274,125 to restore Olana’s historic north meadows, 250 acres of forested land that will be brought back to the way artist Frederick Church had shaped them. The grant will enable the restoration of scenic views with a middle ground of pastures, meadows and parkland that echo the compositional style of the artist’s paintings. The Olana landscape is considered by art experts to be the last and greatest of Mr. Church’s artistic creations.

Mark Prezorski, Olana’s landscape curator and the person who will oversee the work, said that the grant will lead to more views toward Mount Merino and Hudson and will return the landscape to that of a working farm, with grazing areas, ornamental areas and parkland, giving visitors a more authentic sense of Church’s original design.

The Dr. Oliver Bronson House, located near the state prison in Hudson, received $300,000 for renovation. The house is administered by Historic Hudson.

“We’re so pleased to see that the people who made these decisions see cultural tourism as an integral part of the Capital District economic development. It draws visitors from New York City and can connect them with the cultural riches of Albany,” said Sara Griffen, president of the Olana Partnership.

On the business side, the $2.2 million was awarded for construction of what is called a truck to train rail transloading facility located near the ADM facility. Columbia County Commissioner of Economic Development Ken Flood said at a recent meeting of the county Board of Supervisors Finance Committee that the facility would serve region and would help with the transportation of agricultural products, lumber, gravel and other commodities downstate, offering a good alternative to trucking. Currently no loading facility of this sort exists nearby either in Dutchess or Rensselaer counties.

Housing Resources of Columbia County received $675,000 for local home repair for Columbia County home owners, with $75,000 of that amount earmarked for emergency repairs for seniors. The organization’s program administrator, Stephanie Lane, called the award “a nice surprise,” and said that the grants will fund home repair projects for the coming two years during which time she expects to hire a lot of contractors.

“Eligible applicants for home repair should call us at 822-0707,” she said.

The grants came from the Homes and Community Renewal Corporation and Affordable Housing Corporation of New York, which have both funded Housing Resources in the past, but which came through the Regional Economic Development Council this year.

Kinderhook’s Dutch Inn received $285,000 for a wastewater collection project.

Among other grants in the region were $3.5 million designated for an upgrade to Albany International Airport, and $11.5 million for enlargement of the port facilities in Rensselaer. The state also awarded $1.5 million for transforming the Windham ski area into a year round resort and $1 million will support the Albany area’s biotech industry and biomedical research.

The local grants are part of a total of $785 million awarded through the governor’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative. More competitive grants are expected to be awarded in the future.

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