Report cites gains
By Jeff Simms
At nearly the halfway point of 2016, as its officials reflect on the past year, Beacon is, in many ways, a busy but still charming smaller New York state municipality.
Responding to 1,607 emergency, medical and fire-related incidents in an average of three minutes, the city’s fire department in 2015 boasted the quickest response time of any fire department in Dutchess County.
In 2015, Beacon police responded to 300 various crimes, the bulk of them larcenies, and made 761 arrests. Crime was up just slightly from 2014 but overall has trended downward over the last five years.
Four parks are maintained citywide, and in 2015 over 4,500 adults and kids utilized the Beacon Pool, which was reopened at the University Settlement site after a six-year hiatus.
But nowhere is the city’s expansive growth more evident than in its building department. Beacon’s 2015 annual report, released this week, shows 669 permits issued in 2015. A year earlier, 683 permits were issued. Those figures include plumbing, rental and electrical and other permits, but the majority are for building.
“The city is in good shape,” said Mayor Randy Casale. “We’ve got a good, smart growth rate and our finances are good.”
Indeed, Casale also announced this week that Moody’s Investor Service has assigned Beacon an Aa2 bond rating, an upgrade from the previous Aa3 rating, which it received in Feb. 2011. The rating, which designates Beacon as “high quality and subject to very low credit risk,” is particularly important as the city prepares to fund the construction of a new highway garage building, Rombout Avenue reconstruction and the city-wide LED street light project.
Citing prudent financial management, favorable reserves, moderate growth in its tax base and an increase in development activity, the rating places Beacon highest among cities and towns in Dutchess County and is also among the highest bond ratings in New York state, City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said.
Numerous building projects are ongoing inside the five-square-mile city of 15,000-plus residents. In all, approximately 500 residential units have been approved and are in the city’s building pipeline, with another 165 pending before the planning board.
At 151 Main Street, a 12-room boutique hotel with retail and gallery space below is being erected, while another modern, market-rate hotel is being built in the four-story, turn-of-the-century brick building at 428 Main.
The Roundhouse complex, which anchors the rejuvenated east end of Main Street, is slated to add 18 new hotel rooms in a former mill building, as well as additional live/work studio lofts. The Lofts at Beacon, a conversion of several former textile buildings, will add 114 live/work studio apartments on Front Street between Route 52 and Fishkill Creek. Twelve dwelling units out of a first phase of 50 are now complete and a greenway trail has been constructed and is open.
Four new residential buildings have been approved at the 248 Tioronda site along Fishkill Creek, several blocks south of Main Street. The complex will ultimately include 100 new two-bedroom units.
Construction has also begun to convert a former auto salvage site on Creek Road (and adjacent to Fishkill Creek) into loft-style condominiums. And the iconic former mill property on Beacon’s east side known as “1 East Main” is being rehabilitated with commercial space on the lower level and condominium apartments above.
In March of this year, the planning board also approved the redevelopment of the historic Beacon Theater at 445 Main Street. Plans there call for 32 apartments to be built atop a new, 195-seat performance space.
Casale attributes the rapid growth to a turnaround in the economy and decisions to rezone parts of Beacon for more dense development, among other factors.
“People have seen how we’re progressing,” he said. “We’re building-friendly. The building department is accommodating. And it’s always been this way — we’ve got the natural resources and the train station, and the exodus out of Brooklyn has led people to this community. It’s an attractive city.”
The mayor said he doesn’t see a pre-determined end in sight, particularly since the bond rating upgrade is a positive reflection on development in the city.
“According to our comprehensive plan [which is being revised this year], we can handle the growth,” Casale said, “but it’s got to be smart growth.”