Beacon artist to resurrect former dealership

DiNapoli and Salicco Motor Sales once showcased Studebakers to potential buyers and Ninni Construction based its business inside the one-story building on the southeast corner of South Chestnut and Henry streets in Beacon.

But since the last occupant, an auto repair shop called Riccoboni’s, closed, the only displays at 5 Henry St. have been graffiti sprayed on its walls and the quote from poet Audre Lorde — “Revolution is not a one-time event” — plastered on the plywood covering the window openings along the South Chestnut side. 

Now, buoyed by a $2 million grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Beacon artist Michael Braden is preparing to break ground on the building’s next chapter — as The Garage, a collection of studios for Braden and three other artists, a gallery for exhibits and a venue for public events.

5 Henry Street
The exterior of 5 Henry St. (Photo by L. Sparks)
A rendering of The Garage after renovations
A rendering of The Garage after renovations

Braden said on Tuesday (Jan. 30) that construction documents are being finalized as he prepares to apply for a building permit to renovate the 11,000-square-foot structure, which will have rooftop solar panels, all-electric mechanical systems and other features to achieve carbon-neutral status. 

Demolishing the structure and rebuilding from scratch would have been cheaper, said Braden, who expects to break ground in May. “But there’s too much history there,” he said. “I just felt like we’ve got to keep this. This is important, somehow.” 

Raised by his grandfather, a mason and stone carver, Braden is an architect, painter and sculptor who said he burned out on designing buildings and became a full-time artist a decade ago. 

Michael BradenPhoto provided
Michael Braden
(Photo provided)

He and his wife, Carrie Gibson, an actor and writer, decided during the pandemic to leave Los Angeles for New York City to be closer to their two grown daughters. They envisioned buying a brownstone in Brooklyn and renting a studio, but crashed headfirst into the city’s high housing costs and lack of available properties. 

They settled for a property in Ulster Park, near Kingston, but felt too distant from New York City and the airports they used for travel. They took a look at Beacon and “everything about it felt right,” said Braden, who moved with his wife to the city in 2022. 

“It’s a community that exists on the sidewalk,” he said. “You can see someone, strike up a conversation and, pretty soon, 20 minutes have gone by.”

When his search for a studio to accommodate his large-scale paintings and sculptures proved fruitless, Braden decided that “if I can’t find something to rent, I’m going to do my own thing, and I found the building on Henry Street.” 

Fortunately for Braden, a developer’s proposal in 2021 to replace the structure with a three-story, 16-apartment building with retail space did not progress.

His design calls for his main painting studio, a workshop, a gallery called The Viewing Room and an office and library to occupy 7,900 square feet. The surplus will be used to construct three 1,000-square-foot studios for other artists. 

The gallery will showcase his works and those by other artists, and Braden plans to open his studio to public events, such as poetry and script readings, and performance art. 

A rendering of the viewing room at The Garage
A rendering of the viewing room at The Garage.

“I also want to, at least once a year, if not twice a year, sponsor something for young people — high school, community college kids who haven’t had a lot of chances,” he said. “They’d get a stipend to make some work and then show it.” 

Both artists and visitors will use electricity generated by the solar array and heating and cooling produced by a geothermal system. A biofiltration system will decontaminate rainwater draining from the roof before it flows into Beacon’s stormwater system. 

NYSERDA, whose Carbon Neutral Community Economic Development Awards grant is funding the environment-friendly features, initially said that the Henry Street project was not the kind they considered a priority, said Braden. 

“Our message and our desire to be part of the community, and just the whole vision, kind of slowly had us rise up through all the other applications, and we were fortunate enough to be selected,” said Braden. 

“I feel a great responsibility, both to NYSERDA and to the community, to follow through and make this vision happen.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

Join the Conversation

6 Comments

  1. Could someone explain how a taxpayer-funded state grant is paying for artist studios? I’m an artist and a youth educator and this seems a bit off. As a resident of South Chestnut, I’m concerned these kind of wealthy personal projects will send our property taxes through the roof. Is the grant due to green energy, solar or other? How can we all get grants for these things or is it a privilege reserved for some? The “community” facing plan here feels very secondary or has the author of this piece minimized that information?

    1. The $2 million grant was from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Carbon Neutral Community Economic Development program, which encourages projects that will operate at carbon-neutral or net-zero energy performance.

  2. NYSERDA is happy to support plans for a project that increases the efficiency of a project that decreases its dependence on fossil fuels. This project does just that. The grants are open to all that apply for projects that do the same. Yes, it takes paperwork but you and I can apply! Adding a space to the city only enhances the city far more than the type of development that’s been going on.

  3. The rendering of this project seems accurate by development and local government standards, with no people of color. [via Facebook]

  4. The way things are going in this country, sports, entertainment and the arts aren’t going to improve our way of life, although it’s nice to see something nice being built. I used to go out every morning to paint over the graffiti there. [via Facebook]

  5. Love the solar. However, why were they unable to build apartments above? We need more housing to accommodate people and to prevent forced migration.

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