Orange County Partnership - News

South Liberty neighborhood comes alive in Newburgh

By Lana Bellamy

Times Herald-Record

Posted Feb 23, 2020 at 1:51 PM

CITY OF NEWBURGH – There’s an energy that some new business owners from outside the Newburgh say drew them to the South Liberty Street neighborhood. It’s hard for them to describe when asked, but they believe they have front row seats to a transformation happening on the southeast side of the city.

Perhaps it is a momentum they are building together; as one new storefront opens, another soon follows, attracting developers to nearby properties they can renovate into apartments, work spaces and shops. The activity entices people to move to the area. It puts pressure on the owners of nearby derelict properties to fix up their own buildings.

The Liberty Street corridor has blossomed over the past decade with new retail and restaurant business, but businesses cycled in and out for a few years, containing most activity between Spring Street and Broadway.

Now, the neighborhood on Liberty between South William to Renwick streets is coming alive.

Wireworks, 109 S. William St.

If everything goes according to plan, the $2.8 million transformation of an old garment and spring factory into commercial, office and living spaces will be finished this summer, said Sisha Ortuzar, a development partner.

BOM Newburgh LLC, created by Ortuzar, Baxter and Mapos, closed on its $75,000-purchase of the nearly 125-year-old property on Aug. 29.

A year-and-a-half of planning sprang into action last summer.

The ground floor of Wireworks will consist of two live-work studios and two commercial spaces. The first floor will consist of several co-working spaces and a conference room operated Beahive. Ortuzar said he wanted an open-concept floor plan without sacrificing privacy. His solution was to install glass interior-facing walls on the office spaces and wraparound glass walls for the conference room being built in the center of the first floor.

The top floor will have studio and one-bedroom apartments. Two units are designed to be ADA-compliant.

The project modernizes the century-old building and preserves its history and character through efforts to salvage and repurpose items, like tin ceiling sheets, 125-year-old wooden floor beams, cleaning and repointing exterior bricks, and updating original windows and skylights to usher in sunlight from the ground floor to the top.

“In terms of this project, for us, we’re in it for the long-haul,” said Ortuzar, who lives in Newburgh. “We’re not looking to just develop and flip the building. We actually want to make this a good, vibrant member of the community.”

Oliver & Chatfield, Rob’s Roast Coffees, 42 Liberty St.

Susan Knapik, owner of Oliver & Chatfield, recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of opening her gift shop on Liberty.

“Something felt like it was happening,” Knapik said about her decision to move her Cornwall business to Newburgh. “You know? Something felt like it was moving.”

Knapik moved to the Hudson Valley from Columbus, Ohio. She said the energy on the Liberty Street corridor reminds her of a vibrant section of Columbus, called Short North, that has made a comeback with independent restaurants and shopping.

She also thought the success of the Liberty Street Bistro and Cream Newburgh was encouraging.

“I kind of felt like if they could make it in this spot and bring something different then it will be a piece of cake for me,” Knapik said.

Rob’s Roast Coffees opened next door seven months ago.

“It’s been brilliant,” said owner Rob Popper. “We have a great set of local, loyal customers.”

Popper, who lives in Woodstock, said his wife, who was raised in Poughkeepsie, was the one who thought Newburgh would be a good fit for their business.

On the way back from Brewster one day, Popper and his wife stopped in Newburgh and went for a stroll. Turns out, his wife new the person who owned 42 Liberty and was renting out the space downstairs.

“We just took that as a sign from some forces of Coffee-ness in the world,” Popper said. “It also, for me, it really felt right.”

They had considered sites in Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Saugerties and other Mid-Hudson areas. But the business people in Newburgh, he said, were genuinely welcoming to them, instead of looking at him as an imposter.

“Since we’ve opened, it’s just gotten better and better,” he said.

Murmuration, Fabhaus, 27 Johnes St.

Murmuration and Fabhaus, a creative production partnership, is operated from an 11,000-square-foot warehouse garage that opens onto Liberty Street, between South William Street and Beknard Avenue.

Jesse Farrenkopf, of Murmuration, and Ricardo Fuentes, of Fabhaus, have worked together for years. Fuentes’ skills in digital fabrication Farrenkopf’s theatrical set and prop design ventures were a perfect match.

Murmuration Inc. has been involved with prop designs for big-name brands, such as Nike, Macy’s, Dos Equis and more.

Outside their workshop, there is no sign or flashy storefront marking their presence. It is a busy workshop involved with promotional work in New York City that passersby would never know was there.

But they are considering adding a glass garage door or a mural outside.

“We’re usually working in the summer with the door open and you get a lot of people wondering what’s going on,” Fuentes said. “I actually met two clients that way.”

Fuentes said they believe they have a responsibility to connect the residential areas on South Liberty to business activity happening further north.

“We don’t want people to stop at the end of the block and say, ‘Ah, that’s just crappy warehouses (down there),’” Farrenkopf said.

2 Liberty St.

They told John Bonhomme it couldn’t be done, but he knew in his heart that it could.

“It was a little bit of an ego thing,” Bonhomme said as to why he purchased the property.

Bonhomme, who has invested in Newburgh real estate since 2012, bought 2 Liberty St. in December of 2015 from the City of Newburgh.

The building was an eyesore at the corner of Liberty and Renwick streets.

Engineers and architects told Bonhomme he was better off demolishing the structure. He said they called him ‘crazy’ for attempting to restore the three-story, three-sided building that had fallen into such disrepair that its roof and interior flooring were collapsed.

Bonhomme dedicated four years, $400,000 of his personal money and countless hours of work with his dad to prove everyone wrong.

“I’m happy, but as a businessman, I’m disappointed in myself for taking on the project out of pride,” Bonhomme said. ”... But as a person, I feel it was a huge accomplishment.”

It was worth it, he said, to give something beautiful back to the community.

The top two floors were renovated into high-end lofts, renting at $1,400 and below. The bottom floor is being used as a social media production studio.

Apartments, 67-75 Renwick St.

Developer Hershy Weinstock recently finished making over a row of attached apartments on Renwick Street.

It’s his signature style, having recently completed a row of attached apartments in a long-vacant building on Washington Street.

The one and two-bedroom market-rate units on Renwick are geared toward middle-income people who “appreciate a higher standard of living,” Weinstock said. He stripped the building to restore the plumbing and infrastructure and add high-end finishes.

Around the corner on Colden Street, the Kearney Group has proposed building more than 60 middle-income apartments.

“Things are happening all over the city,” Weinstock said. “Not just on the Liberty Street corridor.”

Weinstock said he has met other developers who would just repaint a place, add new, cheap carpet, and charge as much as possible for rent.

It has become somewhat of a standard for prospective renters in Newburgh, he said.

“A lot of people don’t expect something better,” he said.