Catskill, New York is hoping to become a bigger player in the so-called "creative economy."
It's being heralded as "Affordable, beautiful, commutable." Arts and performance circles are buzzing about the town and village that was one of the East Coast's top tourist destinations in the 1940s and 50s — a feat patrons hope will be eclipsed in the coming years.
Maureen Sager, Project Director of ACE, the Alliance for the Creative Economy, sees Catskill reawakening as new businesses pop up all along Main Street. "That's the effect of the arts. The arts aren't just fine arts or a gallery or performance spaces, they're the economic drivers for all this kind of activity. That's why we include them all in this definition of 'the creative economy.'"
The former American Dance Institute paid $1.2 million for a multi-building facility along Water Street that once was a waterfront lumberyard. Plans entail building a theatre along with artist accommodations and amenities. The total price tag to rehab LUMERYARD is pegged around $20 million.
Some of the financial power behind the new initiative is coming from Washington: In September, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer dropped in to check out LUMBERYARD's new digs. "It's one of the most exciting projects that I have seen. Because the benefits that will accrue to Catskill, to Greene County and to the whole northern Hudson Valley will be terrific."
Although LUMBERYARD had just closed on a $5 million dollar loan before Schumer's visit, he promised more help from D.C.: " I'll help them pursue all different kinds of federal grants, they've gotten some already and they're going to apply for many more. And I will go to bat and use the clout I have in Washington to make it happen."
Construction is set to begin before month's end at the Water Street site. Sager notes that the "creative economy" is the sixth-largest employer in the Capital Region. "They're all sorts of people. Designers, media people, filmmakers, marketing firms. Anything that's making creative content is all part of this ecosystem."
LUMBERYARD officials say Governor Andrew Cuomo previously pledged $800,000 for the project. Facilities are expected to be ready for use by the end of 2018.
ACE held an event last week partnering LUMBERYARD with the Thomas Cole National Historic site, representing the newest and oldest organizations in Catskill focused on the arts.
Betsy Jacks is executive director at the Cole site: "Catskill Village has a highly advantageous geography, because it is located in the wedge of land in between Catskill Creek and the Hudson River. So we have a lot of waterfront. This is part of what attracted the artist Thomas Cole to the area nearly 200 years ago: that scenic beauty. Fast-forward to the 21st Century, and the creek frontage in Catskill was dotted with empty warehouse buildings that are now the source of an explosion of new growth, including the LUMBERYARD. We had five ribbon-cuttings in the Village of Catskill last week. Catskill was the best-kept secret in the Hudson Valley. But it's not a secret anymore."