The surge of revitalization that swept through river communities along New York’s Hudson River in recent years largely bypassed the City of Poughkeepsie. Less than 10 years ago, the city of roughly 30,000 people in Dutchess County had a poverty rate of 24% and more than a quarter of the population never finished high school. The city’s profile is beginning to change, and the Leviticus Fund is playing an important role in that transformation.
In 2019, the City of Poughkeepsie created an Innovation District in the heart of downtown to attract more residents to the city center and to foster the development of a creative economy. Among the latest plans for the district is the creation of the Wallace Campus, a major multi-use development designed to provide affordable housing and generate new economic opportunity.
Wallace Campus is the vision of three for-profit firms committed to community economic development—A. Larovere Consulting, Mega Contracting Group, and Urban Green Equities—that formed a joint venture to acquire and develop the three underused lots spanning four acres along Main Street where the new campus will be located.
Loans to early stage real estate projects like Wallace Campus can present significant repayment risks, and conventional lenders are often reluctant to provide financing unless the developers put a significant amount of their own capital into the deal. As a result, developers of these large-scale economic revitalization projects must find mission-driven lenders like Leviticus who are equally committed to their projects and have the financial capacity to take on the risk.
Leviticus stepped up to provide a $4.6 million acquisition loan to enable the joint venture to purchase the properties for Wallace Campus. Because the amount of capital needed exceeded what was then our maximum acquisition loan amount to a single borrower, we sold a $1.1 million participation to Community Capital New York, another nonprofit community development lender.
Thanks to Leviticus’ support, Wallace Campus will bring 214 units of affordable housing to downtown Poughkeepsie, with most of the units serving very low- and extremely low-income households. The development combines the restoration of the long dormant Wallace Department Store, and construction of two complementary buildings. Beyond the needed affordable housing, the project will offer a childcare center, a community fitness center, commercial space, and a privately maintained public park that will include a small amphitheater for concerts, plays, poetry readings, and other community events.