'Vacant to Vibrant' Kicks Off to Help Fill Deserted Buildings in Poughkeepsie

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Feza Oktay is the owner of North River Roasters, one of the businesses set to open up in 2016 at the historic Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory, which has been vacant for years.

Bringing life to the historic building is a part of a larger effort to encourage entrepreneurs to put their businesses in vacant buildings in an area of Main Street called Middle Main.

“Between Market Street and Pershing Avenue the vacancy rate is about 19 percent,” said Emma Flynn of Hudson River Housing Neighborhood Marketing Americorps VISTA .   

The campaign, organized by Hudson River Housing, is called Vacant to Vibrant.

“We feel if the store fronts were activated that will help to bring more attention and eyes to the street which will mitigate a lot of negative activity that people feel strongly about,” said Flynn.   

The campaign kicked-off Thursday with a series of events including a tour of empty buildings on Main Street and motivation from businesses in Middle Main that are doing well.

“Business has been great over the last few months, I see that money has freed up and people are really starting to re-invest in their business which means new office furniture, new employees,” said President of Hudson Valley Office Furniture, Steven Chickery.

Campaign leaders are also teaming up with VOTE, a group that is working to fix up empty lots by adding vibrant colored benches.

"To take places that don’t really look like much and transform them into places where we can have groups of people sit around and communicate with each other,” said Derek Baugh, member of VOTE or Voices of Tomorrow Empowered.

It’s a campaign that Oktay hopes more people will get involved in to truly help breathe new life into the city.

“There is definitely a leap of faith component to this. For those of us who are starting we can hold hands while we take that leap together,” said Oktay.

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