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Poughkeepsie rezoning could boost city's art scene

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Albany/HV: Poughkeepsie rezoning could boost city's art scene
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A growing art movement in Poughkeepsie could get a boost if city officials decide to rezone the downtown into an arts district. YNN's John Wagner explains.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- The owner of Poughkeepsie's ultra-trendy Bull and Buddha restaurant said Main Street reminds him of New York City in the 1980s.

"Old factories, old buildings, and all of a sudden all of the artists came there, they opened up galleries," said Andy Arkun, co-owner of Bull and Buddha, offering modern pacific cuisine. "I think we're going in the same direction and I think this can be the SoHo of the Hudson Valley."

Poughkeepsie already has a number of cultural hotspots, but city rezoning plans would work to centralize the arts movement into a walkable area. At the same time, providing a face lift to the city's core.

"The arts have traditionally been a way to bring an excitement, livability, and vibrancy to a downtown area," said Linda Marston-Reid, president of the Dutchess County Arts Council and a key player behind the arts district.

By focusing the art movement's momentum along a few blocks of Main and Market streets, Poughkeepsie officials hope to draw more tourists and locals downtown to help businesses currently treading water. And attract artists from SoHo.

"Poughkeepsie, the end of the line, come on Metro-North, pay half what you pay for rent, get a great space, do your work here," said Marston-Reid.

"Address the vacant properties, address the empty storefronts, and allow it to become something thriving, slowly but surely," said Eric Townsend, an artist living on Main Street who often walks to the train with his photography equipment to work in Manhattan.

The arts district would result as one feature of the city's first comprehensive zoning code update in 34 years. Mayor John Tkazyik expects to have the new code passed by the end of the year.

"We could have artists live-work lofts, we could have studios, we could have galleries," said Mayor Tkazyik, who expects an economic boost with the plan.

"It would make it so much easier for everyone to access the arts. It also makes it much easier to market the arts and it makes the arts a much more visible economic driver," said Loretta Spence, program director for Poughkeepsie's Barrett Art Center.

The Dutchess County Arts Council is also working to form a cultural center that would include nonprofit art groups, a gift shop, a museum quality space, and a black box theater. Another reason to stop downtown.

"It's good for the business owners," continued Bull and Buddha's Andy Arkun. "It's good for the landlords. It's good for the city. They collect more taxes; so it works for everybody."

To learn more about the Dutchess County Arts Council, visit:
www.ArtsMidHudson.org

To find out about the Barrett Art Center, visit:
www.BarrettArtCenter.org

To check out Bull and Buddha's menu, visit:
www.BullAndBuddha.com

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