A Renovation For IBM Campuses That Once Had A Place To Drill Boards And Circuit Boards


ENDICOTT, NY – The sidewalks along Washington Avenue in Endicott, NY are empty enough for bikes to travel their length with a smooth ride. But 40 years ago, when an IBM factory was overrun with thousands of employees, cyclists may have taken a different route.

“You couldn’t see down the street at lunch time because there were too many people,” said Mary Morley, owner of Angeline’s Flowers, one of the few displays without a “For Rent” sign. “It used to be a perfect place.”

Ever since IBM began shutting down operations and factories in the 1980s, it has been a pastime to recall longingly in the Southern Tier and Hudson Valley regions of New York State. Indeed, the entire region was once a sort of expanded corporate city for the tech giant, which started here and spurred much of its residential and retail growth. When Big Blue left, the economic pain began.

But the big campuses that hold the keys to economic recovery in places like East Fishkill, Ulster and Endicott say business leaders are trying to reinvent them.

The campuses, lined with warehouses, well-served by utilities, and located near major highways, are ideal for tenants engaged in large-scale manufacturing and shipping, part of the growing industrial market during the pandemic, they say.

And Relocation of New Yorkers related to the pandemic It made possible a new workforce available, accelerating redevelopment efforts to northern points.

“Companies shouldn’t be dissolved so easily just because they disappear. The taxpayers paid for all the roads,” said Lynne Ward, vice president of National Resources, a developer in Connecticut that buys vacant industrial parks around the country. “But some major infrastructure is left behind.”

In the Dutchess County town of East Fishkill, where IBM once owned more than 600 acres along Interstate 84, good bones seem particularly attractive to food-related businesses. Space has been leased to companies that make cookies, cocktail syrup and pancakes, as National Resources purchased a 300-acre plot in 2017 and renamed it iPark 84.

Joining them on a 3,000-square-foot quay this fall will be Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, a dairy provider located nearby. (IBM is also a tenant of iPark, and semiconductor manufacturer Global Foundries, which bought most of IBM’s chipmaking assets in 2014, owns a 160-acre piece.)

To create a bustling environment, National Resources is building a barn-like wing next to one of its production buildings so that all the foodstuffs produced there can be served to the public in a grocery store environment, Ms Ward said.

He said 90 percent of the complex, which cost $300 million to purchase and redevelopment, is leased. He added that residences and hotels are also being considered for the site.

“There’s a resurgence happening here and it’s necessary,” said co-founder Adam Watson. Sloop Beermoved to iPark, partly because of its thick floors, high ceilings, and easy wastewater disposal. There’s also a bar with its transparent surface embedded with circuit boards discovered in a refresh.

“Many of our clients tell us stories about how they work in this or that building,” said Mr Watson.

Other parts were busy as well. A 15-acre warehouse is being developed for Amazon on a 124-acre parcel on the east side of East Fishkill by a team that includes the industry-focused Bluewater Property Group. The deal, which comes with property tax cuts, will create 500 full-time jobs, according to city officials who redeveloped the entire property in 2014 to attract new users. But National Resources said the campus, which once produced chips for the Sony PlayStation 3, employed 22,000 IBM employees in its heyday. Bluewater did not comment, and an IBM spokesperson declined to provide historical employment figures.

Setting up non-IBM tenants is of course no guarantee of success. Amazon’s facility will be located on a site owned by Linuo Group, a Chinese solar panel manufacturer, a decade ago. Similarly, an adjacent 33-acre parcel is expected to be replaced by the Sports KingDome, a sports facility, but little construction has taken place since the project was announced in 2015.

Across the Hudson River in the town of Ulster, redevelopment has also been difficult, although a new marketing push raises hopes. In the late 1990s, a project called TechCity promised to transform much of it. IBM’s 258-acre campus.

However, disputes erupted between the developer and the authorities over unpaid taxes, and a necessary ground contamination cleanup was incomplete, resulting in delays. Today, signage in TechCity spreading under a rusty water tower confirms a once solid list of tenants, but only a handful of companies remain. But this week, Ulster County filed for a lien on the property for a $12 million unpaid tax bill.

As the process continues, attention is focusing on a different piece of TechCity, an 80-acre two-building parcel that authorities confiscated due to a similar tax issue in 2019. This spring, the county received nearly two dozen offers to redevelop or lease the site, including a bakery, a nonprofit arts group, and a local farm. Officials will announce their choice within weeks; Many winners were expected, they said, because it was too risky to have a single person for this entire space.

7100 employees IBMWard Mintz, a local historian, said he was the driving force behind the area’s ranch-style homes and shopping malls. Now, efforts to reintroduce residents into somewhat desolate territory are gaining traction with concerts in the vast fields where IBMers once parked their cars on the way to build typewriters and air defense systems.

“We’re trying to bring some life and energy to a sad place,” said Ulster County executive Pat Ryan, who praised IBM for 36 years of running his grandfather despite never earning a high school diploma.

Other former IBM properties in Ulster are also being renovated.

RBW, a 14-year-old lighting design firm in Brooklyn, purchased a 1980s office building for its new home this summer. RBW co-founder Alex Williams, who moved into his area weekend home after the coronavirus hit New York City, said the pandemic inspired action. Many workers at RBW, who employed 55 prepandemics, are also expected to relocate, although they are recruited locally.

Mr Williams said a renovation would remove the rugs that feature wall-to-wall chair shapes and add a 1,200-square-foot courtyard surrounded by trees as part of a $7 million project.

“Twenty years ago it might have been fashionable to revive a factory,” he said. “But I think it’s very interesting to have a blank canvas with a ‘Dilbert’ type of space.”

A diverse mix is ​​also a priority at Endicott along the Susquehanna River. Home to IBM’s first factory in 1906; produced punch cardsdata storage devices, a type of prototype computer. Huron Real Estate Associates, which purchased the 139-acre campus for $65 million in 2002, has attracted nearly 20 tenants, including BAE Systems, a European defense contractor.

This summer will be iM3NY, a start-up that makes lithium-ion batteries.

Senior vice president Paul Stratton said the company whose product powers electric cars has 12 full-time employees but expects 2,000 within six years. His company buys two buildings at IBM, including a towering 300,000-square-foot site that was once used for circuit board shipping.

“There is huge transformation potential here,” said Christopher Pelto, president of Huron, of the complex, which has a 65 percent occupancy rate.

If Mr. Pelto one day achieved his goal of having 5,000 workers at the Endicott site, up from 4,000 today, he would still be far behind IBM’s peak in the early 1980s, when 15,000 workers were employed there and at a facility in nearby Glendale.

But some residents say it’s a more pressing matter to preserve some of the dilapidated structures that are a regular reminder of the village’s glory days, according to Marlene Yacos, who worked for IBM for 35 years before she was fired in 2004; His father worked there for 44 years.

“They just sit there,” said Ms. Yacos, executive director of the Endicott Center for History and Heritage. “And they’ve been our legacy for over 100 years.”


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