Poughkeepsie’s Upper Landing Park ready for Walkway elevator

Postcard of the Poughkeepsie-Highland railroad bridge, circa 1904

At a recent “soft opening” of Upper Landing Park on Water Street in Poughkeepsie, the Dyson Foundation welcomed members of the public into the newly renovated property hugging the river below the Walkway over the Hudson State Park. Upper Landing serves as an access point to the Waterfront Elevator (slated for completion in January 2014) that will lift visitors from ground level up 212 feet to the Walkway. A still-undeveloped easement (owned by Central Hudson) between the urban park and the elevator will be landscaped by that time, and a pedestrian bridge will be built that crosses the Fallkill Creek and connects Waryas Park to the Walkway.

The Waterfront Elevator and Upper Landing Park will provide a more accessible way for tourists arriving in Poughkeepsie by train, senior citizens and those who are physically handicapped to visit the Walkway via the Poughkeepsie side. In fact, it’s anticipated that the 21-story-tall elevator might become a destination unto itself, transporting up to 18 people at a time in a glass box, for a 90-second shoreline-to-Walkway-level ride.

Funded primarily by the federal Transportation Enhancement Program, with additional grant money from the Environmental Protection Fund, the $2.8 million project is anticipated to boost local tourism. More than 500,000 people currently visit the Walkway each year.

Adjacent to the Fallkill, the Upper Landing Park site was once a homestead, a mill site, a river dock, a Revolutionary War Depot, an industrial hub and an electrical power generation source. In acquiring the parcel from Central Hudson, the Dyson Foundation also assumed ownership of two nearby historically significant buildings: the Hoffman and Reynolds houses, now under restoration.

“This is one of the most historic spots in Poughkeepsie,” says Diana Gurieva, executive vice president of the Dyson Foundation. “During its heyday, this two-and-a-half-acre site had close to 50 buildings on it: factories, mills, a general store, a hotel, a steamboat landing, a ferry landing. We have 27 historic signs to tell its story. Before the railroad, the river was the main artery of transportation in the Hudson Valley.”

The Dyson Foundation purchased the site in October 2012. “The structural elements were finished a month ago,” says Gurieva. “We added new trees, kept mature trees, replaced non-native vegetation with native plantings. We were interested in how creating waterfront access and an additional public park in Poughkeepsie would help to stimulate economical development, as well as access to the Walkway over the Hudson. But in the course of this last year, all of us have become entranced with the history of the site and how important it was.”

The Walkway Waterfront Elevator, scheduled to open to the public around the first of the New Year, is being constructed by BCI Construction of Albany. The Upper Landing Park, designed by Tinkelman Architecture of Poughkeepsie, will be open daily by the end of November. Parking is available at the Poughkeepsie Train Station and at Waryas Park, with additional parking along Water Street a future possibility. Visit www.walkway.org for further details on the elevator project’s progress.

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