Go to navigation (press enter key)Menu

An Old Factory Gets a New Life

More than 600 people attended the grand reopening of the historic Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory this spring. The local nonprofit Hudson River Housing (HRH) transformed the long-abandoned property over a four-year period, turning it into a dynamic new multipurpose facility. The project was led by Elizabeth Druback-Celaya ’02, HRH's Director of Organizational Development.

The exterior of the repurposed Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory (PUF).Photo: Karl Rabe

Now a hub for mixed-income housing, small culinary businesses, visual arts, and social venture, the nearly 30,000-square-foot structure is a keystone of the agency’s “Middle Main” revitalization effort in downtown Poughkeepsie.

“Here we are today with a state-of-the-art shared-use commercial kitchen, a community coffeehouse, a printmaking workshop and six artist studios, a new space for Spark Media Project/Mill Street Loft, and 15 residential units,” she told those who attended the packed opening ceremony for the nearly $7 million project.

“So often, people ask about this project—why we’re doing it, what it’s all about. This building is a tangible expression of hope for Poughkeepsie’s future.”

Druback-Celaya isn’t the only Vassar person who has participated in the advancement of this project. Three recent alumnae/i—Anna Hermann ’16, Ted Marrinan ’16, and Sasha Zwiebel ’15—worked for Hudson River Housing through AmeriCorps VISTA. Last summer as a Vassar Community Fellow, Tori Salomani ’18 led an impact survey of 200 Middle Main neighborhood residents. Senior theses by Joseph Moore ’18, Carlos Ignacio Hernández Tellez ’14, and Elizabeth Vamos ’18 contributed to research regarding the project, as did assignments for Geography, Sociology, and Urban Studies courses. Dozens of student volunteers have also assisted with nearby cleanup efforts, including work on the adjacent Fallkill waterway organized by the college’s new Environmental Cooperative. (Green renovation approaches abound within the building, and extend to the site remediation that’s proving crucial for the Fallkill watershed.)

Elizabeth Druback-Celaya ’02 at the outset of the project in 2013.Photo: Karl Rabe

Hudson River Housing hopes the renovated Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory will be an anchor for a central neighborhood that had been in decline—until recently, revitalization was considered too daunting a task.

A social enterprise will even help those who struggle to stay employed; clients in the agency’s specialized employment training program will help staff the Underwear Factory’s retail coffeehouse.

As Druback-Celaya noted at the grand reopening, “So often, people ask about this project—why we’re doing it, what it’s all about. This building is a tangible expression of hope for Poughkeepsie’s future.”

We first reported on Druback-Celaya’s role in the rebirth of the Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory in “Elizabeth Celaya ’02, Champion of Main Street” in 2013.