The Beacon Project

The Beacon Project

This is the latest update on the status of the former Beacon women’s correctional facility, located just beyond our city’s high school grounds. On Wednesday, December 17th, a number of interested parties toured the site and all the buildings.

For almost a year, a group of citizens affiliated with various community organizations, currently known as the Beacon Prison Reclamation Project, has been looking for ways to bring this 39-acre campus into the best productive use for the citizens of Beacon. The main areas of focus have been farming and light industry, and education and training, all with an emphasis on decent jobs. And as Governor Cuomo said when he formed the 10 regional economic development councils in 2011, the three most important things about local economic development were jobs, jobs, and jobs.

During much of the past year, those working on the project were seeking assistance, some organization or benefactor that the various proposed projects could operate under cohesively. Adding to the difficulty of finding a suitable partner was the fact that nobody knew when exactly the State would issue it’s request for proposal (RFP) to develop the site. The Purchase or Long-Term Lease and Adaptive Re-Use of The Beacon Correctional Facility RFP happened in mid-November.

Read previous Wigwam coverage of the Beacon prison site:

Beacon Needs to Take Control of Former Prison Property

Camp Beacon

At seemingly the last minute, a viable partner appeared, in the form of The Doe Fund. This New York City-based organization is in the process of a major expansion, and is interested in partnering with the Beacon Prison Reclamation Project (BPRP) in some way.

The Doe fund sent its top three executive staff to the site visit: George T. McDonald and Harriet Karr-McDonald, who serve as president and executive vice president and are also co-founders, and John McDonald, chief operating officer. Also present was Jason Finder, who is coordinating the Doe Fund involvement in the Beacon site. Also part of TDF planning team was an architect with a green design firm. The Doe Fund will be looking at creating a food hub that will generate jobs consistent with its mission. The Fund has hired two food consultants to work on this project, including  Beacon Reclamation steering committee member Ben Giardullo, who also represents the interests of Common Ground Farm in the project. The Doe Fund will be submitting a proposal. The RFP submission deadline is Thursday, January 15, 2015. Wigwam will report further developments as they occur.

A good number of folks showed for the tour of the former prison.

A good number of folks showed for the tour of the former prison.


The greenhouse gets a good look from the agriculturally inclined.


Harriet Karr-McDonald of The Doe Fund heads over to take a look at the steer barns.


An optimistic sign at the front door to one of the prison bunk houses.


Two almost identical open space rooms are located on opposite sides of the second floor of the main building.


With no power or heat, and considering it was a prison, viewing conditions were less than cheery. This is the institutional kitchen in the main building.

Hand lettering on doors was a feature in all the buildings.

Hand lettering on doors was a feature in all the buildings.


Here is a basic outline of potential needs from some of the community groups that was submitted to The Doe Fund by the BPRP just prior to the site visit:

For the Fiber Mill Project:
  • Use of the prison kitchen
  • 2,000 square feet of work space
  • small office
  • potentially a storefront to sell goods.
  • use of land to raise animals for fiber and meat.
  • 1/4 acre of land for a garden to produce natural dyes.
For Agricultural Use:
  • 2,000 square feet for an office and classroom
  • use of the kitchen
  • greenhouse infrastructure and shed
  • as much viable farmland as possible. This would include asking for an additional 10-15 acres from open prison lot.
  • walk-in cooler
For the Youth Education Program:
  • 2-4 classrooms
  • 2-4 offices
  • use of the kitchen
  • 1/4 acre for educational garden
  • walk in cooler and/or use of walk-in cooler space
  • equipment storage space/shed
Other Uses of Buildings/Land
  • Composting facility
  • Offices for other organizations
  • Housing
  • Food processing facility

Earlier Wigwam coverage of the Beacon prison site:

Beacon Needs to Take Control of Former Prison Property

Camp Beacon




3 Responses to The Beacon Project

  1. Prue Posner says:

    All very well to have classrooms, but what about talking to Dutchess BOCES about leasing some of the space for their VoTech classes? It is hard for kids from Beacon HS to get up to Salt Point Tpk for classes but the BOCES programs are the best solution to the problem of HS dropouts – a serious problem at Beacon HS

    • MR says:

      Back in the days when my dad worked for Boces, this may have been true. But from what I understand, these days the per student cost Boces charges to a school district is prohibitively high for many communities.

    • Prue Posner says:

      With BOCES costs you have to think in terms of state aid, not single year expenses. I do not know the rate for Beacon; in (relatively poor) St. Lawrence County no district received below 75% reimbursement for BOCES expenditures in “BOCES (state) aid” the following year. It is probably a somewhat lower reimbursement rate for districts (even Beacon) in Dutchess since it is based on the property tax level (lower tax base, higher aid rate). Nonetheless, Districts are misleading the public if they do not include the reimbursement via state aid when they discuss BOCES costs.
      p.s. I am older than you Mark, but not totally ancient. I worked for BOCES 1995-2005…not exactly the old days.