NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG).- When I moved to the area, it was basically a ghetto, said Mary Madden, president and Chief Executive Officer of the Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, as she walked through Beacon, a town along the Hudson River some 65 miles north of New York.
The first time I drove down the street in 1999, everything was boarded up, she added. There were syringes on the ground.
Even so, Madden, enterprising and newly divorced, bought a wreck on the corner of Main and Cross Streets, then spent a few months cajoling the puzzled resident drug dealer to depart with his clients.
We spoke on a late Saturday afternoon as food platters and wine arrived at the Mad Dooley Gallery, where Patricia Rellers captivating figurines dangled in the window and glittered on the wall.
The party coincided with Beacons popular Second Saturdays, when the galleries along Main Street stay open into the evening and a glass blower draws an appreciative audience at the Hudson Beach Glass studio.
Beacon has taken off. As the sun set on cafes, antique and junk stores, tourists and locals, all of whom seemed to be walking at least one dog, strolled along the street. Not a syringe was in sight.
Maddens old homestead is now the RiverWinds Gallery which sells modestly priced jewelry, photographs and paintings.
Across the street, a small crowd studied an elegantly provocative anti-fracking piece by Tatana Kellner that was displayed in the window of the edgy Theo Ganz Studio.
Inside, painter Joseph Ayers continued the theme of environmental disasters with his picture of a lost whale.
The catalyst for Beacons turnaround was the establishment in 2003 of Dia: Beacon. In a town of about 15,000 people, the massive contemporary art collection, housed in a restored, 300,000 square-foot warehouse was a reality-changing event.
We knew Dia was going to put Beacon on the map, said Linda Hubbard, president of the Beacon Arts Community Association, and co-founder of RiverWinds. Dia opened in May, and we opened in July.
Main Streets gentrifiers moved from the west (the Hudson River) to the east (the Fishkill River), so far skipping a forlorn middle stretch, though a branch of Maddens credit union holds out hope.
As the mile-long street curves toward the Fishkill -- an area that long resisted revival -- the dramatic improvements include the opening of Swift at the Roundhouse, a handsome restaurant in an old factory building.
I havent talked to anyone who remembers there being anything in it, so the building must have been empty for 50 or 60 years, said Brendan McAlpine, whose father, Bob, is the developer.
The scrubbed brick complex includes an expanding boutique hotel and spa.
This is the first stop on the Metro North Line where a young couple can afford to buy a house, said Greg Glasson, an artist and owner of Glasson Sculpture Works in Gardiner, New York. (He is also Maddens husband, having met her in Beacon). A lot of young people move up here from Brooklyn, from filmmakers to writers to photographers.
With the addition of tourists to the towns burgeoning creative class, the community has been able to sustain a year- round cultural scene.
My lawyer used to drive by my building every day to make sure I was OK, remembers Madden. Those days are gone.