Jamie Larson's article in this morning's Register-Star online about the building being proposed by the Lantern Organization for the corner of Warren and Fifth streets: "Officials wary of proposed low-income housing development."
The patio shown in the drawing and the renovation of the former clinic building as a restaurant are not included in the proposal or the application for funding.
Last week the Lantern Organization, Eric Galloway's not-for-profit real estate development group, distributed a flier describing the project. Also last week, Common Council President Don Moore and City Treasurer Eileen Halloran send a memo about the project to members of the Common Council and asked these questions: (1) Why should this facility be situated at the center of the still developing Hudson business and tourism district? (2) Why should a twin-county facility be located in Hudson at all? (3) Why should a property that is an indispensable element in the economic development of Hudson with the potential to add real, tax-paying commercial space to Hudson’s tax rolls be used in this way?
The Lantern Organization will be making a presentation to the Common Council at its informal meeting tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at City Hall. It's our chance as a community to let the Lantern Organization and the Common Council know what we think of this remarkably wrongheaded idea.
There's a lot of history on this corner--all happening in the past fifteen or so years, since the lot has been vacant. The Columbia Hudson Partnership took ownership of the property back in 1995 or 1996. Not long after that, probably early in 1997, Mayor Scalera reportedly returned from a mayors' conference with the idea of turning the vacant lot into a sculpture park and tasked Carrie Haddad with coming up with a design. Carrie asked three architects and landscape designers, among them the late David Whitcomb, to suggest designs pro bono for the space. When Carrie presented the designs to Scalera, he denied ever asking her to do the project. He was quoted in the Register-Star as saying something like, "Sculpture park--does that sound like something I would suggest?"
When Hudson withdrew from the Columbia Hudson Partnership somewhere near the beginning of this century, the lot became the property of HDC (Hudson Development Corporation). In the late winter/early spring of 2005, there was word that a group represented by architect Peter Sweeny wanted to build a hotel on that corner. In fact, they entered into an agreement with HDC that gave them the option to buy the vacant lot. At the beginning of 2006, however, Eric Galloway made known his desire to buy the property and build shops and condos there. A court battle ensued. Judge Christian Hummel sent the case to arbitration, but a few months later, it was back in court. Interestingly, Galloway's usual attorney in Hudson, Mark Greenberg, was representing Sweeny et al in the matter, so Galloway was represented by Jack Connor, who had been the city attorney and would be again. (In 2006, Dick Tracy was the mayor and Bob Gagen the city attorney.) To my knowledge, the details of the arbitration were never made public, but the outcome was that Galloway bought the property and agreed to assume responsibility for remediating any environmental issues on the site.
In the summer of 2008, Kevin Walker, representing the Galvan Group, Galloway's for-profit development company, presented plans to the Historic Preservation Commission for a great monolith of a building that would extend the entire 150 feet along Warren Street and involve a row of townhouses along Fifth Street. On the ground floor would be an indoor mall. On the top three floors would be market-rate apartments and condominiums. The frontage of the building would be three times greater than the largest existing building on Warren Street. The HPC requested design changes and contemplated a public hearing, but the Galvan Group never came back to the HPC with a revised design, and a few months later, Walker mentioned in a meeting about inclusionary zoning that his employer was seeking state funds to finance the project, which was now going to be low-income housing.
Ironically, the imitation Italianate design of the building now being proposed is something that the Historic Preservation Commission might be able to grant a certificiate of appropriateness. What is inappropriate is the use. Last year, when the county advanced the idea of using the St. Charles Hotel for transitional housing, the Common Council passed a moratorium on the creation of new transitional housing and homeless shelters in Hudson. That moratorium is still in effect, and there was discussion at the last Common Council Legal Committee meeting about the possibility of extending the moratorium while a task force studies the problem and seeks an appropriate solution.