Saturday, January 8, 2011

Setting the Right Goal

Reading the Gossips post about the sloop Eleanor, a reader was reminded of a redevelopment project on the waterfront in Norwalk, Connecticut, and sent me some information about it. Since there may be a lesson here for Hudson and some guidance for conceptualizing the plans for our waterfront, I decided to share the information--along with an opinion or two. 

Once upon a time there was an especially blighted section of the Norwalk waterfront. The efforts to revitalize this area, now known as SoNo, began in the mid-1970s with the preservation of historic buildings. Thirty-two buildings were listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Once the historic architecture was secure, the City of Norwalk, working with not-for-profits and the community, started planning for a major attraction to bring visitors and revenue to the area. What they came up with was a maritime center, now known as the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. The center includes an aquarium that features live animals from Long Island Sound, an IMAX theater, and a boat collection. Since the Maritime Aquarium opened in 1988, shops and restaurants have sprung up around it, and it is now the center of a vibrant commercial district. Half a million people visit the Maritime Aquarium every year, and it brings $20.3 million to the city annually

Now I'm not suggesting that Hudson should imitate Norwalk and build a maritime aquarium like theirs on our waterfront. I've never been there. I don't know that it's like. I don't know much more about it than what's published on their website. I am, however, suggesting that we need to be thinking about something for our waterfront that will be a destination. A restaurant--even a really big one--isn't a destination. Restaurants and shops spring up around a destination. That's what happened in Norwalk. It's what we've seen happen right here in Hudson with all the shops and restaurants that have appeared in the 300 block of Warren Street since the Hudson Opera House opened its doors and became a destination.  

I'm suggesting, too, that in conceptualizing a destination for the waterfront we imitate Norwalk by coming up with a plan that respects place, has an educational as well as a recreation/entertainment or cultural purpose, and has as part of its mission the appreciation and/or protection of the Hudson River. And I'm suggesting that the planning not be done by three men in a room but that it involve the community and not-for-profits that could be helpful--Scenic Hudson, perhaps, or maybe the Columbia Land Conservancy, Historic Hudson, the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society, the New Netherland Museum. "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood."     


  1. It should be a Museum of the Hudson River School Painters, perhaps even Olana's visitor's center, or something like that. I am not the first to think about this for Hudson, but it would be nice to see such a plan put into action. But your point is correct, get the attraction and the restaurants etc will follow.

  2. Amen. Great post, Carole. Some years ago there was a suggestion that we try to convince a major museum to establish a satellite branch on the waterfront here in Hudson. One possible theme would be to celebrate the historic Dutch connection to the Hudson Valley. Perhaps a collaborative effort between Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum and the Metropolitan Museum in NY could produce a good outcome.

    In any case, if a grand scheme like this were to succeed, the energy is going to have to come from we the people. At present our city government is bending over backward to welcome a rock and gravel operation to South Bay and the waterfront, so we would be naive to hope that any enlightened leadership is going to come from City Hall.
    Perhaps it's time to establish a Hudson think tank that generates economic development ideas and works toward their implementation.

  3. During the Quadricentennial celebration, the rededication of the park, there were murmurs of Hudson becoming a permanent home for the Half Moon- docked here except when on expedition; a "living museum" type of setting. One murmur came from Mayor Scalera himself, in his remarks during the rededication ceremony. In my association with the ship's Captain, Chip Reynolds, I've learned he was initially receptive to the idea, though (paraphrasing him) "a lot needs to happen in Hudson for that to happen." I can find out more from Captain Reynolds (his current thoughts/ the ships' needs/ logistics etc.) if Hudsonians also are initially receptive to the idea.

  4. David Voorhees submitted this comment:

    On July 25, 2009, in reporting the official reception for the replica of Henry Hudson's ship the Half Moon, the Register Star noted that "[Mayor Rick] Scalera did a little dreaming from the podium, asking attendees to picture the Half Moon docked more often in a slip of it’s own in Hudson’s port, and a Henry Hudson Maritime Museum. “And finally imagine what something like this could mean for Hudson and it’s waterfront,” he said, “A powerful new magnet for tourism, education, recreation, investment, commerce and quality of life. Just a dream, born of the river, that always has been, and always will be a key to our future.”

    Although considerable interest was expressed for such a maritime museum, or cluster of museums including art and science, city and county officials have since shown indifference to any plan that might bring educational funding and tourist dollars (hence jobs) into Hudson. Instead they now are focusing on a pipe-dream of a 200-table restaurant in a city with over a quarter of its population living below the poverty line. Another structure left to lie vacant and rot like so many of those owned by the type of investors the city government seems to cherish.

  5. Development of the Hudson waterfront should take advantage of its natural beauty and history and be a compliment to the successful revitalization of Warren Street. In many places (such as South Norwalk, Conn,)it takes a major destination to provide the spark to revitalize the downtown. In Hudson, the difficult part has been accomplished. Warren Street has become that destination (in spite of the apathy of many in public sector). It is about time that certain politicos start understanding that Hudson is on the verge of being a truly "great place" in every way. The next step should not be one that encourages commercial industrialization to the river. Rather it is to appreciate the gains that Hudson has made and be sure that any future development compliments the downtown while bringing ideas to the waterfront that encourage community uses to a treasured area that rightfully belongs to them.

    Isn't it all about having vision?
    Even the LWRP asks for a new vision for the waterfront, regardless of how it exists at this time.
    Hudsons "leaders" are only interested in retaining the status quo leftovers of a city beaten down and forgotten.
    Scaleras speech is typical of most politicians,
    all wind and no substance. If it wasn't for the private sector changing this city with their individual vision one building at a time nothing would change.
    How does a two square mile community pull itself out of the doldrums of special interests and grasp onto a vision worthy of renewed pride for ones town?
    Hudson was a great town at one time, readily seen in her layout and architecture (what's left). Are vacant lots and a surplus of section eight housing the only vision for her now?

  7. I'd like to respectfully disagree with David about the proposed restaurant on the waterfront. There is almost no public money available these days to rehabilitate the Dunn Warehouse. The City, State, and Federal governments are cash-strapped in the extreme, and if even they had a bit of money, it takes forever to negotiate the bureaucracy and actually make something happen. I'm interested in seeing lots of new economic development on the waterfront as soon as possible, in order to marginalize the godawful plan to run a bunch of dump trucks thru South Bay and over the Broad St. rail crossing, and site a rock + gravel terminal immediately adjacent to our new City park. So, if a developer like Galloway is willing to move forward with the project, I think it's a step in the right direction. HOWEVER-- any land deal that he might enter into with the City needs to be very carefully crafted and must absolutely guarantee prompt follow-through, with strict performance standards, or he loses the property and any cash invested.

    I understand David's point about the fact that given the demographics in Hudson, we are not in dire need of a 200-seat restaurant. But time is running out quickly, and if we don't get some benign economic development going on that waterfront very soon, it's going to be an industrial hellhole for as long as any of us are alive.

  8. Columbia County is a huge "destination wedding" uh destination so think of a 200 seat waterfront restaurant as a restaurant with extra space for weddings.

  9. Another comment from David Voorhees:

    Some seem to misunderstand my post. I want to clarify that I am not opposed to the creation of a restaurant at the old Dunn’s warehouse, nor, indeed, suggest that such a restaurant could not become a mecca for wedding parties, but rather that, despite a lot of public and private talk, nothing substantial has ever been done to follow through on, or set the ground work or seek funding—even when such public and private funds were available—for the creation of an attraction such as a seaport museum on the waterfront. It always turns out to be a lot of hot air. As far as Dunn’s warehouse goes, I’ll leave the track record of the developer, adequately covered by Carole in Gossips, to speak for itself when it comes to my reasons for skepticism about motives and ability to carry through on any over-the-top, grandiose scheme proposed—one of many still unfulfilled—and that usually turns out being covered by the few of us who actually pay property taxes in Hudson.