Thursday, July 11, 2013

News from the Planning Commission

Four projects of interest came before the Planning Commission on Wednesday night--one that has been making its way through the approval process in recent months; three that have reappeared after being off the radar for a year or more.

After a public hearing on the elevator tower proposed for the Hudson Opera House, at which the audience consisted of Historic Preservation Commission chair Rick Rector, Register-Star reporter John Mason, and Gossips, the Planning Commission convened its regular meeting, and the five members present (Don Tillson, Cappy Pierro, Cleveland Samuels, Claudia DeStefano, and Gail Grandinetti) voted unanimously to approve the site plan for the elevator tower, on two conditions: the Zoning Board of Appeals grants the needed area variances, and the Historic Preservation Commission gives the project a certificate of appropriateness. The Planning Commission also voted unanimously to recommend to the ZBA that the variances be granted. That leaves the HPC as the elevator tower's only remaining hurdle.

Gossips got a glimpse last night of the revised design that the HPC will be considering tomorrow morning, which may not achieve the outcome they are seeking.

It seems that at the basis of the struggle that the HPC is having with the elevator tower is that they are hoping for a tower that would be to the Hudson Opera House what I. M. Pei's pyramid is to the Louvre, and they're not getting it.

It is sometimes torturous to listen as members of HPC try mightily to critique, based on the principles of compatibility, a design that has already been approved by the agencies who wrote the book on compatibility--the New York State Historic Preservation Office and the National Parks Service. It would seem that the hard part of their job has already been done. Preservation professionals at the state and federal level have already approved the compatibility of the original design. All the HPC needs to do is accept their judgment.

In a way, it's heroic that the HPC has set the bar higher. For this major building in the heart of Hudson, which HPC member Phil Forman has more than once called "iconic," compatibility alone is not enough. The HPC seems to be committed to preserving and enhancing the quality of Hudson architecture by holding out for a design for the elevator tower that is stunning, spectacular, exciting.

The HPC continues its review of the elevator tower tomorrow morning, Friday, July 12, at 10 a.m.

Megan Wurth, executive director for the PARC Foundation, was at the meeting to seek approval from the Planning Commission for the transfer of a strip of land needed to complete the proposed linear park in the 300 block, extending from Columbia Street to State Street. The transfer is from Columbia County to the City of Hudson.

Wurth explained that, when the engineering drawings for the linear park were being done, it was discovered that a bit more land was needed along the eastern edge of the park in order to achieve the correct slope for the switchback ramp. 

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the site plan. Later in the evening, the land transfer was approved by Columbia County Board of Supervisors. A resolution authorizing the transfer was introduced at the informal meeting of the Common Council on Monday. The Council will vote on the resolution on Tuesday, July 16.

Another project making a comeback last night was Hudson Arcade, the building on Warren Street that last year was going to become Filli's Fresh Market.

Joe Catalano, attorney for the Lantern Organization, came to the Planning Commission to request modifications to the site plan that was approved a year ago, in July 2012. He explained that construction on the building was going forward, and Galvan was looking for a new operator, but two conditions in the original approval were proving problematic.

The original plan was to have an apartment on the second floor of the building. The tenants now being considered want to use the upstairs as office space or additional retail space. Because Filli's intended to have deliveries by large tractor-trailer trucks take place in the very early morning, the original site plan approval specified that deliveries made by tractor-trailer trucks had to be made from Warren Street and not from Cherry Alley. The new tenants intend to have all deliveries made during business hours--8 a.m. to 8 p.m.--and want those deliveries made from Cherry Alley.  

The Planning Commission agreed to modify the site plan approval to allow deliveries from Cherry Alley from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and deliveries from Warren Street from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. It was recommended that when it was certain how the second floor would be used--office space only or office space and additional retail space--the applicant should return to the Planning Commission to seek the appropriate review and modification.

The final project returned after a five-year hiatus. Back in 2008, the Planning Commission approved the site plan for a mosque to be built on the northwest corner of Columbia and Third streets. At the time, it was anticipated that raising the money to build the mosque would take five years. Five years later, the money has not yet been raised, and Alderman Abdus Miah, representing the Islamic community in Hudson, requested a one-year extension. Since only one person currently on the Planning Commission was on the commission when this project was considered, and, according to Miah, "the plans have changed a little," Miah was asked to return with the plans to the August meeting. The postponement will also give the Planning Commission time to review the documents from the original approval.


  1. ...I only post because i see a train wreck coming and this one is not on the waterfront, it will be at 5th and Warren St. It seems galvan, lantern, depends, can not find a tenant who expects to make any money unless they are selling tractor trailer size loads of low priced items in the middle of our most precious street. Who this new tenant may be is scary and not informing the community is a criminal act that will not go unnoticed nor forgotten. Neighboring businesses and property owners will indeed suffer, trust me. All investment comes with risk, sorry, all investment does not come with a variance, or a grant, sorry. Better to put the police in there and a "market", maybe, at 701 Union, absurd you say? Risking the ruination of Warren St. for the promise of stocked pantries is absurd. I am not here debating "food desert", i'm only looking at one big headlight, oncoming.

  2. First job in High School 1971; stocking shelves at 701 Union @ the Grand Union. The police station should have been placed,"city center" at 5th and Compton, in the Armory. And it wouldn't cost a fortune to retro fit back to a market at 701.

  3. I agree with Mr. Lesawyer that a big question, completely unanswered, is who is the prospective tenant? Will it be another crappy deli, except larger? A high-end Union Market (Bklyn) type operation? Or will it be something else? If the city wants a real supermarket, I agree with Mr. Gallo: Why not re-use a building that once served the same purpose?

  4. After getting a glimpse of what well intentioned local Filie's Fresh Market went through. resulting in their final run from doing business with galvan / lantern, this new unnamed tenant is most definitely worrisome, and should be throwing up red flags everywhere!

    All this was approved with guarantees that trucks would not be an issue in Hudson, but as usual, the plans all get changed AFTER the approval.

  5. I rarely disagree with Ms. Gossips but I strongly disagree with her view that since the "Preservation professionals at the state and federal level have already approved the compatibility of the original design. All the HPC needs to do is accept their judgment." The professionals, I'm sure, would welcome thoughtful local input. I also disagree with her criticism of the HPC because it is "committed to preserving and enhancing the quality of Hudson architecture by holding out for a design for the elevator tower that is stunning, spectacular, exciting." Am I missing something? Below is a comment I made May 20 on this subject: "The new addition introduces a lack of symmetry in the 'very visible and very beautiful' south facade of the opera house. I feel the elevator addition should be reduced in size (to cover only one set of windows) and a twin be placed on the other side. The second elevator would also allow handicap access to the other half of the balcony. The additions could be made transparent to allow light through the original windows. I. M. Pei introduced a beautiful glass addition to the Louvre, why can't we do the same for our landmark?"