Thursday, March 2, 2017

More About the Grant for the Dunn Building

There has been a lot of angst about the Restore NY grant for the Dunn building on the waterfront. When the grant was applied for, it was thought of as a way to stabilize the building and arrest its deterioration without making a commitment to its ultimate use. For this reason, people rallied around the effort and gave it their full-throated support. But the enthusiasm waned when Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward), at a meeting of the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting in January, announced that he had recently learned that "the grant is tied into a developer with a plan in place." This was not something most people wanted to hear--especially not those who recognize that what happens with the Dunn building will define future development at the waterfront.

At the Hudson Development Corporation meeting earlier this week, before the board went into executive session to discuss the Kaz proposal, executive director Sheen Salvino offered some more clarification about the grant and its requirements. She explained that, although the grant is for $500,000, the actual amount awarded is based on a per square foot allocation that is different depending upon the intended future use of the building. Because the Restore NY grant program is meant to encourage economic development, the amount per square foot for a building being stabilized for a commercial use is greater than for a building being stabilized for a not-for-profit purpose. The message seemed to be that before the City can start using any of the money, there must be a commitment to the nature of the building's use--not a specific plan, not a specific developer, but the type of use. Saying it will be commercial would bring in the most money, but if the community should decide, during the course of revising the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program), that the highest and best use of the building is not commercial, there could be problems down the road. 

The pressure is on for the City to decide how the building should be used. It is expected to be a topic of discussion at the next Economic Development Committee meeting, scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 16, at 6 p.m., at City Hall.


  1. Depending on how much less of the grant is available for non-profit purposes, there's nothing wrong with being conservative and accepting less to keep our options open.

    This approach also promises less controversy, providing that the lesser amount can cover the most crucial repairs.

    Later, the lesser repairs can be the subject of a fund-raising event, though donors may want some assurance that their money isn't going to benefit a private enterprise.

  2. Totally agree with you unheimlich.

    That is the best and only approach for this key piece to the waterfront puzzle .

  3. Oh, for Christ's sake, say it will be used for commercial development, get more $, implement the stabilization work and then do the old Hudson switcheroo down the line.

  4. What is the penalty for changing the use later from commercial to non profit after the higher amount for a commercial use is taken and used for stabilization? That aspect is part of the formula for doing a cost-benefit analysis of just what fork in the road to most prudent to take. And how much less than 500K would be the amount granted for a non profit use? That needs to be cranked into the formula as well.

  5. Commercial use is no worse or better than NFP uses. There's nothing magical about being an NFP except that you get to put the costs of sustaining you as part of the community to the community. There's nothing wrong with that if the NFP purpose is so important or compelling that the community can make the choice. Basing it on geography takes that community power out of the equation. On the other hand, a long term, triple-net lease with usage and external design element parameters well spelled out accomplishes the same end in terms of preservation and fit while having the added benefit of having the property carry its own weight and pay property taxes. NFP is not short hand for "good." It's shorthand for "you pay my taxes and I'll provide a good."

    Moreover, a commercial use will enliven and enrich the waterfront area below Short Street which, with its new hotel and location by the Basilica, likely have a net positive effect on the desire to develop the area -- a proposition already appealing to some but still fraught with risk as current history shows. A commercial use for the Dunn's building will bring people to the area during the day, it will attract other businesses to the area and, if the City ever enforces its own building code and forces the demo of the old taxi and dry cleaning building on the corner of Short and Front, we may have a shot at smart, attractive, useful and viable economic development by the S. Bay.

    1. How many NFP restaurants do you know?

      Oh that's right, economic development is a given - ever our first priority.

      No one's ever argued that economic development led to its own problems, which is a fact I simply forgot to consider.

  6. "if the community should decide, during the course of revising the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program), that the highest and best use of the building is not commercial, there could be problems down the road"

    So if the county's littoral society should beg for more use, additional river access, the city's economic developers can sell to the highest bidder?

  7. I think we need a bigass gravel depot and a busy truck route right next to that old Dunn building. A steady flow of dump trucks will attract tourists, who can sit on their pricey latte drinks while enjoying the rumbling vehicles and the fumes.