Friday, May 7, 2010

Galloway Gallery: Exhibit 7

This is the corner of First and Union--property address: 14 South First Street. The existing house, facing First Street along Cherry Alley, and the adjacent vacant lot are owned by Galloway's "Historic Preservation Group." There's a long story about this property--only part of which involves Eric Galloway.

Back in 2002 or so, the City owned a number of properties that had been seized for nonpayment of taxes. This was one of them. The Common Council, which then included realtor and historic preservation advocate Judy Meyer, came up with an innovative plan for selling the properties--one that should have worked but didn't. Instead of holding an auction in which the properties would go to the highest bidder (which in the past usually meant that they were snatched up at bargain prices by Phil Gellert), the Council would solicit proposals from prospective buyers outlining what the buyer intended to do with the property as well as indicating the price the buyer was willing to pay. The idea was that the quality of the proposal and its potential benefit to the community combined with the bid itself would be used to determine who got the property. It sounded good at the time, but God is in the details. There were no covenants written into the deeds that established time limits for carrying out the proposal or stipulated how long the new owner had to keep the property before selling it to someone else. Ten years later, there are still properties acquired in that sale which have not seen their proposed improvements realized, but most changed hands long ago, before anything much was done to them. This one fell into the latter category.

Garden designer Phillipe Soule was the bidder who got this property in the tax sale. What he proposed, I remember hearing at the time, was an office for his business and a kind of specimen garden that showcased his design talent and displayed favorite plant materials. A couple years later, without having carried out the plan he'd proposed, Soule sold the property to Eric Galloway, reportedly for $60,000. At that time, too, it was reported that Soule had paid less than $10,000 for it.

In the early years of his ownership, Galloway cleaned the place up, which was a great benefit to the neighborhood. Behind the house there used to be an old mobile home on cinder blocks (illegal in the City of Hudson) and a ramsackle structure that connected the trailer to the house. All of that was demolished, the trailer carted off, and the house boarded up. But that's where things stopped.

In the summer of 2007, Kevin Walker, representing Galloway, brought a plan for developing the property to the Historic Preservation Commission. It involved the construction of, if memory serves, four attached townhouses--three that faced Union Street and another that faced Front Street--and the rehabilitation of the existing historic house. There was an effort to fast-track this through the HPC. Indeed, Rick Scalera, who was "stopping out" that term from being mayor, showed up at an HPC meeting to make sure the project got its C of A in a timely fashion. Despite the pressure, the HPC did its job conscientiously, rejecting, among other things I can't recall, the addition of quoins to the existing house--an architectural detail not found on houses of its kind in the vernacular architecture of Hudson.

After the project got fast-tracked through the HPC review, it went with the same sense of urgency to the Zoning Board of Appeals for an area variance. Hudson's zoning laws, adopted decades ago, call for setbacks that don't conform with the existing streetscape in most of the city's older neighborhoods.* Since the building being proposed would have the same relationship to the sidewalk and street as all the other buildings in the neighborhood, an area variance was required from the ZBA. That, too, was granted, and the project was set to go.

But, after all the effort and special attention from the HPC and the ZBA, the project never happened. According to Walker, by the time they had secured the C of A and the area variance, they'd lost the contractor. It would seem reasonable to expect that, if they were committed to doing the project, they would have lined up the contractor for the next construction season and started then, but several years have passed and nothing has happened.

* Early on, it was explained to me that the inappropriate setbacks in the Hudson zoning code were there because the City had more or less adopted standardized zoning meant for more suburban, 20th-century residential areas. A few years ago, however, someone who had been involved in the process told me that the setbacks were adopted quite deliberately. The expectation was that all the old buildings would eventually burn down or be demolished, and, with new buildings set farther back, the streets could be widened. Whenever I think about this, my blood runs cold.


  1. Eric Galloway's proposals repeatedly "clog the system" (or rather, bust through like Drano) and then nothing, NOTHING, happens. Infuriating!

  2. nothing happens? the man has invested more dollars in this community and continues to do so than anyone in recent memory and we should all be grateful for it. Thanks Mr. Galloway!!!

  3. really?!? I need examples, because I'm only aware of boarded up buildings, weedy lots, or proposals that are not followed through, reported here and in the Register Star. I wonder what some of his properties are like on the inside and what would the tenants say? What is the tax status of each of his properties? Do they have exemptions, or is he making a fair community investment through them? And how can his recent proposal for the corner of 5th and Warren truly be called an investment in our community? Inquiring minds want to know...

  4. Phillippe Soules proposal was very exciting. Unfortunately the property came with an old man living quite meagerly in a trailer jammed in under the back shed. Phillippe asked him repeatedly to vacate but the guy wouldn't budge. Phillippe is a gentle soul and felt it was bad karma to have the man physically evicted. Eventually he gave up and made the deal with Eric.
    Shortly thereafter the man, trailer and shed all disappeared.
    The house and lot remain in ruins.

  5. Thanks, Vince, for this information. I had no idea that the City hadn't evicted the old guy in the trailer before they sold the property. Seems to me they had an obligation to do so.