Friday, December 19, 2014

What's Possible for the Dunn Building?

On Tuesday night, the Common Council passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to "execute all necessary documents to engage Saratoga Associates to implement the Redevelopment Analysis and Master Plan for a Multi-Use Waterfront Building." The building in question is the Dunn building, one of the last surviving industrial structures on Hudson's waterfront.

In pursuing this project, which is intended to "evaluate existing conditions, inclusive of all structural and building envelop elements; and identify adaptive reuse possibilities for the building," the City is finally utilizing a grant from the Department of State that was awarded during the Tracy administration (2006-2007). The $27,500 grant must be matched by another $27,500 from the City's coffers. The match is coming from the "Firehouse Lease Account." 

It will be remembered that the Central Fire Station is not owned by the City of Hudson but by Community Initiatives Development Corporation (CIDC), with whom the City has a thirty-year lease agreement that will allow the City to buy the building in 2035, after making close to $6 million in lease payments, for only one dollar. City treasurer Heather Campbell explained that the lease payment to CIDC is subject to a variable interest rate, but the City budgets the same amount for the lease every year. Therefore, when interest rates are down, there is extra money in the Firehouse Lease Account, and some of that money is being used as the match for the grant from the Department of State. 

In a process of selecting a firm to do the study, the City issued an RFP, reviewed all the the proposals received, narrowed the candidates down to four, and conducted interviews with those four groups: SRG Architects and Barton & Loguidice; Russ Reeves and TenTwenty Architecture; Saratoga Associates; and River Architects. Saratoga Associates was chosen for the project, and Council president Don Moore expressed the opinion that "they will do a very good job."

More than a decade ago, Saratoga Associates was hired to work on the City of Hudson's Comprehensive Plan, which was completed in 2002. Their involvement with the comprehensive plan was a bit controversial since they had also been hired, during the same time, by St. Lawrence Cement to do the visual impact assessment for the "Greenport Project." At one time, Saratoga Associates website described their role in that project in this way:
This highly controversial $350 million cement manufacturing facility was proposed within the scenic and culturally significant Hudson River Valley region of New York State. Saratoga Associates served as the applicant's lead consultant on all visual impact and aesthetic mitigation issues, advising on interpretation of public policy and compliance with myriad governmental regulations. Saratoga Associates worked closely with St. Lawrence Cement and all federal, state and local regulatory agencies to design and implement creative measures that eliminate where possible or, alternately, minimize visual and aesthetic impacts in a manner that balances economic development with environmental protection.
Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of many but primarily Friends of Hudson, the project was defeated, and there was never the opportunity to find out if those "creative measures" to "eliminate where possible or, alternately, minimize visual and aesthetic impacts" actually worked.

Thanks to Sam Pratt for his research help with this post and always for his leadership role in defending Hudson: the city, the river, the valley.

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