This morning, the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposal to demolish 330 Warren Street and subsequently, at their regular meeting, came to the decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition.
The public hearing lasted for sixteen minutes, and few of the people who had come to the hearing made comments. Those who did, however, argued against demolishing a commercial structure on Hudson's main street for no reason other than to create a private garden that would extend over three lots and be cut off from the street by a brick wall.
When, during its regular meeting, the HPC turned its attention to the proposal for 330 Warren Street, HPC member Peggy Polenberg wanted to know why no alternatives to the "continuation of the ugly brick wall" had been offered. At HPC meeting on March 13, when the project had been presented by someone from Crawford & Associates, the HPC had suggested that a wrought iron fence, which would allow the garden to be seen from the street, or a barrier created by shrubbery would be more appropriate. Today, Richard Herbert, the landscape architect for the project, explained that it is not his practice to render options that he did not think were appropriate. Instead, he chose to make the case for the appropriateness of the brick wall.
Herbert explained that he did not want to introduce something new into the "vocabulary" of fences and walls already on Warren Street. He summarized what is now found along Warren Street as "chain link fences, steel picket fences, and a mural (at 406 Warren Street, concealing the vacant lot left when a building was illegally demolished back in 2006), and displayed an array of photographs to support his argument that "the options already present are inferior to continuing the wall."
Curiously, one of the pictures Herbert included in his display of inferior options shows the fence at Thurston Park, in the 200 block of Warren Street--a genuinely vintage wrought iron fence, acquired by Jeremiah Rusconi and installed when the park was created in 1997.
It was observed several times in the discussion that there were two elements to the proposal--demolishing 330 Warren Street and the compatibility of what would replace it--and some members of the commission toyed with the notion of considering them separately. At one point, architect member Chris Perry suggested that a certificate of appropriateness might be granted for the demolition contingent on there being an acceptable and compatible replacement. In the end, however, that course was not pursued.
After nearly an hour of discussion, all the members of the commission came to an agreement that the building, although not great architecture and not contemporary with the buildings around it, contributed to the urban landscape, and removing it would constitute a substantial change to the character of the neighborhood, leaving an "extensive dead wall" that contributed nothing to "the sense of place and the sense of space." When HPC chair Rick Rector called for a motion to grant a certificate of appropriateness, no such motion was forthcoming. When he called for a motion to deny a certificate of appropriateness, the motion was made and seconded and all seven members of the commission voted aye.
Toward the end of the discussion, Ellen Thurston, supervisor from the Third Ward, who was in the audience, shared the observation that the public park at 326-328 Warren Street, which belongs to the City of Hudson, had been designed with the little white cube of a building in mind and expressed the wish that the building had been given to the City for a tourism center.
Since the new owner seems not to have any immediate plans for using the building, who knows what temporary arrangement might be worked out?
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