Thursday, February 4, 2016

Down by the Station . . .

A hundred years ago, there were six hotels within easy walking distance of the train station--the Albany Hotel, the City Hotel, the Eagle Hotel, the Germania, Hudson House, and New Curtiss House. Now, a new hotel is being proposed, with one of its principal selling points being its proximity to the train station.

Although the hotel project proposed for 41 Cross Street is still before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, Rick Rector, who chairs the Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee, invited Tom Rossi and John Blackburn, principals of Redburn Development, to come to a committee meeting on Wednesday night to talk about their plans.

Rossi and Blackburn described their approach to real estate development as "taking historic properties and breathing new life into them." They have already converted two historic industrial buildings into apartments--River Street Lofts in Troy and Tilley Lofts in Watervliet. When it comes to historic preservation they are serious. There is uncertainty about whether 41 Cross Street, which was built in 1876 as a candle and soap manufactory, is or is not part of the locally designated Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District, which would make the project subject to review by the Historic Preservation Commission, but Rossi and Blackburn pursued (successfully) an individual listing in the National Register of Historic Places, and therefore the project is being reviewed for historic appropriateness by the State Historic Preservation Office.

For the first time, preliminary design drawings for the building were revealed, with the caveat that they were subject to change. The floor plans will ease the minds of those who may have worried that fitting fifty-five rooms into the building would require building additional stories. Amazingly, all 55 rooms fit into the existing building. Even the smallest room is 325 square feet, and the rooms in the center of the ground floor will have skylights to provide natural light.

The average price for the rooms is expected to be $149 a night, and the hotel will be working to attract corporate traffic and weddings, as well as visitors to Hudson who arrive by train. An economic impact study indicates that the hotel's indirect impact on local business will be $2 million annually. Assuming that the lodging tax in Hudson, when it takes effect, is 3 percent, the hotel is expected to collect $50,000 a year in lodging taxes which go directly into the City's coffers.  

During construction, which Rossi and Blackburn hope can begin in June and be completed in late winter 2017, the project will create 70 jobs and pay total wages of $3 million. Once the hotel is open, it will employ 12 to 14 people and pay a total of $405,000 in salaries and wages annually.

When asked if the $1.5 million Empire State Development grant the project was awarded in December 2015 required a match, Rossi explained that the total project cost is $8 million, and when the hotel opens, the project will be reimbursed $1.5 million. He also indicated that the project was not dependent on the $1.5 million grant, but receiving it allowed them to include some additional features--among them an enclosed four-seasons rooftop deck where guests can enjoy a view of the Hudson River and the Catskills beyond and watch the sun set.

The developers are operating on the assumption that the hotel requires a use variance because, although rooming houses and boarding houses are conditional uses in the zone where the building is located, a hotel is not. The project will be go before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday, February 24. The zoning for the Waterfront Revitalization Area in the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program), which was adopted by the Common Council in 2011, puts the building in the Residential Special Commercial (R-S-C) zone. Here's what the LWRP has to say about that zone:
Additional commercial zones are proposed to the waterfront area such as the Residential Special Commercial District and the Core Riverfront District, both of which allow for a mix of commercial uses intended to support continued mixed use development along Front Street and in the Core Riverfront area to encourage the redevelopment of vacant sites and increase pedestrian activity within areas near the riverfront and the Amtrak station.
It certainly seems that a hotel is exactly why the R-S-C zone was created in the first place and therefore shouldn't require a use variance, but we'll see what happens on February 24.

1 comment:

  1. A hotel is a terrific idea for that historic building, and this group obviously knows what it's doing.

    I was told that Stageworks has the idea to move right next door. I wish them well, but that's a huge project. At the moment the desired location is an empty lot.