In 1994, James Howard Kunstler published The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape. In the book, Kunstler traced America's evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular.
In the twenty years since Kunstler's book came out, although the creation of "nowheres" continues unabated, an appreciation of traditional main streets has developed. Last Thursday night, the Common Council Economic Development Committee initiated a conversation about legislation to ban chain or "formula" stores from Hudson. Such bans are a growing trend among cities that pride themselves in their historic architecture and their unique character.
Several things are motivating this initiative. There is an interest in protecting the historic architecture of Hudson from the detracting impact of the cookie-cutter design of chain stores. There is also concern about protecting the unique and organic quality of Hudson, which has made it a destination. The action is also motivated by the desire to protect local businesses and the local economy. Committee member John Friedman (Third Ward) made the point that money spent at a chain store leaves the community, whereas money spent at a locally owned business stays in the community. Another motivation is the desire to curb the rise of rents on commercial spaces. Friedman suggested that knowing they could not rent to Starbucks or Pottery Barn would have the effect of limiting the expectations of building owners.
Audience member Steve Dunn insisted there needed to be a "carve out" for a supermarket. Friedman suggested that an exception might be made for "businesses that are underrepresented or have a low profit margin," noting that the profit margin for supermarkets is 2 percent. The discussion of supermarkets led to a suggestion by Friedman that it might be possible to create "a food oasis within a food desert" by working out a way to distribute food from supermarkets in the city. One possibility he offered was convincing ShopRite, which has a home delivery service, to make multiple deliveries at one time to a centralized place in Hudson, without requiring minimum orders and presumably with no or reduced delivery charges.
Friedman, who has declared on several occasions that 2017 will be his last year on the Council, said he was willing to take on the task of drafting the legislation and "do all the work," with the goal of getting the legislation adopted in the next year. He told his colleagues on the Economic Development Committee, "The identity of Hudson is worth preserving," noting that "the strength of Hudson is its organic quality."
COPYRIGHT 2016 CAROLE OSTERINK
"Ban chain or formula stores" ... Brilliant !ReplyDelete
I would like to think I "suggested" rather than "insisted," as a way to generate a dialogue about the issue. I learned a lot at the meeting. It was quite fascinating really, and a really good dialogue ensued, where ideas were bounced around. It represented Hudson governance at its best I think. We need more of that!ReplyDelete
There was also a discussion about a carve out for CVS, and in general perhaps, for businesses that would not compete with existing businesses, and would fulfill an unmet need. And for encouraging more affordable restaurants north of Warren, and having the chain store leash zone, be limited to certain sections of town. And then the issue about what to do with a business that is not a chain operation, but then becomes one down the line.
Getting this legislation just right, is going to be a daunting task. I admire Mr. Friedman for taking the task on, and wish him well.
The Starbuckification of our existing commercial areas, if it were allowed to happen, would be incremental, a storefront here and a storefront there, over time. It would be awfully easy to become desensitized to the damage, because the architecture would remain authentic, and most shops would still be unique. But picture what could happen in the mixed-use developments that are envisioned now for Hudson's waterfront — all at once. A stroll on the waterfront would be like a trip to that generic suburban dystopia Garrison Keillor used to call "The Dales — Northdale, Eastdale, Southdale and Westdale." Dining options like Olive Garden and Baskin Robbins, clothing shops like Ann Taylor and Gap, and since shoppers will still think of Hudson as a place to buy furniture and art, The Bombay Company and a gallery devoted to Thomas Kinkade The Painter of Light. This initiative couldn't be more timely.ReplyDelete
It could be useful to examine how Rhinebeck has dealt with the issue. Here's a URL to the Rhinebeck Plan:ReplyDelete
Awesome. I assume this "vision" statement morphed into actual law. It would be nice to have the statute Rhinebeck enacted in hand. Often it's the gritty little details that matter, which if one ignores, bite one in the butt later. Pity towns don't have codes and their laws are often impossible to find. I would FOIL the town attorney and the town clerk immediately for it, which can be done by email. In fact, I will do that tomorrow morning myself.Delete
If there is going to be a supermarket in the city of hudson, the common council will need to "carve out" an exception to the property tax most likely, or perhaps the lease agreement. This will create a stir among businesses owners who will not get the lower property tax rate.ReplyDelete
A chain grocery store would have the capital to open a location in Hudson, without an "exemption", but it would never see a profit due to Hudson's decreasing population. (Population, percent change - April 1, 2010 (estimates base) to July 1, 2015, (V2015) -4.1%).
Mr. Friedman's "Marshall Plan" - having Shoprite deliver food to Hudson - is not sustainable.
If the city wishes to end its "food desert," then it must work to create a community where people don't have to move away to find work. If a chain grocery store sees that the city is growing they are more likely to try to open a location.
Mr. Duke, the Common Council has no such power to "carve out" an exemption to the property tax. And there is no tax on leases in NYS so no need for such a power. In any event the City owns no real estate suited or suitable for a grocery store so the leasing issue is moot -- it will have to be privately held land or no land at all.Delete
The economics of why there are no grocery stores in Hudson proper are well known and don't bear or need repeating here beyond saying we're not large enough a population to warrant the investment.
The lack of work in Hudson is, in my view, pretty much a chimera. The real issue is that not enough Hudsonians are willing or able to do the work that needs doing in a post-industrial economy such as the one we find ourselves in. That is, most of the business owners I know (including myself) can't find qualified help that is willing to work the hours necessary for the business to be successful. How a city the size of Hudson (geography and budget) creates either a neo-industrial or retro-industrial economy in the face of all the pressures that our society faces in this regard (globalism, environmental regs, etc.) seems an intractable mystery to me -- but hopefully whomever follows me on the Council will have better ideas.
In the meantime, I think having Shoprite work with some NFP (perhaps the Chamber of Commerce?) to provide a payment platform and delivery location is a workable stopgap measure. I don't think it rises to the level of a Marshall Plan -- it is a pretty modest idea actually and derivative of what other companies already do. But I'm not sure why you believe it is unsustainable. Perhaps you'd be willing to expand on that as I've been giving the idea a lot of thought and welcome help.
The introduction of a supermarket in Hudson is required for expanded public housing.ReplyDelete
Brainstorming about the problem, here's a scenario to consider. In a few months, the Hudson Police Department will vacate its current building on Warren Street and move to the new station on Union Street. At that point, perhaps the city could lease the old police station on Warren Street to Hannafords, Price Chopper, or Shoprite to use as an "annex." Not a full-service supermarket, but a pint-sized market, or just a place where folks could come to pick up their orders.ReplyDelete
Once the HPD and courts move out of their current building, the City is committed to selling that property to a private entity (highest bidder) pursuant to a contract of sale that will include certain time requirements for the reno/C of O to be completed/issued. The funds from this sale are part of the budget for keeping the new HPD/Courts complex affordable (we plan to use the proceeds to pay down the debt the City took on to finance the acquisition and reno of the old Finnish Line building into its new use as the HPD/Courts building).Delete
Any day now, Cuomo's "Upstart New York" will kick in and there will be factories popping up all over upstate.ReplyDelete
A Whole Foods or Trader Joes type store might be a better fit than Shoprite or Hannaford, still a chain but not as visually offensive with better food at affordable prices and they might be more amenable to the idea of providing an oasis in the food desert in a space the size of the police station. I don't know what happened to the Hawthorne Valley Store idea, but that might work there as well. A plastic Shoprite or Hannaford sign right in the middle of Warren St isn't going to enhance the ambiance of Hudson. It sure would be nice to be able to buy what you need without going out onto Fairview.ReplyDelete
A traditional brick-and-mortar approach is near-impossible in Hudson due to the costs of real estate and small addressable market. This is true for a large, traditional operator (Shoprite, Price Chopper, Publix, etc.) and smaller, local operators (like HVA). The visual appeal (or lack thereof) not being too terribly important if the cashflow won't keep the lights on, look to either significantly higher prices at bodegas (the "traditional" inner city solution) OR non-traditional approaches to food sales (perhaps the Hudson Anchor or another truly non-traditional vendor like Applestone Meat Co. (NB: I represent both )will provide a solution or at least part of one). Otherwise, resign yourself to the options on Fairview. It will be interesting to see what happens if the rumors about PC closing are true -- will that change any of the variables?Delete
Last night, I watched the documentary "Two Square Miles."ReplyDelete
The film really drives home the point that the best interest of everyone living in Hudson needs to be considered. Frankly, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's cater exclusively to the affluent. Shoprite, Price Chopper and Hannafords are more affordable, which helps residents who are less affluent. My neighbors Bill and Marilyn have lived in Hudson their entire lives. They told me that an A&P Supermarket on Seventh Street was torn down to build Proprietors Hall. So, perhaps we should think about the possibility of getting rid of the parking lot behind Proprietors Hall and using the site for the construction of a small supermarket. On the one hand, parking lots are a necessary evil. On the other hand, they are ugly and unpleasant.
An ordinary supermarket returning to Hudson shares the same probability of a pocketbook factory returning to Hudson: ZERO.ReplyDelete
This discussion certainly calls out for an expanded community discussion. There are an increasing number of issues that seem to be inviting partisan (demographic, racial, economic) divisions -- from education to housing to jobs to supermarkets -- that it's sure time to convene a community discussion. It will be interesting to see if the new Fair & Equal ward divisions make this community discussion more possible.ReplyDelete
Instead of a supermarket, how about the idea of constructing a building at Sixth and Columbia that would be used as a farmers market and food co-operative under one roof? The parking lot is already being used for the farmer's market on Saturdays. I'm not talking about anything elaborate. The city already owns the land, and the city could own the building. Yes, we would lose the parking lot, but I think it would be a better use of the site. A dream to contemplate.ReplyDelete
I would hate to see this excellent idea, of an ordinance restricting chain or big box stores, get bogged down in a squabble over what kind or whether the City of Hudson can sustain a chain grocery within its small borders. I might point out that the chain groceries which serve the Village of Rhinebeck (Super Stop & Shop and Hannaford's) are no more within walking distance of the Village center than is Greenport's Shop Rite. CVS Pharmacy, as an existing use, I presume would be "grandfathered" in the proposed ordinance, which might contain some language to permit another "chain" pharmacy to open up should CVS decide to leave. Even some language to permit, conceptually, one "chain" grocery store should anyone decide to take the plunge at some future date.ReplyDelete