Monday, January 16, 2017

Before They Got to the Haul Road

Before the Planning Board got around to discussing the Colarusso haul road on Thursday night, there were two public hearings and three presentations of new projects. The two public hearings concerned the proposal to open a board game cafe at 757 Columbia and to convert 214-216 Warren Street into a hotel.

At the public hearing for the board game cafe, there were only comments--both of support--from the owner of 757 Columbia Street, where the cafe will be located, and from the owner of a nearby building at 41 Eighth Street, who predicted that the cafe "will help clean up the neighborhood." For those who enjoy a glass of wine while playing Scrabble or a beer while playing Pandemic, Kathleen Miller, the new cafe's owner, told the Planning Board she would be applying for a beer and wine license. Later in the meeting, site plan approval was granted to the cafe.

The second public hearing was about the plan to convert 214-216 Warren Street, the former Savoia, into a hotel. The plans for restoring and renovating the facade of the building were granted a certificate of appropriateness by the Historic Preservation Commission on December 9, but the project still had unresolved parking issues with the Planning Board. To resolve the parking issues, the plans have been altered. Instead of nine rooms, the hotel will have five rooms and two luxury sites. There will be five offstreet parking spaces at the back of the building for the five hotel rooms and two spaces for the suites that will be leased behind 234 Warren Street.

The only comment on this project during the public hearing came from Steve Dunn, who sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals. He expressed the opinion that the project needed to go before the ZBA for a variance because two of the parking spaces would be leased. 

Parking continued to be an issue when the Planning Board took up its discussion of the proposal. Planning Board member Carmine Pierro asked about parking for the lounge, a bar area within the proposed hotel intended primarily for hotel guests, and pointed out that one additional parking space would be required for every three seats in the lounge. Mitch Khosrova, legal counsel to the Planning Board, asked how many seats there were in the lounge and was told there would be eighteen--on an assortment of sofas, ottomans, and wing chairs. He then declared that technically they would need an additional six offstreet parking spaces for the lounge, for a total of eleven. After Planning Board chair Tom DePietro asked if there wasn't a distinction between a lounge and an eating and drinking establishment, Khosrova conceded. "I take that back," he said. "The law says eating and drinking establishments; this will only be drinks and bar snacks." Audience member Walter Chatham pointed out that the proposed "lounge" was essentially a lobby bar for hotel occupants, for whom parking had already been provided.

In the end, the Planning Board granted site plan approval for the hotel. The irony is that this project, which modified its design to comply with the offstreet parking requirements in the City's zoning code, now wants to eliminate some onstreet parking spots by having a loading zone, such as The Barlow has, which eliminated two parking spaces in the 500 block of Warren Street. It was determined that a loading zone was not something that the Planning Board could approve nor could the ZBA. Former police commissioner Gary Graziano, who was in the audience, told the board that loading zones were in the purview of the police commissioner.

The first of the three new applications was for 886 Columbia Street, characterized as the "ugly yellow brick mansion." 

Photo: googlemaps
The house, once known as the Dinehart mansion, was built soon after 1910, when the house shown at the right, once the home of Augustus and Ellen McKinstry, was demolished. Since 1958, when the Rip Van Winkle Foundation purchased it to expand its clinic, the yellow brick mansion has had a variety of uses--none of them being as a single family home. Not long ago, it was a funeral home. The plan now being proposed is to convert the building into six medical office suites, adding an elevator at the back of the building and expanding the parking lot to forty-seven spaces. The renderings shown to the Planning Board suggest that the plans for the exterior also involve charcoal gray paint.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on this project at its next meeting, which takes place on Thursday, February 9. Since this building in not located in a historic district, no certificate of appropriateness is required from the Historic Preservation Commission for exterior alterations.

The next of the new applications is a familiar one to Gossips readers: the plan to build a block of four town houses on the west side of Hudson Avenue.

Almost a year has passed--ten months to be exact--since this proposal was first presented to the Planning Board in March 2016. During that time, because half the site of the proposed buildings is zoned R-3 (residential) and the other half I-1 (industrial) and residential dwellings are the only thing that cannot be built in an industrial zone, the project went before the ZBA, which denied it an area variance, and then to the Common Council, which, after no small amount of controversy, passed a resolution in November 2016 to amend the zoning to allow the construction of these four houses. Now, finally, the project is back before the Planning Board. The public hearing on the proposal will take place at the Planning Board's next meeting on February 9.

The final new project was the plan for the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Allen Street School, 34 Allen Street. The building, which was designed by Hudson architect Michael O'Connor, was constructed 1903. It ceased being used as a school building in late 1960s. The first floor of the building was converted into a dress factory and the staircases to the second floor were removed. Since the early 1990s, the building has stood vacant.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson

Photo: googlesmaps
What is being proposed is a private gallery on the first floor, studio spaces, and one short-term residential unit for an artist-in-residency program. The project involves a full renovation of the interior of the building, preserving all the original components and re-creating the original configuration. The main entrance to the building, which has been bricked up, will be restored, and the original doors reinstalled. The windows are being repaired, retaining as much original material as possible, the roof will be repaired, and the chimney repointed. The portico will be restored, although there are no plans to re-create the balustrade at the top of the portico. Of particular interest to the Planning Board, there will be six parking spaces at the rear of the building.

The project was presented to the Historic Preservation Commission on January 13 and granted a certificate of appropriateness. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the project on February 9.


  1. The "ugly yellow brick mansion.” What??? I couldn’t believe my ears. I love that building.

  2. Well said, Virginia, I totally agree. A handsome building.