Friday, December 8, 2017

DRI Watch: Public Workshop No. 2

Last night, the second public engagement workshop in the DRI process took place. Even though a show of hands revealed that almost everyone in the room had been at the previous public workshop, Steve Kearney, the planner from Stantec, felt compelled to present an overview of the project to this point "for those who have not been following the process." Of greatest interest in Kearney's presentation was his pronouncement that the process was "close to midway at this stage."

Two new members of the planning team were present last night: Larisa Ortiz, the retail specialist working on the project, and Marc Norman, the housing specialist. Ortiz presented some facts about Hudson that most probably already knew. There are more people earning less than $20,000 a year in Hudson than in the surrounding area; there are more Millennials; there is more ethnic diversity. She also pointed out something we already knew: people living in Hudson are spending their food money outside the city, in the supermarkets of Greenport. According to her statistics, the total spent on food by Hudson residents in Greenport is a surprising $5 million. She also asserted something that in the past never seemed to be the case: Hudson could support a 10,000 square foot grocery store. A little of my own research discovered that the size of the average supermarket is 45,ooo square feet, but the size of the average Trader Joe's is 10,000 square feet.

Norman, the housing specialist, made an important distinction between affordable housing, which usually means low-income subsidized housing, and housing affordability. He made the point that there is not now in Hudson housing for a range of incomes and spoke of the need for a "ladder of affordability." He mentioned a development in Philadelphia where town houses were built for $100,000 each. Gossips located this article about the project from 2014, when it was being planned: "How Council plans to create 1,5000 new affordable housing units."

After the presentations, the meeting got down to the real business at hand--prioritizing the DRI projects that have been proposed. There were the eleven last week:
  1. Basilica Hudson, Phase II
  2. The Warehouse--Digifab expansion and facade improvements
  3. The Wick--exterior site improvements to increase pedestrian access
  4. River House, Phase II
  5. Public pier
  6. Reconnecting the waterfront
  7. Kaz site development
  8. Furgary, a.k.a. The Shacks or Shantytown
  9. Promenade Hill--redesign of entrance
  10. Community food hub
  11. Community food waste processing
In addition to these, nine more projects have been proposed:
  1. North Bay sidewalk connections
  2. North Bay regeneration--focused on youth employment at the Kite' Nest site
  3. Commercial kitchen and housing at 16 South Front Street
  4. Pre-development for new housing--6-14 State Street, 202-206 Columbia Street, 213 Columbia Street
  5. Makerspace/business incubator
  6. Cypersecurity workforce development
  7. Tourism and river transportation
  8. Homeowner improvement grants
  9. Disadvantaged business support
And then there were three "emerging projects":
  1. Heated bus shelters for children waiting for the school bus
  2. Dog park
  3. Indoor leisure/entertainment facility
The proposed projects were all displayed on boards at the back of the room. Meeting participants were each given ten green stick-on dots and asked to use half of them to mark projects they considered "most important" priorities and the other half to mark projects they considered "secondary" priorities. 

People dutifully carried out their assignment, affixing green dots to project descriptions. It was promised that the results of this rather unscientific preference poll would be reported back to the public, probably on the Hudson DRI website.

Even though there are now more than twenty projects in the running, there is still time to submit a project for consideration. The deadline for doing so is Wednesday, January 3, at noon. The "request for project information" form is available here. Kearney will be available to give assistance in preparing project forms on Tuesday, December 19, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. It's reasonable to assume that he will be at the Hudson Development Corporation office on that day, 1 North Front Street, but you may want to send him an email to confirm that and ensure you can get some time with him.

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