Before that, Sheena Salvino, executive director for HDC, presented the communications that had been received. One of those communications was a letter from Melissa Auf der Maur, co-founder and director of Basilica Hudson. Auf der Maur was present at the meeting and spoke about its content. The gist of her message to the board was that development of the Kaz site was moving too quickly. She called the Kaz site "a significant turning point for the extension of downtown" and, referencing the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) and the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), argued that the the RFP (request for proposals) for the Kaz site should not have gone forward "until the greater context is clear." She suggested that waiting until after the DRI and LWRP were completed "could have inspired more people to submit proposals." She lamented what she perceived as a closed selection process, saying, "If we, the invested property owners, feel out of the loop, how can this turn out well?" She went on say that the project was "taking off without the proper, world-class planning" it deserved.
Another member of the public present, Jeffrey Yeh agreed that the project was moving too fast. The deadline for submitting proposals had been six weeks from when the RFP was issued, and Yeh maintained this was not enough. "A lot of people are interested in this project," he told the board, "but the whole process was rushed." He spoke of Hudson being "on the national stage," inspiring interest "all the way to California," but he said the deadline had been too quick for many developers to prepare proposals.
In the face of this criticism, the board initially seemed genuinely speechless. Responding to Yeh's claim that interested developers didn't have enough time to prepare proposals, Salvino and board member Don Moore told Yeh that no one had contacted HDC asking that the deadline be extended. Reacting to Auf der Maur's complaint that the Kaz redevelopment project was going forward without being informed by input from the DRI process, Moore asserted "the amount of integration between the DRI and Kaz is remarkable." He assured Auf der Maur that the developers were aware of need to integrate the new development into the larger context of the city and told her, "The proposals are not cookie cutters." HDC board member Seth Rapport, who was also a member of the DRI Local Planning Committee, told Auf der Maur that at the special meeting the developers were "quizzed on DRI issues" by the board. John Gilstrap, who is now president of the HDC board, expressed surprise that anyone from California would be interested in the project "because of the economics."
Auf der Maur remained concerned about possible "conflicted uses" and how the proposed new development will "coexist with what is." Moore, who expressed his opinion that he didn't want Hudson to become downtown Saratoga, told Auf der Maur, "If we decide on a developer in three months, that's not the end." Earlier Rapport had explained, "How an accepted proposal is going to morph into that is actually built will be a very public process"--a process that is expected to take six months.
Since the meeting, Gossips was able to get a copy of the letter to HDC from Auf der Maur and her husband, Tony Stone. The following paragraphs are quoted from that letter:
KAZ (and the Dunn warehouse too), are the last significant lots to be developed in Hudson’s re-envisioned waterfront. They must reflect the community desires brought to light during the DRI, be innovative, thoughtful, inspired; affordable workforce housing; offer opportunities for jobs and job training programs, family activities; be built resiliently for rising waters, energy efficient; and be affordable and accessible for all of Hudson.
After participating in and observing the DRI process, it has made us more acutely aware of how important it is that we take a step back to plan our waterfront holistically, with these two big anchor projects at the center. To stabilize Dunn and clean up/demolish KAZ is of great importance, but in the coming year between the DRI momentum and the LWRP revision, there will be so much more potential, interest and understanding of the context for these prime projects.