Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Back to the Kaz Site

Yesterday at noon, the board of Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) met for its last--at least for a while--midday meeting. As the final agenda item, under New Business, there was a motion to change the board's regular meeting time from noon on the third Thursday of the month to 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month. The motion passed, with one of the nine board members present voting no and two abstaining.

Before that happened, there was much discussion on the topic that makes people obsessed about wanting to attend HDC meetings: the Kaz redevelopment project. The conversation started with Don Moore, who chaired the committee that was reviewing the proposals for the site, reporting that he was contacting the three developers--Bonacio Construction, Kearney Realty & Development, and Redburn Development--to "make sure they understood we are in a holding pattern." He indicated he was telling them HDC would be issuing another RFP, but it is not known when. He noted that one of the developers cautioned him that new tariffs being imposed on imported materials would change the bids.

A bit later in the discussion, Bob Rasner proposed a rather radical option. After saying, "This project sucks enormous energy," he asked, "Why don't we just put a 'For Sale' sign on it and sell it and get on with our core mission?" He identified the core mission as "job creation." Reacting to this suggestion, Steve Dunn said, "I think the City and the public are interested in dictating what that site becomes." Nick Haddad reminded the board that the waterfront was one of Hudson's most precious features and warned, "Turning the property over to a developer could be a disaster. What we do with the waterfront is extremely important." Later Haddad stressed, "We've been given this canvas, and he need to take our time." Mark Morgan-Perez insisted that the Kaz project was "the best example of fulfilling the mission of the organization."

John Gilstrap suggested "the Waterfront Development Committee could take over the site." Since there is no Waterfront Development Committee, it's not clear what body he had in mind. Later he said, "I do worry that we could be here two years from now in the same place." Dunn spoke of the concern about how the new development "relates to the rest of the city and the waterfront" and called for more community input. He advised, "Through a committee or some process, we need to figure out our options." 

Walter Chatham offered this assessment of the mistakes of the past: "What went wrong was the process wasn't ready for physical design, but people had the very strong impression that they understood what they would get." He concluded, "HDC went too fast." He cited the process being followed by Hudson Housing Authority, which he said is "focusing on non-design details," as one that HDC should have followed.

The final word on the subject came from Gilstrap, who said, "We really need to form a Kaz committee to look at the possibilities. . . . At some point the RFP needs to be rejiggered and reissued."

At the end of the meeting, when public comment was invited, Matthew Frederick urged the board to do an urban design study. He cited Warren Street as Hudson's best urban design feature, where buildings are three to four stories high and lots are 26 feet wide. He noted that if the site were developed by a single developer, rental income from the property would leave the city and urged, "We must figure out a way to keep income in the community." He suggested that dividing the site into smaller lots could achieve that goal, as well as ensuring that new development would be compatible with the rest of the city.

Reacting to Frederick's suggestion, Morgan-Perez declared, "You will not get one dollar for affordable housing. . . . just extremely wealthy people buying up the property." He did suggest that the state should come up with programs that could make the model suggested by Frederick feasible. Frederick acknowledged it was "a very complex thing" but protested, "To brush it off the table with one concern is unfair."

Clark Wieman asserted that "the process of an urban design plan has been ignored," noting that the process leading up to such a plan is a public process. He urged that a planner be hired to undertake the task of creating an urban design plan for the site.

During the discussion, some interesting information was revealed. Moore indicated that DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding for the project was initially $2.5 million, but it had been reduced to slightly less half a million, "because the project stalled." Now, according to Moore, "We have to figure out what we're going to do with [the money]."   

Moore also revealed that, of the three proposals HDC had been considering, the Kearney proposal "was almost all public funding." The other two proposals--from Redburn and Bonacio--used no public funding.


  1. survey the city grid onto the parcel, then break the parcel up into 28 x 120 city lots for auction, limiting one lot per bidder. put some design specifications on the parcels (build from front lot line back, no parking garages street streetside, etc) and let the area grow as our city did over 200 years ago. it will create jobs, housing, and excitement- organically, at a cadence that matches the scale.

    1. Consider adding a requirement that a percentage of the residential rental stock approved for construction within the project borders be at or below market-rate to ensure some level of affordable housing.

  2. The lot size is variable, just in keeping with our urban fabric.. but why do we insist on making carrion of ourselves with RFPs only development oligarchs can qualify for?

    Take the L&B factory; small & diverse holdings making for a thriving and dynamic site.

    Haven't found anyone that wants to mimic Water Street in Poughkeepsie, which is precisely what we'll get if we persist in the current approach.

    1. Well said. These are the sorts of ideas that the old HDC just couldn't entertain, let alone conceive of without the active participation of residents.

      At the May meeting of the HDC, when President DePietro made a similar pitch after pointing out that the RFP process had already limited the future to three big developers, the collective faces of the other HDC members were a total blank. They only ever knew one way forward, and of that way they were, let's just say, very confident.

  3. Putting a for sale sign on it by the City is the best and simplest idea. sell the site -- put it back on the tax roll.

    can i also point out that the building is a long way from the "waterfront" ? Hudson would be lucky if the Wick developers bought it to add to their hotel lot.