Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Tourism and Development: Part 2

When I arrived at the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) meeting, a discussion of the Kaz redevelopment was going on. The board is gearing up for its third attempt to find a developer or developers for the site of the former Kaz warehouse.

There was discussion about how the cash-strapped HDC might get revenue from the remaining two warehouse buildings while they are in the process of crafting a new request for proposals. It was suggested that space in the buildings could be rented out for storing boats and RVs, but before this could happen, the buildings, one of which is reportedly "full of furniture and moldy clothes," would have to be cleaned out and made secure. It was decided that Branda Maholtz would arrange for a tour of the buildings by HDC board members, so they could assess the contents. Walter Chatham suggested that members of the public should have a chance to take anything they want out of the building for a nominal fee of $1. 

The acquisition of land from CSX, needed to access the site from Front Street and make the development viable, was the next topic of discussion. Steve Dunn, who has been tasked with negotiating the purchase, reported that he had finally connected with a decision maker at CSX who "wants to proceed at the existing purchase price." CSX still wants to prohibit residential development on the parcel and wants HDC to indemnify CSX from any third party environmental claims, but Dunn said he was "confident that prior to the next meeting we will come to an agreement on terms" and he would have a draft document for board to consider. Dunn also told the board that his contact at CSX had "basically said, 'The only reason we're doing this is to be a good neighbor.'"  

With regard to the CSX parcel, the board passed a resolution authorizing the expenditure of up to $3,800 for a Phase I environmental assessment.

The discussion then returned to the Kaz redevelopment. Bob Rasner, who was chairing the meeting, said of earlier efforts, "We didn't get buy-in from the community." He said that he and Walter Chatham had "reached out to the immediate neighbors" of the site with the goal of engaging them "in healthy, gracious involvement" in moving the project forward. He said he had talked to five people, four of whom had agreed to be part of the process. The five he mentioned were Beth Kanaga, representing the Tanners Lane Neighborhood Association; Melissa Auf der Maur from Basilica Hudson; Ben Fain and Reed Barrow of Red Barn Hudson; Kristen Keck from Wm. Farmer & Sons; and The Wick. Rasner reported that The Wick had not agreed to participate, which seems perfectly reasonable. Redburn Development Partners, the owners of The Wick, submitted a proposal in the last RFP process, and it could very well be the case that participating in the development of a new RFP would disqualify them from submitting a proposal in response to that RFP.

Tom DePietro called the process Rasner was outlining "premature," saying, "It looks like top-down planning." He, along with Mark Morgan-Perez, advocated for bringing Kaja Kühl and the Columbia students from the Hudson Valley Initiative back to assist with this planning task. When Chatham questioned turning the task over to students, Morgan-Perez clarified that their role would be to "do research and engage the community, and we would use that information to make a much better RFP." 

No decision was made at the meeting about how to move forward. The next HDC meeting, which will combine the annual meeting and the regular monthly meeting, will take place on Tuesday, March 26, at noon at 1 North Front Street.

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