Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Considering City Hall

One of the compelling reasons cited for moving City Hall to the John L. Edwards school building is that the current City Hall is not ADA compliant. This is something that has been known ever since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990. Previous mayors were content to ignore the issue, saying it was impossible to make the 1907 building universally accessible, but the current mayor, Rick Rector, made it a goal of his administration to find a way. He was taking steps to make City Hall more accessible and user friendly even before the lawsuit brought against the City by three Hudson residents raised the issue to the level of emergency.

Advocates for the move to JLE maintain that making City Hall ADA compliant is cost prohibitive. At the September Common Council meeting, Council president Tom DePietro stated that the "rough estimate" for doing so was more than $3 million. On her Facebook page this morning, Fourth Ward supervisor Linda Mussmann asserted that the City's historic buildings are "outrageously expensive to upgrade." It's a convenient argument, but it's not entirely true.

The feasibility study done on City Hall by Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson, the same architectural firm that is doing the feasibility study on JLE, yielded four possible plans for making the building ADA compliant. Three of the plans would provide access to the main floor, where all city business takes place--attending meetings, making tax payments and water and sewer payments, visiting the assessor, securing and renewing licences. The fourth plan, which is the expensive one, is a complete renovation and redesign of the building, with an extension at the rear that would house an elevator. Here are the four plans and the estimated cost associated with each.

Plan 1  $278,000
This plan involves the creation of accessible parking spaces on Warren Street and Prison Alley, a lift at the main entrance, a sloped walk along the west side of the building, modifications to the door on the west side, the creation of an accessible rest room, and modifications to the Council Chamber.

Plan 2  $262,000 
Plan 2 is basically the same as Plan 1 except instead of a lift at the main entrance there would be a ramp in front of the building, which would take up much of the sidewalk.

Plan 3  $131,000
Plan 3--the least expensive solution--involves installing a lift at the side door on Warren Street, the doorway that now gives access to the upstairs offices of the mayor, the mayor's aide, Council president, and the Department of Public Works.

Plan 4  $3,143,000
This is the expensive one. It would provide universal access to the entire building and create a City Hall, in a city known for its historic architecture, that would definitely inspire civic pride. With Plan 4, there would be an addition at the back of the building, with an elevator, giving access to all floors, including the basement storage area. The building would be completely accessible from both Warren Street and Prison Alley. There would be additional office space and an improved Council Chamber. Perhaps the best thing, the atrium that was part of the interior design of the original bank building would be opened up once again, and the glorious stained glass laylight, which no one who hasn't had reason to visit the Department of Public Works map room has ever seen, will be visible from the main floor.

The renovation and redesign of our stately City Hall building could be achieved for less than the purchase price of JLE--a building that will require further investment to prepare it for its intended new uses. Of course, this doesn't address the need for new facilities for the Youth Center and the Day Care Center, but it seems those needs could be met without acquiring a 90,000 square foot building that is much bigger than what is actually needed.


  1. Plan 4 makes the most sense and it would be well worth it to save the integrity of the building and it's Warren Street frontage. Put it in the budget. With all the new high taxes, and perhaps a good grant writer the City can surely squeeze $4M. I hope the next Mayor will consider saving money by not buying JLE.

  2. JLE should belong to the taxpayers - we paid to build the thing - we shouldnt be forced to buy it back !

  3. This expensive plan will always feel like a renovation of a former structure. All it does is preserve the facade. Internally it will never have the feel of a stately civic building. The intern floor plan is a tortured design disaster.

  4. Why does Hudson need a city hall at all? It seems every function there can be out sourced. Think outside the building! A good storefront can become the mayors office and put him/her more in touch with the people. Otherwise,the least expensive scheme makes the most sense.