Sunday, June 28, 2020

What's to Become of the Kaz Site?

It's been ten years since the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) acquired the Kaz warehouses, an acquisition that involved forgiveness of back taxes due to the City of Hudson and assumption of responsibility for any environmental issues that might exist on the site. The original plan was to raze the buildings and either sell the site for development or use the concrete slab for parking. Years later, that plan has been partially realized. In 2017, the owners of The Wick Hotel, at their own expense, demolished the part of the warehouses nearest the hotel and are now renting parking spaces for hotel guests on the concrete slab from HDC.

Although the idea was that HDC would market the site, no effort to do that was made until 2016. In that year, an RFP (request for proposals) was issued, and in April 2016, HDC announced that Sustainable Community Associates (SCA) had been selected "to move forward into negotiation for the redevelopment of the former warehouse and vacant land into a mixed-use development that includes residential, retail, coworking office, and live/work spaces."

The negotiations went on for more than a year. In March 2017, HDC and SCA announced that plans for redevelopment had been put on hold "until control of the CSX parcel is obtained." The CSX parcel was necessary to give the site access to Front Street. Eventually, the negotiations with with SCA were abandoned.

In October 2017, HDC issued a second RFP. By April 2018, HDC had three contenders for the project--Bonacio Construction, Kearney Realty & Development, and Redburn Development--and a community up in arms about being excluded from the planning process and HDC's perceived lack of transparency. Common Council president Tom DePietro's request that the city attorney "look into how does one get rid of an LDC [local development corporation]" led to resentment and resignations (the Common Council president is an ex officio member of the HDC board), and, with the departure of HDC executive director Sheena Salvino in early August 2018, the redevelopment of the Kaz site fell by the wayside. HDC did, however, pursue the acquisition of CSX parcel and succeeded in purchasing the property, with a loan from Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), in October 2019.

HDC board member Steve Dunn, board president Bob Rasner, and city attorney Andy Howard at the closing on the CSX parcel in October 2019
It would seem now, with the needed access to Front Street secured and lessons learned from its past experience, the time is right for HDC to move ahead with the development of the Kaz site. They could start with some community engagement--it could be done virtually--to craft a vision for the site instead of looking to developers to bring that vision, as they have in the past. Instead the proposal now on the table is to sell it all and leave it up to the Planning Board and the ZBA to ensure that whatever is built there is compatible with and acceptable to the rest of the city.

At a meeting of the HDC Emergency Business Task Force last Monday, HDC board president Bob Rasner read a written statement recounting HDC's actions since March 22, when Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his New York on Pause executive order. The statement concluded in this way:
We need to reimagine Hudson and the HDC in a serious way.
To that end, at the HDC meeting tomorrow I will be asking the board to take bold steps to reimagine their future. A return to the purpose for which we were chartered.
  • Relieving and reducing adult unemployment
  • Promoting and providing maximum employment
  • Bettering and maintaining job opportunities
  • Promoting instruction or training of individuals to improve or develop their capabilities for such jobs
  • Encouraging the development and retention of business and industry . . . 
During my term on the HDC board we have spent an inordinate time on matters of real estate. This is not our function nor our purpose.
That needs to change.
We are not developers nor does the current board see that as our role in fulfilling our charter's purpose.
For the first time in years we will be introducing a concept that speaks directly to our mission. Job Training.
I will be asking the board to take steps that will insure the organization's future and that of the city. Although some may not agree, that will be the basis of a spirited discussion to which I look forward. . . .
Rasner read the same statement the next day at the monthly HDC meeting. At this meeting, it was made clear that he was advocating for the sale of the Kaz site, as he first did in September 2018, when he said of the Kaz redevelopment, "This project sucks enormous energy," and asked, "Why don't we just put a 'For Sale' sign on it and sell it and get on with our core mission?" On Tuesday, Rasner called for the creation of a Real Estate Committee to be chaired by Nick Haddad, who spoke of the site as "the largest piece of property available for development" in Hudson and "putting it back on the tax rolls in a significant way."

It was clear from some things said in the meeting that there are members of the HDC board opposed to the idea, but the "spirited discussion" Rasner spoke of has not yet begun . . . at least not publicly. It would be nice if, before HDC decides to put the whole parcel up for sale, the board would revisit the idea of platting it, dividing it into lots, as Walter Chatham proposed when he was on the HDC board and Matthew Frederick has also recommended. Perhaps the parcels don't have to be 26' x 120' to replicate the size of the lots in the adjacent original part of the city. Perhaps, the lots could be a bit larger, to honor this section of city's industrial past. 

Dividing the site into smaller parcels would have the effect of preventing the kind of monolothic, out of character development many fear. HDC should also, at the very least, look carefully at the design guidelines that are Appendix G of the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program) adopted by the City in 2011 and determine if these guidelines are sufficient to ensure visually appropriate development on this site, and, if they are insufficient, engage the talent on the Historic Preservation Commission and perhaps Chatham and Frederick as well to come up with guidelines that will ensure that "the largest piece of property available for development" in Hudson is developed in a manner appropriate to the rest of the city. 


  1. Applaud your directional suggestions. Have long been inspired by the Sustainable Community Associates proposal. Thanks for updates. Will stay tuned. A fitting, great expansion can happen.

  2. And kudos to the HDC Board for achieving CSX parcel climax.

  3. Thank you for this, Carole. And for mentioning the need for "community engagement." As I have said before, the Covid emergency, aside from crushing our local economy, has created great breaches in our local and national representative governments. And they are hardly filled with a few Zoom meetings. Someone really should propose an "emergency" law stating that the City (Mayor or Common Council) can not commit any new public funds (including Payments in Lieu of Taxes) over $50k unless and until the pandemic is over.

  4. HDC has made a lot of progress under the leadership of Rasner; I particularly commend them for closing on the CSX parcel (a special shout-out goes to Steve Dunn for the legwork on that initiative) and their very responsive efforts to the needs of small businesses in Hudson when the pandemic hit.`

    This is great momentum, and HDC would do well to continue that trajectory by opening up to gather community buy-in before engaging developers on this project, remembering, as Carole noted, that previous efforts hit a wall without public support.

    In the end, the community will get a better use of its asset, the HDC will get more money to pursue its core objectives, and in the process they might learn about some community needs that may help direct their future efforts.

  5. Hudson needs an arts institution. Hudson needs a museum. Look at Art Omi. Look at Mass MOCA. There is so much history and culture here, we are on the Amtrak line. There is so much potent here, all of which could be realized without setting the things that are great about Hudson. A museum would bring jobs, visitors, you name it.

    1. Sorry for the typos. Ha!

    2. I'm veering slightly off-topic here, but I've always thought JLE would make an excellent space to highlight some of the more innovative contemporary art coming out of the Hudson Valley, with enough square footage left over for a community makerspace, or a YMCA.