Friday, July 17, 2020

The Future of Our Historic Promenade

It was last summer, during Rick Rector's term as mayor, that Starr Whitehouse was chosen to carry out the restoration and renovation of Promenade Hill and its entrance plaza. Those who care deeply about the historic promenade breathed a sigh of relief. In their presentation to the DRI committee, the folks from Starr Whitehouse talked about "sensitivity to place" and respecting the "original design intent" rather than calling Promenade Hill an underutilized space and suggesting such things as a "destination playground" and "festive lights."

This past Monday, Starr Whitehouse held a site tour and discussion at Promenade Hill, a event that was originally scheduled to take place on March 23 but postponed because of the pandemic. A group of masked Hudsonians--some members of the DRI Committee, some aldermen, some members of the public--gathered to listen, ask questions, share concerns, and indicate preferences.   

In the presentation by Starr Whitehouse, the goals of the project were defined as these:
  • Providing accessibility--people with scooters and wheelchairs and parents with children in strollers cannot get to the promenade to enjoy the view
  • Creating a place to recreate--the current design of the plaza is not well organized for programming
  • Celebrating history--no changes to the historic promenade will be made except to get people up to it
  • Enhancing the green space--introducing ample planting beds and a new generation of native trees 
The area of the park that will see the greatest change is the southern part of the plaza, which is now a jumble of badly patched asphalt, curbed grassy beds, and meaningless retaining walls.

This is the space where the accessible route to the overlook will be created, intended to be not just a ramp for ADA access but "an enjoyable route for everyone." Three preliminary concept diagrams for the space were presented. The preliminary concept designs also include step seating and a new and improved water feature.

The area between Front Street and the stairs to Promenade Hill was designed, as we know it, in the early 1970s during Hudson's urban renewal. The photo below shows the approach to Promenade Hill before urban renewal demolished the buildings and eliminated what was known as West Warren Street. Starr Whitehouse described what we have now as "a great public plaza" that "just doesn't feel like a plaza."  

On Monday, those present were asked to indicate their likes and dislikes when it came to ramp design, stair seating, water features, swing seats, safety surface for the playground, and plantings.

The handout distributed at Monday's discussion is available here. It includes a project schedule overview. The design process is moving quickly. This month and next are deveoted to concept design. August and September are designated for schematic design and community outreach. Starr Whitehouse will be generating a 3-D model of the proposed design.


  1. These folks really know their business. At the meeting I liked just about everything I heard, though in one side conversation I was a little concerned at a willingness to increase the park's signage.

    Admittedly, at that moment the company rep was speaking with someone who had great enthusiasm for interpretive signs. (I totally don't get that!)

    For my part, I'll never tire of reminding everyone of the single condition the Proprietors placed on their grant of the land.

    First, though, it was granted to the Common Council and not "the City." That's a historical oddity which NYS DOS has not yet weighed in on. That said, the Common Council IS permitted to own things (c.f. City Charter).

    Second, the park was dedicated as a walking mall, "and for no other purpose whatever."

    Starr Whitehouse seemed sensitive enough to honor the Proprietors' wishes. The question is, are we?

    1. Your enthusiasm--and reminders mean a lot. I know there's a plaque commemorating the date. Could you remind us?

    2. The Proprietors' single condition for the grant of land is recorded on the plaque along with the date: March 9, 1795.

      The City Charter reminds us we must honor all conditions attaching to grants to the city.

  2. Is much-needed painting of the old fence part of this project? If not, when the heck is DPW going to finally get to it? A few years ago at least one community group suggested that they would paint it FOR the City, but that obviously isn't going to happen. The longer we wait, the more damage is done. Rust never sleeps. B HUSTON

  3. Well said 'unheimlich'. I agree it sounds good and they seem to be sensitive to the original plan. I hope it carries through. St Winifred deserves it and so does the community.

  4. Goodness gracious how many swing sets do you need. Make it simple and a walking promenade. Sculptured trees, shade For people and pets, along the entire East perimeter with benches. How about a fountain and a plaque listing the names of the Proprietors. You just can’t the viewing ground.