Sunday, February 14, 2021

News from the Common Council Meeting: Part 5

It has taken a week, but we have finally arrived at the final report about last Monday's informal Common Council meeting. This post deals with the Galvan Foundation's proposal to move City Hall to 400 State Street, the centuries old building that was constructed in 1818 to be the City of Hudson's almshouse.

The deal presented to the Council was a little different from the one announced on January 29. The land swap is off the table. Galvan originally wanted the vacant land across Washington Street from the Central Fire Station, but the Register-Star reported that Mayor Kamal Johnson was "wary of the city relinquishing ownership" of the lot. Dan Kent, Galvan's vice president of initiatives, explained on Monday, "If the swap is an impediment, we are willing to withdraw the request." Galvan would be "donating the building to the City and not asking anything in return."

Galvan has also upped the amount of the construction grant offered to the City from $1 million to $1.4 million, and the estimated construction cost has increased from $2.75 million to $3.3 million. In addition, Galvan is offering the City to up $100,000 "to explore the project." The Galvan Foundation would also donate the construction drawings and environmental reports.

Walter Chatham, who appears now to be the architect for all Galvan projects, presented the plan for adapting the building for use as City Hall. The plan includes an annex to be constructed behind the building which would house an elevator and restrooms. Departments visited by the public would be on the first floor. The offices of the mayor and the Common Council, as well as the Council Chamber, would be located on the second floor. The code enforcement office would be on the third floor, which offers a commanding view of the city.   

Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) pointed out that the most expensive plan for making the current City Hall universally accessible was estimated to cost less than $4 million and suggested that in moving City Hall, "We will be taking on debt beyond what you are proposing." Rosenthal was referring to Plan 4, which was presented by Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson in October 2019. That plan for 520 Warren Street involved 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, an improved Council Chamber, and 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 would be visible from the main floor.

The cost for Plan 4 was estimated to be $3,143,000--somewhat less than the $3.3 million estimated for adapting 400 State Street as City Hall. Of course, Galvan is not offering $1.5 million to support making the current City Hall universally accessible.

As he has in the past, Council president Tom DePietro questioned if the plans proposed by Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson for 520 Warren Street would satisfy the DOJ (Department of Justice). He was referring to the settlement agreement Hudson reached with the federal government after being sued for lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. His concern seems specious since the architects who devised the plan--the same architectural firm that did the feasibility study for John L. Edwards School, which he seemed to accept without skepticism--were specifically tasked with proposing "improvements necessary to provide access to City Hall consistent with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)."

Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) asked about the library's plans to renovate the building. In 2005, the Hudson Area Library acquired the building in which it had been located since 1959 from the Hudson City School District. The intention was to restore the building and reconfigure the interior to improve its functionality as a library. Architects were hired, grants were pursued and awarded, a capital campaign was launched. The following is taken from a brochure prepared in 2007 or 2008 for that capital campaign.

What was planned was a phased restoration, doing work over time as funding was secured, much like the restoration of the Hudson Opera House, which happened over a period of almost twenty years. The costs assigned to each of the phases add up to $8,870,000. The first thing on the list, replacing the roof, was already accomplished when the library abandoned its plans and sold the building to Galvan. There are other things on the list--for example, "Exterior Masonry, metals, woodwork, chimneys" and "Windows & Exterior Doors," considered critical first steps in the restoration of an old building--that are not part of what Galvan is proposing for the building. Those two items added up to close to $2 million in the library's plan. Similarly, "Foundation Underpinning & Structural Repairs" for another $1.2 million is not part of what Galvan is proposing, nor is geothermal heating and cooling, part of a $1.7 million item in the library's plan. 

It was suggested that the proceeds from the sale of 520 Warren Street, the current City Hall, and 429 Warren Street, now the location of the Code Enforcement Office, would be sufficient, along with the $1.4 million construction grant from Galvan, to finance relocating City Hall to 400 State Street. City treasurer Heather Campbell pointed out that the sale of buildings had been talked about as a means to build back the City's depleted fund balance.

DePietro concluded that discussion by saying, "We are going to pursue this more, in public."


  1. This is a lot of information, although a few things seem clear immediately to me about the proposed adaptive reuse of the 400 State Street building:

    1) The plans look more like delineated bubble diagrams than a proper architectural interior design. Nowhere is there any sense of arrival at what would be the center of Hudson’s civic life - just rectangular spaces and corridors connecting to bathrooms and vertical transport. Surely this could be better, or at least more interesting, than what’s shown now.
    2) The infrastructure costs of renovating/restoring the shell, duly recounted from previous efforts, are considerable and need to be funded. Short of a windfall grant or more money from Galvan (or, gulp, much higher property taxes), I don’t see a way forward.
    3) The cost of running this (I’m guessing) larger building shell than the current city hall going forward would need to be factored in as well. I don’t know if this was addressed as part of the presentation, or if anyone has even thought of it.

    For what it’s worth, I thought the high-end proposal for 520 Warren Street was well done, and, although I love the idea of repurposing 400 State Street, I’m not convinced this has been worked out yet.

  2. Is the proposal of moving to JLE off the table?

  3. Questions regarding 400 State St: How much did Galvan pay for the building? Does this building produce any tax revenue for the city or school district now? Is it unthinkable to tear down this very historic building?

    1. $476,500. No, the building is now tax exempt. Yes, it is unthinkable.

    2. More questions: is it unthinkable to tear down the school building JLE? Is that school owned by the City? Why not just allow 400 State St to remain an attractive shell? Why does Galvan get to have a tax exempt office/business property ?

    3. The school building is NOT owned by the City of Hudson. Why do people think it is? It is owned by the Hudson City School District, and the school district is trying to sell it. When last I checked, the selling price was just under $4 million: $3,950,000. $4 million and then several million more to adapt it for reuse as a city building . . . and there's a lot more space in that building than the city requires. Besides, the reason for considering that building in the first place was to relocate the Youth Department, and it turns out the Youth Department doesn't want to share space with city offices.

  4. Is the John L. Edwards School no longer up for consideration ?

  5. I would love to see 400 State maintained and in use again. The plans are very practical, although as they are developed further it is very difficult to install modern mechanical systems into these old buildings. While I do not agree with Dan J that these drawings are somehow underdeveloped (I am an Architect myself), I do share the disappointment that there is no grand civic space.
    The building is lovely but the estimate of $8.9MM seems more like the magnitude it would take to restore it. Line items like roof replacement, masonry repair, and foundation (!) work are not negotiable and cannot be put off. These ‘phasing’ plans that often get thrown around by finance people usually don’t translate to reality.
    The 520 Warren St project seems a more manageable endeavor and the former bank building with its atrium feels more appropriate for a civic use. At $4MM that’s still a big investment for a small municipality. Looking at the Oct 2019 comparisons of the plans, we may need to accept one of the more minimal scopes to provide some level of accessibility to City Hall, although only the ‘Plan 4’ option provides elevator access to all levels of that building. From what I can tell, 520 Warren is in better shape structurally, so at least with that building there would be fewer unknowns. Is there any grant money to fund that project?
    Thank you as always for the coverage.

  6. It strains credulity to believe that any rational actor could consider moving anything in to that shell of a building that is the former library. While it makes eminent sense for the City to lease 520 Warren to a for-profit business or businesses (so it generates property taxes), it's entirely irrational to move City Hall to a building in worse shape -- physically and in ADA terms -- than it is already in. This is especially true when the price tag is considered.

    Once again the lack of managerial experience in City Hall is manifest both in terms of project management and finance. With this latest plan, "leaderships'" common sense now also seems a chimera. Besides Jon Rosenthal and the Treasurer, is anyone doing any thinking in City Hall? All evidence points to "no."

  7. "Galvan's proposal to move City Hall?" Did Galvan take over managing Hudson already? I didn't think that would happen for a few more years. Man, they move quickly, and are so sneaky.

  8. What about the possibility of utilizing the Chamber of Commerce building on Front Street as City Hall? It has a commanding location at the head of Warren Street.

  9. Repeat after me,SEE,THINK,PLAN,DO.What part dont City Government get. Build a new GHQ ,and forget sinking money into floundering buildings . One ideal location is at the other end of tha Social Services building parking lot on railway ave .

  10. There was some sensible chatter a few years ago about Columbia County and the City of Hudson sharing JLE. It went nowhere. Both governments currently inhabit structures that would appeal to private developers. With 90,000 square feet at JLE, tax payers need to understand why the City of Hudson and the County are not pooling resources. If there's no there there to this, tell us why.

  11. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know. 520 Warren is the better choice in this rather questionable offering of 400 State Street ... for all the obvious reasons.

  12. I think it would be a terrible move. Leave City Hall where it is and update it from one of the plans. It's far more appropriate. Let Galvan come up with another plan for that grand shell of a building. It could end up a money pit.

  13. What about out sourcing some of the functions in city hall,H2O Dept,tax dept,etc. Cov19 has taught us all one thing, lots of things can be handled off site. City Hall has been locked down for almost a year, does anyone miss it. Does Hudson really urgently need a new city hall, it can't afford?