Last Tuesday, at the Planning Board meeting, Brian Cohan and Michael Charles, the principals of Benchmark Development in Great Barrington, made a preliminary presentation to the Planning Board to get initial feedback. The project being proposed is for 11 Warren Street, property owned by the Galvan Foundation. Benchmark is planning to develop the property in partnership with Galvan.
This is the building that stood at the southwest corner of Warren and First.
The screen capture below, from the 1959 film Odds Against Tomorrow, shows the first block of Warren Street in the late 1950s--intact on both north and south sides.
In introducing their presentation, Cohan and Charles called the site an "iconic location" and talked about the use of traditional materials and the desire to design a building that "mixed in" with the architecture of Hudson. Their presentation included many renderings of the proposed building, including a cross section that shows parking below, retail on the first floor, and three stories of residential apartments above.
Reacting to the plans presented, Planning Board member Laura Margolis said, "I like this project," and spoke of the "intent to honor the historic integrity of Hudson. Steve Steim said the idea of "activating the space is exciting," but expressed concern that "mixed use developments can feel kind of artificial." He asked about the quality of the materials that would make the building "feel a little less artificial." Larry Bowne commented, "There's a way to honor scale and proportion and integrity of materials without engaging in a kind of Disneyesque, ersatz thing. . . . My own bias would be not to imitate the past."
Theresa Joyner asked who the tenants of the building would be. "My biggest concern is the need. Will it benefit the citizens?" She was told that this was a mid-market project to meet a significant demand for rental housing of all types in Hudson.
In his comments, Clark Wieman returned to the topic of design, commenting that "Hudson has a predilection towards historicism." He went on to say there is a kind of "faux historicism in development that people seem to know and like and approve." He argued there was a way "of referencing historic stuff without having to replicate it." It is of interest that Wieman, as director of planning and capital projects for Cooper Union, worked with Morphosis Architects to design and build the academic building at 41 Cooper Square, which was completed in 2009.
Wieman also expressed concern about the setbacks in the proposed design, saying that in an urban area setbacks can be unused and dangerous.
It will be interesting to watch how this project, proposed for one of Hudson's most significant locations, develops.
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