The historic industrial building at Sixth and Washington streets has been vacant for decades. It started its life as one of the two locations of Union Mills.
The building's last industrial use, up until the late 1960s or early 1970s, was manufacturing purses and other leather goods, hence the familiar name the building now has: the Pocketbook Factory.
One of the few surviving remnants of Hudson's industrial past, the building, has stood vacant and virtually unused for decades. It was cause for celebration when, earlier this year, the word was out that the building had new owners whose goal was "to revitalize the property so that it can be widely enjoyed."
The plans for the building made their public debut at the Planning Board meeting on May 11, but even before the project was presented, the Planning Board received five letters protesting the proposed project. For the most part, the letters characterized the project as a "hotel and spa," terms that evoke luxury and privilege. One of the letters argued, "The city has a housing crisis. Not a hotel crisis." An article about the proposal that appeared in the Register-Star the day after the Planning Board meeting focused on the negative: "Pocketbook factory proposal draws criticism."
The public hearing on the project is scheduled to begin next Tuesday, on June 8. Before then, it makes sense to revisit what is being proposed.
Although the project's critics have focused on the hotel and spa, those uses account for only half of the building. Sean Roland, one of the principals for the project, explains these uses are needed to make what is the massive restoration project economically viable. The hotel is meant to be inclusive. There will be a diversity of room sizes, and the room rates are promised to be affordable.
What critics call a spa, Roland prefers to call a wellness center, maintaining that "wellness is more of a right than a luxury." The wellness center will offer, among other things, education about nutrition and yoga classes and will serve local residents as well as visitors.
The other half of the building and the outdoor garden will be public spaces--leasable commercial space, spaces for entrepreneurial businesses, inclusive and diverse spaces for hospitality. Roland told Gossips that in their plans for diversity in restaurant offerings involve both a restaurant and a scaled-down cafe, the latter to accommodate Nick Zachos's suggestion that kids coming from nearby Oakdale Lake need a place to buy a hotdog or an ice cream cone. Also planned are comfortable, open spaces--a lobby and lounge and a garden, designed by Wagner Hodgson--which will be open to the public "without expectation of commercial gain."
The project also involves the restoration of the historic industrial building, which is in need of rehabilitation, in accordance with the standards set by the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO).
Reacting to the initial presentation to the Planning Board on May 11, Steven Steim, who is now interim chair of the Planning Board, said, "Looking at it on paper, it's a beautiful project. My concern is the neighborhood." Betsy Gramkow, who was chairing her final Planning Board meeting, called the presentation "an outstanding first look at the proposal." She advised, "You want your neighbors to be happy at the end of the day. I have great faith in this project, and your ability to solve the problems."
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