Another project of interest that came before the Historic Preservation Commission on Friday was the Depot District: the two apartment buildings the Galvan Foundation proposes to build on North Seventh Street.
In the discussion, HPC member Miranda Barry observed, "You're creating an entirely different neighborhood that never existed before. I'm not sure what we're being asked to evaluate. . . . It doesn't compare with other parts of the city."
Walter Chatham, who is now the architect for the Depot District, maintained that there once were buildings of comparable mass to the two being proposed, but "they have all been lost." One of the buildings Chatham had in mind is no doubt the amazing Gifford Foundry building, which, until it was destroyed by fire in 1969, stood at the intersection of State, Columbia, and Green streets, a stone's throw from the area Galvan has dubbed the "Depot District."
The discussion of compatibility and context prompted Chatham to share this rendering of what is being planned for the Depot District.
It shows the two apartment buildings now being proposed, as well as some buildings we haven't seen yet: a reproduction of the Orphan Asylum which was demolished in 2018, a building north of Hudson Upper Depot that looks like a replica of the historic train station, and a brand-new flatiron building. It seems Galvan is planning to create its own context for the two apartment buildings it intends to construct.
Speaking of the design of the building proposed for 75 North Seventh Street, Chip Bohl, architect member of the HPC, observed, "This is a city block of building made to look like it is several buildings." Bohl later talked about "big boxes that get wallpapered to look like they are something else." Bohl acknowledged the proposed designs showed "lots of good attempts" that were not clear in the elevation drawings. HPC member Jeremy Stynes asked about "the thinking behind the architectural choices for design--the design references."
Styne observed that the storefronts had a "suburban feel" which was "not very Hudson." He suggested that the choice of materials might be the problem. Barry concurred, saying, "The facades of the storefronts make the buildings above look fake. You need to have some consistency between the storefront and the upper part of the building." Bohl commented, "We see this in suburban situations where they are trying to create a main street."
Bohl went on to say that Hudson buildings are largely vertical not horizontal and cited the uniformity of the height of the storefronts proposed as being contrary to Hudson. "It is not a matter of consistency; it is a matter of balanced inconsistency," said Bohl, and told Chatham, "You're up against the challenge of building something big all at once."
In the end, the HPC requested historic photographs of the larger scale buildings Chatham said used to exist in Hudson and 3D images, like the one Chatham provided, that included more of the surrounding area, specifically the Pocketbook Factory at Sixth and Washington streets and the former Community Theater at Seventh and Columbia streets. It wasn't mentioned, but it would make sense also to include 1 City Centre at State and Green streets.
The HPC will hold a public hearing on the project and continue its review of what's proposed on Friday, March 11, at 10:00 a.m.
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