Thursday, February 10, 2022

Parting with the Assets

For quite a few years now, Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency has been talking about selling property it owns in Hudson, and over the years, they actually have sold some of it. In 2013, HCDPA sold a parcel at Second and Columbia streets to Habitat for Humanity. That sale was not without controversy, because the land that was sold was half of what had been a flourishing community garden. In 2018, HCDPA sold 213 Columbia Street, a strip of land too narrow to be a buildable lot, to Shanan Magee, who owned the adjacent property. In both sales, the buyers approached HCDPA seeking to acquire the land. HCDPA has not been very successful in its own initiatives to sell land. 

In 2018 and again in 2019, HCDPA tried to sell the lot at 238 Columbia Street. The first time, there were no bidders; the second time, there were two bids, one for $5,000, the other for $3,000, on a lot that was assessed for $32,000. Both bids were rejected.

In January 2019, the parcel at the corner of Columbia and Second streets--the remainder of the community garden--was offered for sale, but there were no bids. 

Facing insolvency, HCDPA is now being urged to sell some of its property. At the HCDPA meeting on Tuesday, Sara Black, coordinator for HCDPA, presented this Venn diagram and three scenarios that could address the two needs.  

The scenario that seemed most reasonable and most appealing was selling one of its properties immediately to improve the agency's cash position and packaging the remainder of the parcels to be offered to developers in the RFP (request for proposals) being prepared by the Hudson Housing Authority. There are four parcels being considered: 238 Columbia Street, 202-206 Columbia Street, 2 to 12 State Street, and 2-4 Warren Street.

At Tuesday's meeting, despite being told by their legal counsel that they needed to sell something because they had bills to pay and by Black that they were "on the verge of being out of money with no new money coming in," the members of the HCDPA board did not identify a property to be sold or even agree to sell a property. 

HCDPA came into ownership of three of the parcels being considered more than fifty years ago, during urban renewal, when the west side of Front Street and much of the Second Ward was bulldozed to make way for Hudson Terrace, Bliss Towers, Schuyler Court, and Providence Hall.

The parcel at the end of Warren Street has a somewhat different story. There once were buildings on the site, as shown in this aerial photograph.  

At some point, no doubt during urban renewal, the buildings were demolished, and little paved park was created on the site.

The land that makes up the site is actually four parcels. Up until 2018, two of them were owned by the City of Hudson, and the other two were owned by HCDPA. In 2018, the City swapped its two parcels at the end of Warren Street for the lot in the 200 block that is Thurston Park, which although a city park was situated on land owned by HCDPA. The intention at the time was to create a single developable lot, which HCDPA could sell to finance its continued existence. The idea was to sell to someone who would construct buildings on it to complete the street wall as it was intended to be and as it once had been. 

In 2020, when the HCDPA board was reminded that the agency owned the lot, Betsy Gramkow, then chair of the Planning Board and hence a member of the HCDPA board, suggested that low-income housing on this parcel might not be "the highest and best use" for the parcel, and the development of a mixed-use building with market rate units on this parcel across from the entrance to Promenade Hill would increase the city's tax base. 

Given the thinking that inspired the acquisition of the parcels in 2018, the likelihood that the lot could be sold for a respectable amount (it was appraised in 2018 for $120,000), and its potential for producing tax revenue, it seems it would make sense to sell the lot at the end of Warren Street to private developer rather than bundle it in with the parcels being offered for development by the Hudson Housing Authority, but it remains to be seen what the HCDPA board will decide to do.


  1. So at least for 6 years, the HCDPA's business plan as it were is to do nothing other than sell parcels when someone offers to buy them, and then use the proceeds to maintain its staff, which apparently does little or nothing. How close am I to being accurate here?

    Perhaps they should just liquidate everything while prices are high before prices drop due to a ratcheting up of interest rates, and later on perhaps in taxes as well to finance all those pilots being handed out (yes that is my prediction, which I offer up for free), give the proceeds of sale to the City, and dissolve. Yeah I am offering my advice on this one for free too.

    1. I would agree but the empty lots would be best used to create pocket parks. What people need in confined urban areas is open space with some grass and trees. Packing every square inch with a building creates a more depressing environment for the city residents whose interests are supposed to be represented by our local govt., not the interests of developers, construction companies, or people from wherever on the HHA waiting list.

  2. I do not understand why our fine city of 6,500 gives so much power to these relics of Urban Renewal.

    Do we really need a Hudson Development Corporation and a Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency and a Planning Board?

    None of these, so far as I can tell, actually do any planning. And this is what we need most of all.

  3. Sounds like a good idea since the only thing they can come up with is assisting HHA to build more subsidized housing.

  4. HUDSON needs taxpaying buildings and businesses that employ people. leading productive lives. It is the concept of what the City was first built on.

    Novel idea for today, but based on common sense and simple ideas.