On Friday, the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the two apartment buildings proposed by the Galvan Foundation for North Seventh Street, the area of the city Galvan has dubbed "The Depot District." The public hearing was prefaced by a presentation by Walter Chatham, architect for the project, which provided additional visuals to show the buildings in their context. The following images are screen captures from an animated "fly through" created to show the mass and scale of the buildings in relation to other buildings, real and contemplated, in the neighborhood.
—the replicated Orphan Asylum and the flatiron building—were not actually being proposed at this time, lest Galvan be accused of segmentation.
Needless to say, the public hearing brought out the housing advocates to speak in support of the project. Former First Ward councilmember Rebecca Wolff, reading a prepared statement, called upon the HPC to demonstrate how it can collaborate with developers and show "how the city's various communities and actors can work together." Quintin Cross told the HPC that he, as a member of the Common Council, had voted in support of the preservation ordinance that created the commission back in 2003. He said of the project, "This will allow people like me to stay here and visit their grandparents in the cemetery" instead of being displaced to Albany or Schenectady. He appealed to the HPC to "think about people who look like me and have the same socioeconomic background that I do."
Mayor Kamal Johnson spoke of the city's housing crisis. "Schools can't find tutors and coaches," he told the HPC, "because there are not enough full-time residents." He also mentioned, as he has before, the loss of the birthing center at Columbia Memorial Hospital. Responding to the HPC's concern with the compatibility of the buildings with the city's architectural fabric, he declared, "Nothing is less Hudson than not having Hudson people live here."
Michelle Tullo, Hudson's housing justice director, expressed the opinion that the buildings fit architecturally with the rest of the city. Kaya Weidman, executive director at Kite's Nest, declared that the development is "absolutely critical" and shared the opinion that it "fits with the character of Hudson." She continued, "The people we are losing are families and young people. We cannot afford to put this off," and argued, "We cannot fuss with little elements of design."
Someone named Eddie Taylor told the HPC he had recently been offered a job as chief diversity officer with a major employer in Hudson but had to turn it down because he could not find a house in Hudson for his family. He surmised, "It's about growing the city and maintaining the city."
In support of the HPC and its concern for the architectural character of the city, Kristal Heinz stated, "The character and design of the city are what draws people here," and asserted, "Without tourism, we don't have anything." Matt McGhee talked about aesthetics, declaring that "aesthetics are part of our lives." He said of the proposed buildings, "They can be lived in, but they can also be beautiful," maintaining that that everyone benefits from living in an environment that is aesthetically pleasing.
When the HPC began its discussion of the project, it became clear that changes had been made, in response to comments from the HPC, to the design of the storefronts on the building proposed for the east side of the street, once identified as 708 State Street and now being identified at 76 North Seventh Street.
The original plan for the facade of the commercial ground floor had a uniformity in the storefronts that the HPC considered to be "too suburban" and not reminiscent of the variety found in the storefronts on the 19th-century buildings along Warren Street.
The revised design extends the brick down to street level and introduces a variety of materials and awnings into the storefronts.
Chatham said that he "heartily supports the goals of the HPC." He told the HPC, "We don't want to wreck the city. . . . You don't want a slapdash building. Neither to we." He went on to suggest, "Maybe we could get the overall buildings approved and come back for the storefronts."
In the revised design, it is not just the storefronts that were altered. All of the fenestration was changed. On the upper floors, there are fewer windows, spaced farther apart, which appear to be smaller than they were in the original elevation. Originally, there were 22 windows in the facade on each floor; in the revised design, there are only 15. It was undoubtedly this that prompted Chip Bohl, architect member of the HPC to urge that "the proportion of the windows and the relationship of solid and void should have some more attention." He noted that the windows above the commercial space were all the same, and, owing to an optical illusion, the windows in the mansard roof appear to be larger than the others. Typically, as evidenced by this 1893 image of 501 Union Street, the windows in the mansard roof are smaller than those on lower floors in a building.
Bohl argued, "If we don't make good housing that is attractive, the project will not be sustainable. We have to ask ourselves, 'Is this a place where people will want to live in 25, 50, 75 years?'" He spoke of the Pocketbook Factory and the now lost Gifford-Wood building, calling them "handsome buildings that were built for the long haul."
He urged his colleagues to consider "handsome" as a goal for the building's design and argued that, in addition to the functional aspect, the proposed buildings needed to be "a place that will sustain housing for many, many generations."
Chatham told the HPC, "We cannot move forward to get construction documents done without a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC." HPC member John Schobel responded to this appeal by saying, "This is by far the largest thing that has come before the HPC. We do need to pause. If it is difficult, it is because it is gargantuan in scope." HPC member Paul Barrett concurred with Schobel, saying, "This is an enormous project, and the devil is in the details."
HPC member Hugh Biber opined, "The look harkens back to an earlier era with a modern sense. As it stands, I think this is a great project, and we have enough to move it forward."
In the end, it was decided to approve the project conceptually but not grant a certificate of appropriateness until more granular design issues were resolved. Although Biber commented, "If fenestration remains an issue, we can deal with it," fenestration was one of the elements included in the list of things HPC chair Phil Forman named in the resolution to give conceptual approval passed by the HPC, along with scale, roof, storefront design and structure, and massing.
COPYRIGHT 2022 CAROLE OSTERINK