The Register-Star published an article yesterday by Noah Eckstein about Friday's special Historic Preservation Commission meeting: "Panel weighs Depot District options." The article seems intent on portraying the concerns of the HPC as impediments to the noble goal of creating more low-income housing in Hudson. It repeats the claim made by Dan Kent, vice president of initiatives for the Galvan Foundation, that without the demolition of the house and outbuilding located at 65-67 North Seventh Street, both contributing structures in the National Register Hudson Historic District, the building planned for the west side of North Seventh Street could only be 35 units instead of the 75 units now being proposed.
Much that happened in the meeting was not touched on in Eckstein's report. First was the discussion of the alternatives analysis, which was submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to justify the demolition of the two structures. Gossips recently read that document and found this rather extraordinary paragraph:
Galvan Foundation is currently rehabilitating the existing structures at 61 N. 7th Street and 622 State Street, which are currently vacant and derelict. The retention of the smaller structures along State Street, and parts of N. 7th Street will screen the larger proposed buildings, creating a screen along the urban streetscape, and providing a transition between the various sized buildings along these corridors. The landscape around the Upper Hudson Depot will be revitalized for community recreational and market use (i.e. farmers market, craft fair, etc.) further incorporating the varied elements of community into the overall project. The proposed height of the buildings is consistent with the historic elements in this portion of the city, and facilitates a visual transition to the urban street scape along State and Columbia Streets.
For those for whom an address doesn't instantly conjure up the mental image of a building, this is 61 North Seventh Street:
Interestingly, the alternatives analysis speaks only of the house that is to be demolished and does not mention the accessory building on the parcel which is identified in the 1985 National Register inventory as an "ice house." At Friday's HPC meeting, Beth Selig of Hudson Valley Cultural Resources Consultants, who wrote the alternatives analysis for Galvan, presented Sanborn maps from 1895, 1903, and 1911 to demonstrate that the structure called the "ice house" did not exist in 1895. (In my post about the buildings to be demolished, I suggested it was likely this structure was already there when the property was owned by the Hudson Orphan Asylum. The 1895 Sanborn map shows that was not the case.)
Selig questioned identification of the structure in the 1985 inventory as an "ice house," saying there was nothing in the Sanborn maps to suggest it was an ice house and commenting that ice houses were typically underground.
Since most of the members of the HPC attested to having never seen the alternatives analysis, the discussion of the document was postponed in favor of discussing the materials being proposed for the two buildings. That discussion was introduced by Walter Chatham, who asserted that the proposed site was "the only area in Hudson where this kind of building could occur" and assured the commission, "Our intention is to do no harm." He went on to say of the buildings, "This could be a big box with a flat roof, but hopefully it doesn't look like that to the average person." Responding to HPC architect member Chip Bohl's appeal at a previous meeting that the buildings be handsome, Chatham told the commission, "I have tried to make this handsome. . . . Our intention is to build some big buildings that don't look like they were built yesterday. We want to work with you all to create a charming neighborhood and provide much needed housing."
The materials for 76 North Seventh Street (the building proposed for the east side of the street, formerly identified as 708 State Street) include a black standing seam metal roof, black synthetic slate on the mansard roof, aluminum clad wood windows, and a cornice that appears to be wood but isn't.
Because they are struggling to meet the energy requirements with brick, they are proposing to cover the less visible facades of the building, those that face the railroad tracks, with a synthetic stucco known as Exterior Insulating and Finish System (EIFS). (The acronym seems to be pronounced "e fuss.")
The building across the street--75 North Seventh Street--has gotten a $1 million NYSERDA award and is being planned to be an all-electric passive building. Because, as was explained by architect Jorge Chang, "full brick and thin brick are not approvable for a passive house," the lower floors of the building will be engineered brick called "NewBrick" and above that, where it is less visible from the street, "rigid insulation made and formed to look like brick" would be used. It is Gossips' understanding that, in the elevation drawing below, the darker pink represents where NewBrick would be used and the lighter pink where the insulation made to look like brick would be used.
Regarding the brick made from rigid insulation, Chang explained that the faux bricks are applied "pretty much like real brick, and then mortar is added in the grooves."
All of the proposed synthetic material gave the HPC pause. Phil Forman, who chairs the HPC, questioned the durability of the faux bricks made from insulation. Bohl said he had serious reservations about the product, expressing the opinion that freeze/thaw in our climate would be destructive. "There is an authenticity to buildings in Hudson," Bohl maintained and urged the architects to look at "an authentic material that has durability." He expressed the opinion that the siding solution didn't have to be brick.
Forman said he recognized the intention was not to disrupt but said he would accept disruption over lack of authenticity. He said in weighing compatibility and authenticity he valued authenticity the most.
Kent responded by saying, "We don't want 75 to stand out." (It will be remembered that 75 North Seventh Street is meant for households with incomes that are 40 to 80 percent of the area median income [AMI] and 76 North Seventh Street is meant for households with incomes that are 80 to 130 percent of the AMI.) He went on to say, "We are sensitive to the fact that we are creating a mixed income neighborhood where there is not an obvious difference between the two buildings." Kent promised to come back with more information about durability.
HPC member John Schobel asked rhetorically, "What's the case for this being appropriate? What is the alterative?" He then posited, "The ideal solution would be that we can be convinced this will work," adding, "You don't want to build something that everyone hates in fifteen years."
Chatham promised, "We will go back to the drawing board and find something better, or put a sample of [this] on City Hall so you can all see it."
The discussion concluded with Forman telling the Galvan people, "You guys will get back to me when you want to meet again."
When public comment was invited, only Mayor Kamal Johnson spoke, telling the HPC, "I hope we can make a decision soon."
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