Since the Columbia County made known its intention to purchase 11 Warren Street back in August, many have wondered what happened to the Galvan Foundation's plan to partner with Benchmark Development in Great Barrington to create a mixed-use building on the site, with retail spaces and market-rate apartments. In February 2021, when Galvan announced the plan, the press release described the project in this way:
The project improves the streetscape and connectivity between Warren Street and the waterfront by replacing an unattractive and out-of-place building with a new mixed-use building designed to reflect the historic character of Hudson. . . .
The project furthers the goals set forth in the City of Hudson's vision for the BRIDGE District as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). The city was awarded a $10 million DRI Grant from New York State which seeks to reestablish the link between downtown and the waterfront with quality housing, economic development, and beautiful, transportation-oriented design. 11 Warren Street revitalizes the connection of Warren Street and Front Street, linking Hudson's vibrant downtown to its waterfront parks and Amtrak station. . . .
On February 9, 2021, Michael Charles and Brian Cohan, principals of Benchmark Development, made a preliminary presentation to the Hudson Planning Board. The response from the Planning Board was less than enthusiastic. Steven Steim opined that "mixed use development can feel kind of artificial." Larry Bowne and Clark Wieman objected to the design, Bowne asserting, "There's a way to honor scale and proportion and integrity of materials without engaging in a kind of Disneyesque, ersatz thing," Wieman speaking of "faux historicism" and "referencing historic stuff without having to replicate it." Theresa Joyner expressed concern about who would live there and wondered how it would benefit the citizens of Hudson. Not the warmest reception but surely not enough to cause Galvan and Benchmark to abandon the project.
Given Galvan's recent decision to sell the building to Columbia County, consigning Hudson to having to live with this out-of-character gap in the streetscape for decades into the future, Gossips decided to find out what happened to the proposed plan with Benchmark. I send an email to Benchmark's principals, Michael Charles and Brian Cohan, and Charles responded, providing this explanation:
Our deal with Galvan was time sensitive in that it had a clock for gaining approvals. The timeline was reasonable under normal circumstances. However, the effects of COVID were still very much being felt as we pursued the early work related to this project. Advancing development activities during that time was challenging to say the least. Galvan was not willing to adjust or extend the time horizon on this deal to accommodate the new reality. We were very disappointed as it is our belief that Hudson deserves a premium mixed-use project at such a gateway location, and it is our opinion that our proposed project would have had a great positive impact.
It is a sad thing for Hudson that a project that would have "improved the streetscape and connectivity between Warren Street and the waterfront by replacing an unattractive and out-of-place building with a new mixed-use building designed to reflect the historic character of Hudson" was so easily abandoned by Galvan, as was any interest in achieving those goals when Galvan agreed to sell 11 Warren Street to the County.
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