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Clock is ticking on Hudson development

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There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about what will be done with the former Hudson Manufacturing building in downtown Hastings. For the past year, talk about redevelopment proposals has taken the main stage, but there has been little certainty about the specifics of redevelopment.

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Last week, the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority (HEDRA), which owns the building, took another step toward solidifying project details by setting a deadline for developers to submit their concept proposals. The goal now is to have all concepts submitted by the September HEDRA meeting (Sept. 12), allowing HEDRA members to make a decision in October regarding which concept and developer they will take into the next stage.

While settling on a deadline, HEDRA also discussed in more detail the uses it wants to see in development. One thing they settled on was that they'd like to see at least part of the building used for something unique that can't be found anywhere else in the city. A unique feature would help draw more people downtown, both from around the city and from traffic crossing the bridge, which would in turn work to revitalize the entire downtown area, they said. Having people living in the building is also important. Commissioner Kurt Keena pointed to downtown Minneapolis, and how the people living there create demand for other services downtown.

Commissioners also agreed that the rooftop should be looked at as an opportunity for public use.

"The ugliest part of that building is the roof," said Commissioner Tony Alongi.

Public access to the river at the Hudson site is not a priority. Commissioners pointed out that there are already multiple downtown sites that offer public access to the waterfront. What they did want to see at Hudson was indoor river views made accessible to the public, and preferred to see the north end of the 1946 addition, which juts north toward the river, reserved for some sort of public use.

The idea of putting a large banquet hall there has been discussed at several prior meetings, and was brought up again last week. One of the drawbacks to a banquet hall there, Commissioner Ron Toppin noted, is that large events require a considerable amount of parking, which the area around Hudson might not be able to support.

Stacie Kvilvang of Ehlers Associates has been working with HEDRA to assist in evaluating development options. Kvilvang suggested that if HEDRA wants a banquet facility, the hotel anchor would be the best route to pursue, since banquet facilities don't pair well with long-term residential units. At the same time, HEDRA doubted that a hotel would be viable there, and said that the unique public use doesn't necessarily have to be a banquet facility.

Developers

Two developers have presented concept plans to HEDRA. Sherman Associates presented two concepts. One filled the building with residential units and the other mixed a hotel with a banquet center. The Beard Group presented an apartment use with some retail space designated on the east end of the building. A second building for townhomes was drawn in on the west side of the property, where there is currently an old parking lot.

Artspace has expressed some interest in redeveloping a site in Hastings for a mix of artists' working and living space. The Hudson building is one of several sites they're considering. Artspace is still in the early stages of determining the viability of such a structure here. HEDRA expects to hear the results of an initial feasibility study at its Aug. 8 meeting. If the results are favorable, Artspace is expected to ask for a market study. So far, Artspace costs have been paid for entirely by the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council.

Another individual has also expressed some interest in submitting a development concept. Community Development Director John Hinzman said he will try to get more information from the individual in time for the September meeting.

Timeline

While a final development schedule hasn't been made, the fall deadline for concept proposals anticipates a series of activities in the next year or two.

Once a concept and developer are chosen, the developer can start work on finding and applying for funding sources. Grant deadlines usually fall in June, Kenna said, and developers would need to start working on those by December or January to make the deadlines.

Kvilvang stressed that, because of grant and construction cycles, it will probably be at least a year before a developer can get in the ground once HEDRA selects one.

Kvilvang also noted that concepts at this point are not fixed plans, and that the final product will not look exactly like the concepts being presented.

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Katrina Styx
Katrina Styx has been a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette since 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Prior to coming to Hastings, Katrina reported for weekly newspapers in Jordan, Minn., and River Falls, Wis.
(651) 319-4501
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