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Hudson reuse team gathers ideas from public

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News Hastings, 55033
Hastings Star Gazette
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Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

There are plenty of questions when it comes to deciding what will be done with the nearly 100-year-old Hudson Manufacturing building once its lifelong tenant finishes moving out of its space in downtown Hastings. While there aren't any answers yet, getting ideas was one purpose behind a public meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

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People who attended the meeting were given the opportunity to submit their written ideas to the reuse study team, which is being sponsored by Mn/DOT as part of the new Highway 61 bridge project. They responded to four questions: what do you view as the state of the downtown (Heart of Hastings) plan; what remains to be done in downtown; what role can the Hudson building play in fulfilling the plan; and do you have any specific ideas for the reuse of the Hudson building?

The questions came after the reuse team gave a presentation on the state of the building, including its historical impact, architectural aspects and potential in an urban design setting.

History

The first wing of the Hudson building was built in 1913 to accommodate the H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Company's early growth. The company had previously been located on the Libbey Mill site in Hastings, since 1909. Included in the 1913 construction was the eastern wing that faces Second Street.

In 1921, the L-shaped building to the west was added, creating the familiar U-space that is most visible to passersby. By 1927, more additions had been made to the eastern wing to give the whole structure a backwards F shape when viewed from above. A two-story addition with a full basement was added to the north side in 1946.

The first four structures are being considered for reuse. There were two later additions; one built in 1966 has already been torn down to make way for the new bridge, and the newest, built in 1974, is also expected to be removed.

The building is eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but is not included at this point.

Architecture

"The beauty of these buildings is their simplicity and openness," said Bob Claybaugh, the architect working on the reuse study.

Each building has its own architectural differences. The original wing has a wooden roof with wood rafters and joists and steel beams.

"It's very, very stout construction," Claybaugh said.

The second and third wings are similar, but modernizing influences start to show up in those, moving from wooden columns and beams to steel ones, and foundations moving from stone to concrete in the newest, easternmost section of the third wing. The top floors of these buildings have tall, open ceilings.

The 1946 wing is distinctly different, from its flat roof to being all cast in place concrete.

"This is built like a tank," Claybaugh said.

Because its basement is at grade on the north side of the building, it could be used for indoor parking. Uses for the other floors aren't exactly limited. The main floor, which opens onto Second Street, could be used for "just about anything," Claybaugh said, such as offices, restaurant, retail or hotel space, for example.

The top floor is limited only because it requires elevator access, but it could still easily be used for office space, residential units or lodging.

Another draw of the building is the number of windows - about 300, Claybaugh said.

"If you open all those windows up you have an incredible amount of light," he said.

The building's structure isn't without its problems. Because the bricks are not fire clay bricks, but concrete bricks, moisture over the years has led to deterioration under windows and on walls where gutters and downspouts haven't kept water away. That would have to be resolved, but it doesn't seem to make the building less structurally sound, Claybaugh said.

The windows, as well, would need some work. They are simple single glazed windows, and not all of them even have storm windows. The roof has no insulation, and there are old ventilators on the roofs of the older wings that would need to be dealt with.

Plans

One potential plan for the 3.5-acre site was presented in 2003 in the Heart of Hastings Plan. That proposal would keep only the three oldest wings, turning the space nearest the river into an open green space with a rain garden and adding a new residential building to the west of the existing structure. It had been suggested that the Hudson building itself be turned into a multi-use structure with retail on the main floor and residential units on the top floor.

The question for the city is, "Is this a plan that still holds here today?" asked Hastings' Community Development Director, John Hinzman.

Ideas from those attending the meeting included many of those suggested by the Heart of Hastings Plan and the reuse study group, but another theme popped up as well: creating an area that would be attractive for residents and visitors alike, whether in the form of community space, a park, or something else.

"We need to stop people driving through Hastings to Red Wing," said Lois Dalaska, who participated in the meeting.

Dalaska compared Hastings to Red Wing in the number of parks each city has along the riverfront, noting that Red Wing has several, while Hastings lags behind.

Diane Tuttle also hoped that whatever final plans were made, the site would offer better access to and views of the river.

Tuttle was one who was in favor of converting the old building to accommodate a new use.

"I like it. I'm excited about it. I hope they keep it," she said.

But not everyone agreed.

Bill Sylvander argued that the structure, despite its age, does not match the style of the rest of Hastings' historic downtown, with its vaulted roofs, roof vents, concrete construction and numerous windows.

"This simply doesn't fit with downtown," he said.

He also suggested that the amount of work necessary to rehabilitate the building might not be worth the cost.

Next stages

The reuse team has already conducted interviews with 18 interviews with stakeholders around the city on the Hudson project. The next step is to evaluate the information they've gathered and determine the most viable option - whether that's a particular approach to reuse or scrapping the reuse project entirely. At the end of the study, a recommendation will be brought back to the community.

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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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