HEDRA: Hudson building should be reusedLast Thursday was all about setting priorities for the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority. Specifically, it was about setting priorities regarding the former Hudson Manufacturing building along West Second Street.
By: Katrina Styx, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Last Thursday was all about setting priorities for the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority. Specifically, it was about setting priorities regarding the former Hudson Manufacturing building along West Second Street.
One point was made clear: HEDRA wants to keep the building, not demolish it.
“I feel pretty strongly about that,” said chairman Dennis Peine. “I think we should definitely be looking at reuse.”
Beyond that, HEDRA had to nail down what it wanted to see happen at the site in 2012. By the end of the hour-and-a-half-long discussion, two topics had risen to the surface. The first is waiting for the results of the environmental study being done at the property. The study will show HEDRA the actual extent of pollutants that need to be cleaned up and will put into HEDRA hands a response action plan (RAP) that will spell out what and how environmental cleanup needs to be done.
HEDRA commissioners agreed that it would be difficult to make decisions about what should be done with the building before knowing the environmental condition.
“We’ve got to get this environmental piece sketched out before we can make any determinations,” commissioner Danna Elling Schultz said.
Commissioner Kurt Keena noted that developers aren’t likely to get serious about the property until the city can show them how the site will be cleaned and what sort of funding sources are available. There is no shortage of good ideas, he said, but “matching resources to ideas is the challenge.”
Keena suggested that once they know the scope of the RAP, they can start working on timing and finances.
“We’d love to use other people’s money to clean it up,” he said.
Once the environmental side is known, the city can begin to actively market the site to developers.
HEDRA also agreed that they want to start the process to remove the newest portion of the building, a massive concrete structure built in 1974.
Community Development Director John Hinzman said the cost of demolishing just that portion is estimated at $250,000. About half that amount has already been secured through a Dakota County CDA grant, and Hinzman has applied for the same grant again this year to get the balance. Hinzman said he expects to hear back on the grant application next month, and if the city is awarded the money, funds could be put to use as early as July.
The 1974 structure makes up about a third of the entire structure, so getting rid of it would also reduce maintenance costs, especially in the winter. The city is keeping the building heated to 55 degrees in the winter in order to keep the fire sprinkler system operational. If the heat and sprinkler system were shut off, insurance costs would rise dramatically – more so than the cost of heating, Hinzman said.
In discussing demolition of the 1974 portion, City Administrator Dave Osberg noted that staff is intentionally pushing HEDRA to accomplish what it can, even though the economic market might not be ideal for redeveloping the site right now. When the market is right, he wants the city to be ready to move, he said. Keena agreed.
“We want to be ready whenever the economy is ready,” Keena said.
Commissioner Anthony Alongi suggested getting a demolition schedule sketched out so the rest of the community can weigh in on the decision. While he hasn’t personally heard anyone say the 1974 portion should be kept, the public should not be excluded from the decision, he said.
A unique opportunity
HEDRA didn’t spend much time discussing specific potential uses for the old building. Commissioners did talk generally about the type of use they would want to see there.
Alongi noted he’d like to see something that attracts people into the downtown area. The car shows each summer have been likened to a football season, he said. The shows are impressive displays that attract a lot of people, but for a short time. He sees the Hudson site as having potential for something that could bring a more constant stream of traffic.
“What can create that ‘baseball season’ for the downtown area?” he asked.
He also suggested the site should offer something people wouldn’t be able to find easily anywhere else nearby.
Schultz pointed to utilizing the riverfront.
“Our natural resources really give us an edge on a lot of places,” she said. “If we can use this site to get that riverfront in good shape, we can have a real jewel.”
Commissioner Pam Holzem suggested continuing the mixed residential and commercial use format already established in downtown, and that the Hudson site has potential for continuing that model on a higher scale.
“I think that’ll be the platform that solidifies us,” she said.
Another priority for 2012 is keeping the Hudson building in the spotlight. The site is unique, Hinzman said, and will therefore require unique ideas.
“It’s going to take some unique thinking and people are going to have to doodle on it for a while,” he said.
Schultz added that keeping communication focused and truthful would help curb false rumors that could be a detriment to development.