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Initial Hudson redevelopment plans disappoint: Concepts included residential, hotel and banquet space

It looks like it will be a while yet before the former Hudson building in downtown Hastings is redeveloped.

Last Thursday, the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority, which owns the building, reviewed three redevelopment concept plans for the building, but none of them were particularly attractive to commissioners present. Only Pam Holzem, Ron Toppin and Anthony Alongi were at the meeting. Because there was no quorum, the meeting was held as a workshop and no formal action was taken.

Last November, Community Development Director John Hinzman met with five developers who expressed some interest in the Hudson building. Of those, two developers put together concept plans for how they would redevelop the space.

The Beard Group drew up plans for an apartment complex, using the existing building and constructing a new building at the corner of West Second Street and Lock and Dam Road. The two structures together would house 72 units. The plan calls for 128 covered parking stalls and 24 surface parking spaces. Covered parking would be created on the lower level of the 1946 addition and the lower levels of the new construction.

Sherman Associates presented two concepts. The first was for apartments, using only the existing building. The plan includes 52 units, with 25 parking spaces within the structure.

Sherman's second concept was for a hotel and banquet facility. The 69 units would be in the older portions of the building, closer to West Second Street. The 1946 addition would house parking on the lower level, a restaurant on the main level and a banquet room on the upper level.

HEDRA commissioners discussed how the plans fit with the reuse goals already established for the site. Guiding principles for redevelopment include having a publicly accessible interior space, inviting public open space, design that meets or exceeds the existing quality of downtown, a mix of uses that enhance and support the downtown and respect for the value of the pre-World War II portions of the building.

Commissioners weren't exactly impressed with the concepts. The only plan that fit the reuse guidelines was Sherman's hotel/restaurant plan, but that plan also proposed 84 percent of the cost would be publicly funded through Tax Increment Financing (TIF), federal and state grants, city and state funds. The Beard Group plan only called for 30 percent public funds, but using the entire property for apartments would take away any possibility for public use, Toppin said.

Holzem said she was excited that Sherman proposed a hotel, but she was disappointed the plan didn't include any business on the ground level. Downtown does have several apartments, but all the buildings have business space on the main level.

Alongi agreed that making the building available for public use is important. He also said he was hoping for more uses on the first floor - things that would take better advantage of the views along the river and the bike trail, for example. He also wanted to see something that would help draw people downtown.

"I say we continue on," Holzem said. "I don't think we're in a hurry."

All three commissioners suggested sending out requests for proposals or requests for qualifications again to see what other ideas might come forward.

The Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council is working with the organization Artspace on a feasibility study to see if Hastings has the capacity for a space where artists can live and work. The study includes not only the Hudson building as a potential location, but the city as a whole.