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Artspace submits concept for old Hudson redevelopment

Three redevelopment concept proposals have been submitted to HEDRA for the former Hudson site. The most recent concept was submitted by Artspace, an organization that provides affordable live-work space for artists. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx1 / 2
Demolition work has resumed at the former Hudson site downtown. Contractors are lifting the concrete slab from the 1974 addition, which was removed last fall. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx2 / 2

Artspace has submitted a concept plan for the redevelopment of the former Hudson Manufacturing building. This is the third concept to be submitted for the project.

Artspace is a Minneapolis-based non-profit developer that works specifically to provide artists with affordable spaces to live and work. The organization has done redevelopment projects across the nation and in Minnesota, including the Northern Warehouse in St. Paul, the Tilsner Warehouse in Lowertown and The Cowles Center for Dance & The Performing Arts.

Earlier this year, the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council contacted Artspace to see if they would be interested in getting involved with the Hudson redevelopment project. That prompted a $5,000 feasibility study, funded by HPAAC, that brought Artspace to Hastings in June to meet with artists and key stakeholders in the Hudson project and see the building in question.

"We were impressed from the start," said Roy Close, vice president of special projects for Artspace.

The next step would be to conduct an artists' market study, which will tell Artspace if Hastings can support the sort of project they would do. HPAAC is working on securing funds to pay for the market study, which costs $30,000. If the market study is done, it's likely that results wouldn't be available until next summer.

At its last workshop meeting, HEDRA set an October deadline for concept plan submittals so it could get to work selecting a developer and advancing the project. Although Artspace won't know for sure if it will take on the project here until after the market study, the organization went ahead with a concept proposal last Thursday.

Two developers had already submitted their ideas to the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority while Artspace was in the midst of the initial feasibility study. Those two plans, submitted by the Beard Group and Sherman and Associates, featured a mix of residential (apartments, townhomes or hotel) and commercial uses. Artspace is proposing a similar mix, but with an emphasis on the arts.

The core of Artspace development is in artists' live-work units. These affordable housing apartments are about 100 to 150 square feet larger than typical apartments so that resident artists have enough space to do their artwork in their own home.

Based on conversations Artspace had with people here in June, Close told HEDRA that an Artspace concept could include information and/or education like an interpretive center, historical site or other tourist attractions; recreational access such as canoe, kayak and bicycle rentals; food and beverage service like a coffee shop, bar or restaurant or ice cream shop; and a substantial amount of arts use, including Artspace's live-work units and possibly working art studios, galleries or offices for organizations like HPAAC or the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. If there's space still available, retail and event space is also a possibility.

None of the ideas have been made formal at this point. If Artspace does end up redeveloping the site, these are the areas it would be likely to explore, Close said.

Artspace sees the old Hudson site as having unique potential. Mixing the arts with nature and recreation is natural on one hand because of the location along the river and along the trail system, but it's also something Artspace hasn't ever done before, Close said.

"This is something that would be a first for Artspace as well," he said.

If the project moves forward with Artspace, it would be heavily community driven, Close added. It would take a while to complete (a typical project takes about five years), but in that time Artspace would get a lot of input from the community, he said, to make sure what they build truly serves the community.

Artspace boasts an impressive financial record. Since its start in 1979, the organization has never had one of its projects fail or go bankrupt. Such success is the result of careful budgeting, Close said. Artspace won't start construction on a project until it has the money, and sites are designed to be financially self-sustaining.

There are a few costs for the community before Artspace takes over a site. The first is the feasibility study, which has already been done in Hastings. The next piece is the $30,000 market study. After that, if Artspace decides to take on the project, there would be a $750,000 redevelopment contract that would have to be paid by the community, Close said. That amount may take some time to raise, he added.

Once Artspace has the redevelopment contract and closes on the property, the project would be fully funded and managed by Artspace. Close said that a rapid project would take about three years from the time of the first feasibility study, while a more typical time frame is about five years.

At the meeting, HEDRA commissioners asked about the current upkeep costs for the city to hold and maintain the building. Community Development Director John Hinzman said that annually, HEDRA pays about $300,000 a year to hold the building. About $250,000 of that is for the bonded debt and about $50,000 goes to general maintenance, including heating, electricity and maintaining the alarm system.

National Park Service

Talks have been going on between the National Park Service and the potential developers as well as with the City of Hastings. The Park Service has expressed interest in having a space in the building, but so far nothing specific has been proposed and no firm commitment has been made. According to Randy Thoreson, who works in the National Park Services's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, developers aren't likely to get a definitive answer until there's more of a proposal on the table.