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City makes progress on Great Rivers Landing project, but construction still likely months away

The former Hudson Manufacturing building is slated for redevelopment, but delays in state and federal approvals have prevented the city from transferring ownership of the site to the developer. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)

In January of 2016, the city formally agreed to sell the former Hudson Manufacturing building, located just west of Highway 61 along Second Street, to Confluence Development. That initial agreement stipulated that construction would be finished on the site by June 2017.

Today, the site has yet to even change hands. That is, in large part, due to delays in a few tasks that the agreement requires to be completed before the property can be transferred.

In a later interview, Community Development Director John Hinzman said that there are two items left to do before the sale can be completed. One is the city's responsibility: cleaning up all the environmental issues identified on the site. Hinzman said that the city has secured a $600,000 grant to pay for the environmental cleanup, but that money came with strings attached, he said. Those strings, which had to do with historical evaluation of the property and getting some contracts in order, had to be resolved with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which took some time. Those stipulations have been met, however, and as of about two weeks ago, the city has been cleared to use the cleanup funds. The grant money will be used for three cleanup activities: removing exterior soil, removing some interior soil in crawl space areas and soil vapor extrusion under the building.

At last week's regular meeting of the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority (HEDRA), Hinzman said that a contract to clean up contaminated soil outside the building was issued last February, but hasn't been completed yet due to the funding delays.

That was also cause for HEDRA's latest action, which was to award another contract for soil removal inside the building. The contract bid submitted by Frattalone in the amount of $148,875 won HEDRA's vote. The project includes the removal of interior flooring to provide access to the soil underneath so it can be tested, as well as the replacement of affected flooring. A second part of the project to actually remove contaminated soil is expected to be issued at a later date.

Hinzman told HEDRA that he expects exterior soil work to be done in December or January, assuming the ground doesn't freeze too quickly. Inside the building, he said, he expects work to be done around February. Soil vapor extrusion would be done around February or March, completing the city's environmental responsibilities on the site.

There is one other task in the works that needs to be finished before the city can turn over ownership of the property to Confluence Development. Confluence is seeking approval to use historic tax credit funding from the state to help in the cost of redevelopment, but has not yet secured those funds. Hinzman said that the developers have been working with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) but that the two organizations have not yet resolved their differences. Hinzman said city staff have conveyed to Confluence Development the city's sense of urgency in seeing the project advance to the next stage.

"We would like to be able to see things move along," he told HEDRA commissioners.

He said that there are certain elements SHPO wants to see done that have severe cost of design implications for Confluence Development. Those changes could have project implications; for example, SHPO would like to see certain restrictions on interior insulation that could affect the developer's options for heating and cooling systems. Confluence Development has been trying to convince SHPO of the associated problems with the requests, but so far have not been successful.

"It's been going on longer than I think anyone would have liked," Hinzman said.

Due to the delays, Hinzman said that HEDRA can expect to see a revision of the purchase and development agreement coming sometime in early 2017. That update will likely extend some of the dates referenced in the original agreement, as they are no longer feasible.

Hinzman said that the public may start to see some movement on the site in the first part of 2017.

Confluence Development, a collaboration between Hastings businessman and developer Pat Regen and Bill Weyland of City Properties in Louisville, Ky., was selected to develop the site at the end of 2013. Confluence Development plans to repurpose the site primarily for rental housing, with some retail, restaurant, art gallery, river outfitter and event space also included. Many of the public features were requested by HEDRA and the Hastings City Council.