Historic Hudson Has 10 Million Reasons To Celebrate
By Jamie Larson
Historic Hudson already would’ve had a lot to celebrate at their upcoming Drinks on the Waterfront party at the Dunn Warehouse Site on Friday, Sept. 1, as the Hudson, New York organization brings attention to one of the city’s most visible abandoned historic structures right in the center of the Riverfront Park. But then, on Aug. 1, New York State awarded Hudson a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant to help economic development at the waterfront and the surrounding neighborhood.
“It really gives us something to celebrate,” said Alan Neumann, president of Historic Hudson, “especially for the future of the Bridge District. Which is everything below Second Street.”
The waterfront event was initially planned to fundraise for the busy organization and create more interest in the preservation of Dunn’s, which had already received a $500,000 structural stabilization grant in January.
While the former warehouse may not be the most refined historic structure in Hudson, it is one of the only remnants (along with the Basilica) of Hudson’s industrial past and its location makes it ideal for connecting new development at the waterfront to the city’s iconic historic character. According to a survey done by the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 (credit to Gossips of Rivertown for sourcing the document), the building was constructed in 1850, as the Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop.
Once used to accommodate large machinery, Dunn’s big bay doors and large open interior may soon be developed into a food hub and restaurant that can both provide affordable food to the neighborhood — currently a food desert — and an eatery for anyone visiting the park. Every project currently outlined in the proposal is just that, a proposal, and will need to go through a public approval process, but there is little doubt Dunn’s will be a big part of future development. Other proposed projects include expansion of Basilica Hudson, support for existing light industry, assistance for an incoming hotel, business incubators, improved pedestrian access to the waterfront and much more.
“Let’s imagine a beautiful and productive future for this city-owned site,” Neumann said. “We need people to come down to the waterfront and have a glass of wine and imagine the future. We need to have a historic anchor.”
The benefit is $35 and includes food from Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions, and wine from Hudson Wine Merchants featuring vintages from the Blue Danube Wine Company. All are central European wines that Neumann says will really surprise people. There will also be a silent auction of historic photographs of the city.
“It’s of primary importance that Historic Hudson keeps its voice strong to preserve what’s quirky and historically important,” Neumann said. “It’s what makes Hudson distinctive and we need to address that as development moves forward. This matters.”
Some Fresh Intelligence About The Grant
Reactions to the grant around town were extremely positive by and large — but Hudson has a long history of justified skepticism about development projects, and the grant application was quickly dissected. While this civic ferocity can sometimes stymie officials, it is one of the key reasons Hudson has been able to maintain so much of the historic character that makes the city a draw. Hudson Development Corporation Executive Director Sheena Salvino, who led the creation of the grant proposal, stressed that no project has been approved and $300,000 of the grant is set aside to hire a planner to shepherd the projects forward the right way.
“The overarching goal for the narrative we submitted to get the grant was to build a bridge between past and present,” Salvino said. “We stressed the role of historic buildings and how historic sites and things like landscaping promote economic development. Our proposal was to show that we were going to accelerate job growth at every level and create an ecosystem for that growth within the district. In our application we went across the entire spectrum of what’s going on down there.”
One aspect of that spectrum is troubling to residents familiar with the 20-plus years of community opposition to plans for expanding the cement business at Hudson’s deep water port. From blocking the creation of a massive factory by St Lawrence Cement decades ago, to the current opposition to the proposed creation of a haul road by the dock’s current owner A. Colarusso & Son, the community has made its opposition to expansion of operations pretty clear. So, these residents were disheartened to find in the proposal a sentence claiming, “...City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso.”
The sentence is a bruise in an otherwise shiny apple. Salvino was quick to admit that the statement was a misrepresentation of public opinion and a mistake for which she takes responsibility.
“We did not work with Colarusso. Everyone knows there is a community issue around this. From our perspective, Colarusso has a 100-year history in the city and they are an example of the type of industry currently operating at the waterfront. They invested seven million dollars in the purchase of the port and we needed to show the state examples of extensive investment. It was recommended to us by the Empire State Development office that it is a part of the waterfront so it should be included, whether it ends up in the final plan or not.
“Was that sentence the best way to put it? No, it wasn’t,” Salvino continued. “The grant writers didn’t have the background on the history of the dispute and I didn’t catch it in the editing process, and I’m sorry about that. My job is about moving things forward.”
Other skepticism of the proposal comes from the waterfront district’s large minority and low-income population. There is concern that economic development in their neighborhood means the further gentrification of a city already deeply segregated along racial and economic lines. Residents hope the final plan will address the needs of the entire community. Salvino says job creation for all is the core of the project’s mission.
In total, the grant is a major win for Hudson and officials have a rare opportunity to accelerate growth in a city already well on the upswing. Good thing there’s a party coming up where you can raise a glass to what’s historic — and what’s to come — at the waterfront.
Drinks on the Waterfront
Friday, Sept. 1, 4-7 p.m.
The Dunn Warehouse Yard at the corner of Broad St. & Water St., Hudson, NY
Tickets: $35 online, $40 at the door