Prominent Capital Region real-estate developers are seeking to take control of a largely vacant warehouse site close to Basilica Hudson, the popular multidisciplinary arts center on the Columbia County seat’s waterfront, but the venue’s founders are urging the quasi-governmental entity that owns the four-acre parcel to consider future plans “within a shared, larger context.”
The Hudson Development Corporation’s pending selection of a developer for the property formerly owned by plastics manufacturer Kaz, Inc.—one of “the last significant lots to be developed in Hudson’s re-envisioned waterfront,” according to Melissa Auf der Maur, Basilica’s co-founder and director—prompted some local electeds and constituents, miffed by a perceived lack of public involvement in the process, to contemplate the public authority’s possible disbandment at a recent common council meeting.
Bonacio Construction and a partnership between Redburn Development and Sequence Development both responded to a request for proposals for the Kaz site issued by the HDC last October.
“For a progressive, creative development team, the site offers an opportunity of unprecedented scale to build an innovative mixed-use, mixed-income complex with significant visibility and long-term, positive economic impact,” the RFP says.
The winning developer potentially stands to receive $2 million in state assistance through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which Hudson won last August. A DRI committee made up of city and county leaders, following public, post-award deliberations, included the Kaz site on a list of projects recommended for state support.
The property is across the street from Hudson’s busy train station, one of the city’s primary gateways, and a short walk from the city-owned Dunn Warehouse, an anticipated adaptive reuse project. Hudson’s DRI proposal christened the riverside area the “BRIDGE District,” casting the two-square-mile city’s western end as ripe for revitalization.
At the Kaz site, Bonacio Construction, which has completed a number of upscale projects in downtown Saratoga Springs and Troy, wants to construct “a mixture of small retail spaces,” a Hawthorne Valley Farm-branded grocery store, six “loft-like” workforce housing units, and an 8,000-square-foot “Agricultural Resource Hub/Education Center” aimed at both farmers and students, according to a proposal summary provided to The Alt by the HDC. Another “future pad site” could accommodate another mixed-use building with up to 20 residential units. (Sonny Bonacio, the company’s president, did not respond to an interview request regarding the proposal.)
The Redburn-Sequence team, which is also reportedly exploring a project in downtown Albany, would create a grocery store, 57 market-rate apartments, 20 “artists’ lofts,” a 5,000-square-foot theater, a 9,000-square-foot co-working space, a farm-to-table restaurant, and four dozen condos, according to a proposal summary.
Redburn recently developed The Wick Hotel, a former candle factory that overlooks the Kaz site.
Jeff Buell, a principal at Sequence Development, said the team’s proposal aims to “create new connectivity” between the train station and Warren Street, the city’s main retail corridor. Buell opted not to delve into the proposal too deeply, citing HDC’s ongoing selection process, but said its myriad components reflect a genuine commitment to mixed-use development.
Bonacio and Redburn competed last year to develop 1 Monument Square, the most prominent vacant site in downtown Troy. The city, which owns the parcel, chose Bonacio’s team, but the proposal fell apart amid a legal challenge from a neighboring property owner.
A third developer, the Kearney Realty & Development Group, based in Westchester County, also wants to construct a blend of commercial space and mixed-income housing units at the Kaz site, according to its proposal summary. Storefronts would be rented to local nonprofits “at-cost for an initial three-year period.”
Visual renderings of the three proposals have not yet been publicly released, HDC director Sheena Salvino told The Alt in an email. Salvino said she does “not anticipate a vote to select a developer partner” this month.
Through letters and public remarks last month, Melissa Auf der Maur, of Basilica Hudson, has urged the HDC board to reissue the RFP, modified to include information about the final DRI recommendations, to attract a broader pool of potential developers.
Asked if this idea was a non-starter, Salvino said it was not. “Melissa floated that idea at the last board meeting and the Board has not yet had occasion to meet and to then discuss that option, in the open, among all of the members.” A seven-month process “of review and vetting” has already transpired, she added.
Salvino did not immediately respond when asked about the public discussion of HDC’s potential dissolution.
“I think it’s outdated, outmoded, and we’ve lost control,” one county lawmaker who represents Hudson said of the HDC at the May 7 meeting, according to video. “It belongs in the city’s hands, not in a small group of people dictating what’s going to happen to the city of Hudson.”
Seven projects recommended for DRI funding “are directly tied to the waterfront,” according to the Register-Star, and the city is currently revising its Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, a kind of planning document for future development. There’s also pending litigation related to a proposed haul road for gravel trucks that could impact the area.
Auf der Maur wonders how all this “will mesh, or possibly not,” with the HDC’s Kaz site plans.
“Hudson is at a pivotal juncture in its history, at a tipping point, and all of us, as residents, business owners, elected officials, and civic leaders, have an extraordinary opportunity to significantly shape the future of this city,” she says in one letter. For Auf der Maur and Basilica co-founder Anthony Stone, the Kaz site represents a “singular opportunity to showcase world class urban planning.”
In addition to Basilica Hudson, perhaps best known for annual music festivals Basilica SoundScape and 24-HOUR DRONE, Auf der Maur and Stone also own a home and a former elementary school set to be converted into a film and media hub, River House, on nearby Allen Street. Both the River House project and an expansion effort at Basilica have been recommended to receive DRI funding.
The DRI process “has made us more acutely aware of how important it is that we take a step back to plan our waterfront holistically,” the Basilica co-founders write in one letter. “What brought us here a decade ago, and keeps us here, is our belief that the BRIDGE district has the potential to be one of New York State’s greatest reimagined downtown waterfronts, and a true reflection of Hudson’s unique heritage, and wild evolution into a diverse microcosm of this country.”
HDC’s next board meeting is scheduled for May 22 at noon.