HUDSON — Residents will have a chance to share their thoughts about a revised Downtown Phase II project, a revamped plan that does not include a hotel.
The planning commission will continue its public hearing on the project being developed by Testa Companies on Owen Brown Street and Morse Road at its next meeting July 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Hudson Town Hall, 27 E. Main St. The commission will discuss the project again at a meeting on July 23.
Community Development Director Greg Hannan said several changes have been made to the project since it was last reviewed by the commission at the end of May. Hannan told an audience at a City Council forum June 26 that the plan for a 60-room hotel has been dropped.
Joel Testa, president of Testa Companies, said July 5 that two of the hotel groups with which his company works performed market feasibility studies and concluded that "the demand generators weren’t there yet" for a hotel in the city. He also noted that dropping the hotel plan addresses residents’ concerns about increased traffic and parking.
"The hotel certainly pushes [the demands on traffic and parking] harder than residences would or even office space would," said Testa. "In order to help relieve some of that congestion and the concerns [about] traffic and some of the expense on the city of the parking garage, we decided to take that [hotel] space out and make it mixed-use commercial/residential space."
The number of parking spaces planned for the parking garage will be reduced from 350 to 300, added Testa.
Hannan said that Testa’s proposal now calls for about 140,000 square feet of commercial office space, 80 multi-family housing units (similar to apartments), which could either be rental or owner-occupied units, and 60-70 town homes. Testa has decreased the number of multi-family units and increased the number of town homes in the plan based on public feedback. As of now, Testa is planning for about six percent of the project to include some type of restaurant or retail development, said Hannan.
Other potential changes include putting in residential housing adjacent to Morse Road and more single-floor living units, according to Hannan, who notes that area was originally planned to have commercial development.
The project site is 20 acres west of the library which contains Windstream Communications, Hudson Public Power facility, the city’s salt storage site and the school bus garage.
Hannan said there is a Tax Increment Financing district set up in the northern area of the property planned for Downtown Phase II. Through the TIF, future property taxes generated by the development will pay for infrastructure costs of the development, according to Hannan, who said the money will "largely be used" for construction of the new bus garage and salt storage facility.
The city and Testa are working on a development agreement which will be reviewed by planning commission and City Council. The plan is for the property tax and income tax funds generated by the residential and office space to offset the city’s investment in the project.
Councilman Dr. J. Dan Williams (At Large) said the city’s cost to prepare the land for the project — which includes tearing down and building a new salt dome and bus garage — was "somewhere approaching $10 million."
"We have to recover that money over a period of years," said Williams. "We just can’t do that if all we have down there is residential."
Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) said the office space is needed to bring in jobs, which will in turn generate more income tax money for the city.
At the forum, one resident said he was happy to hear that the hotel plan was dropped, while another resident drew applause when he suggested that the city convert the Downtown Phase II land into a park.
Councilman Hal DeSaussure (At Large) said that Phase II was being developed based on the city’s comprehensive plan where an effort is being made to make the area more vibrant. He noted it would still cost the city about $10 million to clear the land for a park, but then the city would not be able to recoup that investment.
Another resident said he felt the additional residential areas will mean the city will be "flooded with cars [and] flooded with traffic."
The planning commission has hosted two public hearings on the preliminary plan on Downtown Phase II. After hearing concerns raised by many residents at both hearings — the most recent being May 30 — the commission decided to continue the public hearing.
If the commission recommends the preliminary plan to City Council, Council would then have three readings and also conduct a public hearing, according to Hannan.
The city’s Architectural and Historic Board of Review will review the architectural design of the buildings at "numerous meetings" both this year and in early 2019, a city staff report said.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.