Townhomes proposed for Hudson's downtown Phase II land

Fairmount Properties has presented preliminary plans for a townhome development north of Owen Brown Street in Hudson

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
This concept plan, one of two presented to council, depicts 128 2- and 3-story townhomes and two apartment buildings totalling 140 units, along with a parking garage and office building.

HUDSON — The developer of Hudson’s First and Main project has offered two versions of a mostly residential development proposal for a new Downtown Phase II project, but said he will not take any further action until City Council decides what it wants to do with the land.

Randy Ruttenberg, principal of Fairmount Properties, showed the plans for a potential townhouse development at Morse Road and Owen Brown Street to council during its workshop meeting Sept. 8. Council members said they needed time to review the proposal, and would discuss the potential development and soliciting public feedback at an upcoming meeting.

Fairmount's concept plan is offered several months after city officials announced they had parted ways with the previous Downtown Phase II developer, Testa Companies. 

Councilman Skylar Sutton (Ward 3) said he would review Fairmount's plan more closely, but asked what council was going to do to engage with residents on the proposal. He said he believed "most of the disagreements" on the previous Phase II plan "stemmed from not having enough engagement with the residents."

"The reality is, it doesn't really matter what I think of [Fairmount's] plan," said Sutton. "It matters what everybody else thinks of that plan."

Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) asked for council members to share their thoughts with one another on the best approach to obtaining residents' feedback about Fairmount's proposal. He said they would discuss how the process would work at a future meeting.

After the Sept. 8 meeting, Ruttenberg told the Hub-Times that for his proposal to be successful, "it needs one or more champions on council to take it on and help build consensus amongst their fellow council people."

Ruttenberg said, at this point, the ball is in council's court.

"We have notified council that we are simply going to sit on the sidelines and not pursue any additional planning until they themselves, or at least the majority of them, can reach an agreement as to what they would like to see happen on this property," Ruttenberg said.

Details of the plan 

Ruttenberg first visited with council in July to talk about a potential development and legislators asked him to return to them with a proposal.

Fairmount Properties handled the First and Main project, which was completed in 2004.

"We believe that there is an opportunity to do something that's good for the community…by providing different types of housing options to help retain people and certainly to help recruit new people, particularly into the downtown area," Ruttenberg told council Sept. 8. "Part of this is self-interest because we own First and Main, but it's frankly about our tenants and the tenants on Main Street. More people [and] more business will create a more vibrant downtown."

Ruttenberg said he believed the housing he offers would appeal to both young professionals moving into the community and emptynesters who want to live closer to downtown.

Ruttenberg said his company is offering to construct two-story and three-story townhomes on a 16-acre site north of Owen Brown that are "similar" to what they did at First and Main.

He presented two conceptual plans: one showed 128 townhomes on land north of Owen Brown and the other envisioned 112 townhomes north of Owen Brown.

In the first concept, there are 89 three-story townhomes and 39 two-story townhomes envisioned. The two-story homes would have a ground floor gathering area and kitchen, while the three-story homes would offer a second-floor gathering area and kitchen

The second concept shows 112 townhome units, with 59 three-story homes and 53 two-story homes. The three-story homes would have the second-floor gathering area and kitchen, while the two-story homes would have a ground floor master bedroom, gathering area and kitchen.

Although apartments are shown on the concept maps, Ruttenberg said his staff has heard "a lot of mixed reactions" regarding apartments.

"It certainly seems to be enough of a lightning rod that we want to stay away from it for this first phase or forever," said Ruttenberg.

If the project happens, Ruttenberg said he envisions doing it in phases, with the first phase being the construction of the townhomes north of Owen Brown.

Ruttenberg said he would propose buying the Windstream building at the corner of Owen Brown and Morse, and converting it into a sales center for the residential development. The city's effort to purchase the Windstream site failed after council voted 3-3 on the acquisition proposal in April.

For the second phase, Ruttenberg said to council, "I've heard from a number of you that believe that we should let what happens in phase two be dictated by the velocity and movement of phase one."

While noting the second phase could have more townhomes or different residential styles, Ruttenberg said his firm is "kind of hold[ing] out hope for an office building."

If the project moved forward, Ruttenberg said an agreement would be drawn up for Fairmount to purchase the land. He said they would then go through a "traditional planning process," and be "very open" to receiving input from the community.

Ruttenberg said his firm is not interested in going through "a referendum scenario," noting he felt the advisory election on Testa's proposed Phase II project in May 2019 "kind of divided the city."

"If there's a way for us to work collaboratively to work with both sides of the equation, we'd be happy to do that," said Ruttenberg.

Ruttenberg said he and his staff have spoken with engineers and traffic consultants, and with residents who opposed the previous Phase II project.

"It was made very clear that [the residents] were looking for a broader community process and look[ing] to the entire community to decide what ends up on this site," said Ruttenberg.

Sutton said his calculations of the proposed home sizes in Fairmount's concept plan were 2,600 square feet and 4,300 square feet. While noting that having a first-floor master bedroom fits what emptynesters are seeking, Sutton said he felt a 4,300 square foot home did not align with empty nesters' interests. Sutton asked Ruttenberg why his proposal did not include detached structures and smaller footprints for homes.

Ruttenberg explained the layout he offered in the concepts "would allow us to kind of pay the most amount of money while not cramming things in there," but noted his firm could "certainly build smaller units."

Sutton noted he's heard from "a lot of people" who want to move into a smaller home.

Councilwoman Kate Schlademan (Ward 1) said she would like to see a plan with more first-floor master bedrooms and smaller homes.

Mayor Craig Shubert said traffic volume was "a primary concern" of residents when Testa's Phase II project was considered.

"I don't see that [concern about traffic] going away," said Shubert. "This plan has 128 units. You're looking at potentially 250 vehicles, 250 people or more in this development."

The mayor said he would prefer a plan with more detached homes and detached garages, as well as possibly a community center, park space or a pool.

Ruttenberg said there is typically one to one and a half cars per house in the type of development he is envisioning and noted his firm will do its own traffic study. He said he could look at adding a clubhouse to the plan.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.