Scaled-back plan offered for old HMS site

Proposal reduced from 30-plus residential units to 14 units; Only a portion of 1927 section would be used

Phil Keren
Akron Beacon Journal
The Hudson City School District is reviewing a proposal to repurpose the portion of the old Hudson Middle School that was built in 1927. Liberty Development Co. presented a revised version of their plan at community webinars on  March 10 and 11. The plan was scaled back from about 35-36 residential units to 14 units. The front lawn and old oak trees will be preserved, and a proposal to build two new homes along Oviatt Street has been dropped from the plan. In Liberty's plan, about one-third of the 1927 building will be preserved and the remaining two-thirds will be demolished.

HUDSON — A scaled-back proposal for the repurposing of the 1927 section of the old middle school, 77 Oviatt St., was presented during a community webinar Wednesday and received mostly positive feedback.

Liberty Development Co. originally planned to build about 35-36 residential units in and near the 1927 portion of the building, but the revised concept shows a total of 14 residential units: five townhomes in a smaller section of the 1927 building that faces Oviatt Street; eight carriage homes east of the building site; and the renovation of an existing home on Oviatt.

"I think this has a different feel to it and it starts to fit into the neighborhood a little more successfully [than the first plan]," said Dru Siley, vice president of development and lead project coordinator for Liberty. 

After Wednesday's meeting, Hudson City School District spokesperson Sheryl Sheatzley said officials are still "engaging in the process, still listening, and still refining the proposal."

"There are many moving parts to be addressed in the process before a recommendation would go before the board of education," stated Sheatzley.

A second community webinar occurred on Thursday, March 11.

Recordings of both webinars will soon be available on the district's website at https://www.hudson.k12.oh.us/

How company responded to feedback

The original plan had approximately 20 units, the eight carriage homes, two new homes on Oviatt along with the existing house that would be renovated. Liberty also planned to remove the auditorium and use that area for a courtyard or a parking lot. Liberty gave a few presentations of this initial proposal to community groups in February.

Siley said concerns were raised about "the number of units (density), traffic and parking, the need for rezoning, streetscape preservation and respecting the character of the 1927 building."

The revamped plan tried to address these concerns with a focus on supporting the character of the neighborhood, according to Siley.

In the new plan, Liberty is proposing to keep the first one-third of the 1927 section of the building, including the facade along Oviatt, the classrooms in that part of the structure, the side entrances and corridor, according to Siley. This section would be repurposed into five two- or three-story townhomes and the remainder of the structure would be demolished under this new plan. The district also plans to tear down the parts of the building constructed between 1960 and 1970.

"Our development would be completely contained and behind the facade," said Siley. "…We're proposing to keep a significant portion of the interior [in the first one-third of the building]."

The two new houses proposed along Oviatt were dropped from the plan after many community members expressed concerns that the view of the historic building and the green space would be blocked. The 100-year-old oak trees on the property in front of the school would also be preserved.

"We would protect the open space and the lawn area out front," said Siley.

This illustration shows Liberty Development Co.'s revised plan for a 14-unit residential project both at the site of the 1927 section of the old Hudson Middle School and the area behind the building.

District Superintendent Phil Herman said the project is estimated to cost $8 million, is projected to generate $120,000 in annual tax revenue for the district, and added Liberty is not seeking a tax abatement.

Two of the five townhomes would use the existing entrances on each side of the building; the front door and stairs for a different townhome would be restored; and a "creative" method would be needed to put in a front door for the other two units, said Siley.

The revised plan will allow Liberty to "invest more in the restoration of the building," said Siley, who noted he is willing to examine ways to preserve the existing facade "in perpetuity."

The company's plan to restore some of the building's historic characteristics will "return it closer to what it was 100 years ago," according to Siley.

He added he also felt the scaled-down project "significantly reduces" earlier concerns raised by community members about traffic and parking.

The primary access to the development will be from Elm Street and Siley estimated there would be about 26 cars accessing the 13 units (five townhomes, eight carriage houses). Currently, a faculty parking lot in the same area has 25 spaces.

Community members share feedback

Many of the comments from community members on Wednesday were shared through computer chat systems and read into the record by Doreen Osmun, the district's assistant superintendent.

The feedback offered by community members was mostly positive, with one resident saying they felt the new plan was "the most viable option to preserve the 1927 facade and the streetscape," and a second citizen said they felt the district and Liberty provided "thoughtful consideration" to the initial community feedback.

One resident said now that a large amount of the 1927 section would be torn down, the plan "hardly seems like a meaningful historic preservation," and another expressed concerns about traffic.

What's next

Siley told the audience he wants more feedback as his company continues to refine the proposal, but emphasized the firm has determined the project is feasible for them to do.

"This is a much more appropriate scale development for the neighborhood," stated Siley. "I think it fits better than what we had previously."

Herman said if officials decide to move forward and the board of education approves a deal to sell the land to Liberty, demolition of both the non-1927 section of the building and the 1927 section not being used by Liberty will happen this summer. Liberty would then begin its renovation and construction work, which Siley said would take about 10 to 12 months.

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