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Hudson Housing Authority nixes new construction plan

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HUDSON–“The project as presented is not going to be built,” Alan Weaver, Chair of the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners, announced as he canceled the board’s July 10 meeting due to a lack of quorum.

He said the board would issue request for proposals (RFP) “to potential partners for a new project,” and that the new project is not yet definite enough to reveal.

The project as initially presented included two four-story residential units, with retail space across State Street from Bliss Tower. The new buildings together would have contained 73 income-restricted apartments, with the maximum income allowed in one new building higher than that allowed in Bliss. The HHA owns both the Bliss complex and the land on which the new buildings were planned.

The original construction and financing was headed toward a June closing, when in February the Board announced the project was undergoing reevaluation. Reasons given at that time included “environmental” situations and “public comment.”

At the board’s April meeting, a commissioner said, “the soil has been evaluated, and it’s an issue.”

In commenting on the proposal, some members of the public considered it too “urban,” while others considered it not urban enough. There was also objections to that it would attract “new people,” and some objected to the proposal to segregate senior citizens in one building.

The next few HHA meetings involved discussions of the construction and development plans, but those meetings were held in executive session and not open to the public.

The agenda for the canceled July 10 meeting included “rescinding” the existing “RFP award” and reviewing a draft for a new RFP, both in the portion of the meeting open to the public.

HHA meetings need at least four commissioners for a quorum. At the July 10 meeting, the only commissioners present were Mr. Weaver, Vice Chair Randall Martin, and Marie Balle. Also present were HHA Executive Director Tim Mattice and a legal counsel. From the meeting room, Mr. Weaver called another commissioner, who lives in Bliss but said he could not come because he was exhausted from the previous day.

The previous day, July 9, Bliss Tower had been without electricity since 3 o’clock in the morning. Power was not restored until at 12:30 a.m. July 10, according to tenant Mary Decker. Commissioners joined in efforts to rectify the situation and keep tenants comfortable.

With no hope of a fourth commissioner, Mr. Weaver called off the meeting, even though there were a lot of topics to cover, and the next meeting was not scheduled for two months. The few people in the audience read the intended agenda. Carol Osterink, who writes the Gossips of Rivertown blog, asked about the RFP items, and Mr. Weaver responded by announcing the cancellation of the original construction plans.

Other topics on the canceled agenda included the proposed Verizon cell-phone towers and the in-process conversion of the HHA from public housing to a RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) partnership with the private sector. Despite the redirection of development plans, RAD conversion “is moving along fine,” Mr. Martin said later. A call to the HHA administration for more details was not returned.

The next scheduled meeting of the HHA Board of Commissioners is to take place Wednesday, September 11, at 6:00 pm, in the Bliss Community room.

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