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HHA looking at “maximum build” for new sites



Director of Development for Mountco Eu Ting-Zambuto addressing the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners at the October 16 meeting. Photo by Jeanette Wolfberg

HUDSON – The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners advised its development partner to stick to the proposal it had presented a month earlier rather than change to one with fewer apartments, at their October 16 meeting. The proposal still faces modifications based on engineering, cost, financing, and community considerations. In addition, a new possibility for relocating existing HHA tenants came to light. Hudson City Council President Tom DePietro and housing Justice Coordinator Michelle Tullo attended the meeting.

The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) runs the income-restricted Bliss Tower and Columbia Apartments, owns land with ball courts and parking across State Street from those buildings, and gives Section 8 vouchers for housing elsewhere in Hudson. Bliss Tower and Columbia Apartments together hold 135 apartments, of which 106 were rentable as of the summer. In 2021 the Board of Commissioners, which governs the HHA, decided to redevelop its property for improved housing. In addition, the City of Hudson made three parcels of land available to HHA at half price, should the redevelopment require more land than what the HHA currently controls. This spring the HHA selected Mountco Construction and Development Corporation of Scarsdale to partner with it for redevelopment.

In September, Mountco representatives presented a plan with five long apartment buildings on HHA’s current land and townhouses on the three parcels which HHA would buy from the city. It would require demolishing Bliss Tower and Columbia Apartments.

The September proposal calls for erecting two new buildings north of State Street and three new buildings south of State Street. The land north of State Street currently has the ball courts and a playground, and the land south of State Street currently has Bliss Tower and Columbia Apartments. North of State Street, one building would have seven stories and one would have five stories. South of State Street, one building would have seven stories, one building six stories, and one building would have four stories. Together the five buildings would contain about 300 apartments, over double the amount in the current apartments. Mountco calls this plan its “maximum build” scenario.

At the October 16 meeting, Eu Ting-Zambuto, director of Development for Mountco, presented a scaled down proposal. The site north of State Street would still have two buildings, but both would have five stories. The site south of State Street would still have three buildings, and one would have four stories, but the other two would each have five stories. Together the five buildings would contain about 222 apartments.

As in the maximum build proposal, the October proposal would cut First Street from Columbia to State Street, close State Street to vehicles between First and Second streets, and make new ball courts and playgrounds in the large green tree-lined space between the buildings.

“Personally I feel that if we’re building these, we should maximize the number of units,” said Commissioner Nick Zachos.

“The need for housing in this community is bigger than the fears of buildings being too tall,” said Commissioner Rebecca Wolff. Board Chair Revonda Smith agreed.

Mary Decker, who is both a commissioner and a Bliss tenant, expressed concern about a seven-story building with elevators that do not work. The elevators in Bliss Tower have frequently broken down.

“This is a valid concern,” said Mr. Zachos. But he attributed Bliss’ elevator problems to maintenance “neglect.”

HHA Executive Director Jeffrey Dodson said that the height of the building will not make a difference in whether the elevators work. In addition, the new buildings’ elevators will be made of material that lasts longer than the material in Bliss’ elevator.

Ms. Ting-Zambuto reported that HHA residents have different preferences for the new development. Some would like low buildings, but some would like high buildings. Some are okay with a higher population density.

It seems like “the take away is” to aim for the maximum build, said Ms. Ting-Zambuto.

“We’ll move forward with that vision in mind, but we’ll monitor it,” said Mr. Dodson. There can be a push back.

A push back can come from the community or the investors, Ms. Ting-Zambuto foresaw. Although once a building reaches a certain size, the cost of constructing each additional apartments is less, buildings below a certain height can have a cheaper frame. And since rents will be kept “affordable,” one can view each additional apartment as an operating loss. Investors prefer fewer apartments, Ms. Ting-Zambuto said.

Meanwhile, plans call for buying all three parcels of city land for three-story townhouses, whose apartments would have three to five bedrooms. The townhouses together would have 15 apartments. This makes the redevelopment’s total number of new apartments about 315 with maximum build, about 237 with the reduced height scheme.

Also regarding the redevelopment:

*Ms. Ting-Zambuto said HHA current residents she has talked to are “very excited” about the new development’s amenities, such as a larger laundry room, bicycle storage, and the pedestrianization of part of State Street. Part of the new buildings’ ground floors are to be set aside for commercial space, but undecided is how much of that space will be for retail and how much for social services

*Ms. Ting-Zambuto assured the meeting that 135 of the new apartments will be set aside for households with “extremely low incomes”

*Ms. Wolff asked whether the taller buildings would shade the shorter buildings “in the right direction”

*Later at the meeting, the commissioners were asked to give permission to the executive director to sign a statement of support for the Kearney Group’s plan to build housing on Hudson’s Mill Street. Reasons for this support, the statement says, include the need for affordable housing, but they also include providing a place to relocate HHA residents when their buildings come down. This is the first time Ms. Smith said she heard about this. Mountco’s plan calls for demolishing HHA’s buildings only after the new HHA buildings north of State Street would go up, so HHA’s current tenants could move into them. “I didn’t know that part of our plan is relocating our residents to Kearney,” Ms. Smith said. Kearney will be an additional option, Mr. Dodson explained. Furthermore, the Kearney buildings are expected to be finished before HHA’s north of State buildings, and some HHA residents might want to move into a Kearney building

*Kearney has to submit support statements by November 7, before the next HHA meeting. Therefore, there was no time to revise the statement and vote on it the next board meeting. So Mr. Zachos suggested an on-the-spot revision: quickly inserting the word “voluntary” in a section about HHA residents moving to the Kearney development. The commissioners, including Ms. Smith, approved the statement with the revision

*The Board agreed to support people using HHA rents vouchers for non-HHA buildings at up to 110% of the Fair Market Rent, rather than up to 100% as HHA did until recently. This increases the options for people using those vouchers.

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