Emerging technology hub Hudson, NY wins $10 Million grant for riverfront revitalization

By Richard K. Wallace

Hudson, NY – After an unsuccessful bid last year, the City of Hudson, New York was awarded a $10 million New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) economic development grant on August 1.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, accompanied by city, county and state government and economic development officials made the announcement this afternoon in the performance hall of the historic, recently renovated Hudson Opera House.

State and regional officials are promoting the revitalization plan and its potential for “next-tech” growth and development opportunities in Hudson. The $10 million plan includes infrastructure and development spending to create purpose-built spaces that will foster trade, vocational and apprenticeship hubs; and an innovation zone focused on developing a cluster of clean-tech, renewable energy, semiconductor, light manufacturing and creative industry companies.

The revitalization initiative also promotes workforce development, educational, entrepreneurial, and business development opportunities, specifically in the art, film and media industries.

Often described at “one of the coolest small town in America,” Hudson, also the county seat of Columbia County, has already begun to attract a smattering of next-wave tech company investment, beyond the many arts, antique and food shops that line its busy, mile-long Warren Street. Etsy operates a regional annex in a repurposed 1800s brick warehouses left over from the city’s industrial past.

Columbia County is also experiencing growth as part of New York’s “tech valley,” and is home to companies in advanced manufacturing, food processing, biotechnology and other high tech sectors. Foursquare has announced it is scouting the Hudson Valley for a new location and Hudson is reportedly on the short list. Some large companies, such as Taconic Biosciences, are also headquartered in the city.

Hudson is the first of 10 communities around the state that will receive $10 million first prizes through Cuomo’s revitalization initiative. More than 100 cities and towns entered the competition. The other winners are expected to be announced in coming weeks.

Hudson Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton said the money will support efforts to make Hudson more attractive to businesses and visitors while enhancing resident access to education, recreation and employment.

In an interview with a local newspaper, Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, noted that “This exciting investment is just the boost the historic City of Hudson needs to channel the tremendous creativity, diversity and entrepreneurial energy that characterizes this community. This process will transform Hudson into a vital, sustainable and inclusive 21st century economy — a model for the region and the state.”

The DRI funds will be used to revitalize the city’s riverfront Bridge District, once the heart of this Hudson’s whaling industry, and today, one of the few undeveloped riverfront parcels in the Hudson River Valley. The focus area includes a site that encompasses most of the property west of Second Street, from Basilica Hudson at the south, to Dock Street at the north.

According to John K. Friedman, Alderman for Hudson’s Third Ward, the DRI funds will be used to plan and revitalize Hudson’s Bridge Street area which currently contains a waterfront park. This includes infrastructure improvement and potential commercial development by outside investors.

One, unused, historic structure, the Dunn Warehouse, a remnant of Hudson’s bygone days as an industrial powerhouse, is expected to be part of the renovation, where it could become an anchor structure within the defined revitalization zone.

“Our proposal was focused on Front Street, from north to south, primarily around the train station, and the bridge (over the Amtrak lines). It’ s mostly about infrastructure; new sidewalks and making the site more accessible and useful for the trains, vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians, while providing improved access to the waterfront.”

Envisioned, but not part of the plan yet is the potential for commercial development, including things like restaurants, bars, and other small shops. Part of the development objective is to create new jobs and create more friendly living space on and close to the waterfront. The existing Henry Hudson Waterfront Park, Rick’s Point, as well as an existing commercial tour boat dock and a private boat club, will not be encroached upon, Friedman, noted, but funds could be used to upgrade and improve the city-owned small boat dockage facilities in the park area.

Conditions of the award specify that the first $200,000 to $300,000 of the grant must be spent on comprehensive planning.

Hudson was nominated for the award by the state’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) based on its potential for transformation. In its first phase, city and state planners will develop a strategic investment plan for the riverfront and implement key catalytic projects that advance the city’s vision for revitalization.

According to a recent report published in The Gossips of Rivertown, Hudson’s hometown news website, “DRI Round 2” was announced on May 16, and included a group of community stakeholders who contributed to the application. Click here to read the complete City of Hudson, New York Downtown Revitalization Initiative Grant Application Submitted June 14, 2017.

The state’s DRI program emphasizes using investments to reinforce and secure additional public and private investments proximal to, and within, downtown neighborhoods, and in doing, is intended to build upon growth spurred by the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs).

A New York Times profile about Hudson’s ongoing transformation noted that “from whaling and international trade in the 18th century to cotton mills and brick yards in the 19th century to cement plants in the early 20th-century industry has risen and fallen. After a long steady decline, the last 30 years in Hudson have seen a remarkable and elegant transformation,” attributed, in part, to its proximity to and influences of New York city, 120 miles to the south.