Downtown plans get another look
A committee of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce is revisiting past downtown development plans to assess what has been completed and what still needs to be done.
Dennis Darnold, the city's community development director, spoke to the Chamber's Downtown Planning Committee on Thursday morning of last week. He reviewed past planning efforts and recommended that the committee of business owners study them in detail to decide what it wants to accomplish in the future.
Darnold touched on the highlights of five previous planning documents dating back to 1967. The most recent is the Hudson Riverfront and Downtown Neighborhood Plan completed in 1995.
"The downtown should be the central focus of the city of Hudson," Darnold said. He noted that some suburban communities are trying to create a downtown, while in Hudson, "we have it."
Darnold said all of the previous downtown plans seek to capitalize on the "great natural resource" the city has in the St. Croix River.
One way to do that would be to build an interpretive center at the end of the dike road, he said. The dike provides a rare opportunity for people to walk to the middle of the river he noted.
Kelly Dunn, chair of the Downtown Planning Committee, said the Hudson Rotary clubs are considering building a pavilion at the end of the dike in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Rotary organization.
Darnold also suggested directing tourists to Prospect Park, with its panoramic views of the river.
There was discussion, too, of a previous plan to dress up the alleyway between Second and First streets. The idea is to make the back doors of businesses, because they face the river, as inviting as the front doors.
Mayor Jack Breault supported concept. He said a new tax incremental financing district could be formed to finance the public improvements once the loan for the St. Croix Business Park TIF district is paid off in three or four years.
In addition, committee members talked about redeveloping industrial properties on First Street south of Walnut for retail shops and restaurants.
Architect Elliot Anderson said a "big enough player" to develop two blocks of property is needed to move forward with that plan.
Tom Rose, the owner of several downtown buildings, said the retail climate in downtown Hudson has improved substantially in the past five years.
"I think we are on the beginning of a transition here," he said. He said he believes owners are ready to invest to improve the appearance of their businesses if they receive support from the city.
"We have to let people know that it is to their benefit to improve, and help those who can't afford it," he said.
Breault said he was intending to meet the next day with the city's engineer firm about a plan to add 135 diagonal parking spaces along the west side of First Street. Fifty to 60 of the parking spaces could be added next year, he said.
Committee members that volunteered to be part of a work group to assess future development priorities included Chamber President Mary Claire Olson, committee chair Kelly Dunn, Shelli Erck of Hudson Flower Shop, building owners Tom Rose and Tom Madigan, Art Doyle of Spokes & Pedals, Kathy Newman of Et Cetera and Dennis Darnold.
Randy Hanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.