Randy's Ramblings: Developer assures a skeptic that his intentions are sincereI’ll admit to regarding developers’ plans for a piece of real estate with a degree of skepticism. Over the years, I’ve heard dozens of grand proposals, some that became bricks and mortar, and others that were just a builder’s dream.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
I’ll admit to regarding developers’ plans for a piece of real estate with a degree of skepticism.
Over the years, I’ve heard dozens of grand proposals, some that became bricks and mortar, and others that were just a builder’s dream.
So when I heard that builder Dean Hanson wanted the village of North Hudson to change the zoning of his property at the corner of Hwy. 35 and Station Lane to allow him to build a grocery store, I didn’t jump on the band wagon like many of my North Hudson neighbors did.
Dean, by the way, is no relation to me. We Hansons are just about as plentiful as Johnsons, Smiths and Rodriguezes in these northern climes. Dean’s either from a wealthier clan of Hansons or a lot smarter than me.
Being the jaded newspaperman that I am, I worried about a grocery store being dangled in front of North Hudsonites to get them to change the zoning of Hanson’s property from office to retail — and winding up with a ubiquitous strip mall.
A telephone conversation with Hanson last Thursday relieved me of much of that concern.
“That’s what I got the conditional use permit for. I can’t build anything else,” he replied when I asked him if his intent was still to build a grocery store.
“I’m trying to figure out where all of that (suspicion) came from,” he added with a laugh. “No, I’m not going to build a Wal-Mart.”
“My plan has always been for it to be a grocery store,” the longtime Hudson builder told me. “My intent was always to make it the star of North Hudson, not to try to figure out some other way to sneak something out there.”
Hanson assured me that he has been talking to two prospective grocers about moving into the store that he would build. He said he couldn’t name them for competitive reasons.
“Those companies have a right to their privacy,” he said. “When the grocer and I have finished all our discussions, and he wants to have his name announced, that will be up to him.”
While the North Hudson Village Board on July 1 gave Hanson the conditional use permit he needs to move ahead with project, don’t expect any announcements regarding a grocer in the near future.
Hanson said that once he comes to terms with an operator, the interior design of the building will need to be completed and approved by the state.
“By the time that’s all done, it’s going to be the middle of the winter,” he said. “Then, if everybody in the world (approves) — and the world doesn’t die between now and then — we’ll probably start construction in the spring. And we’re probably looking at selling the first loaf of bread next October or November (2009).”
The two-year battle Hanson has had to get this far in the process hasn’t robbed him of his sense of humor.
“The 12 people who were in opposition dreamed up more stuff from a negative standpoint than I could have,” he said. “And it’s not my position to sit and argue with them.”
At most, 600 vehicles a day would visit the store, Hanson said, which is about the same number that use Station Lane at Hwy. 35 each day.
He said opponents of the store exaggerated the traffic that it will generate. The newly renovated Family Fresh Market on Coulee Road in Hudson gets fewer than 1,000 cars a day in its parking lot, he said.
Hanson said the full-service North Hudson grocery will be similar to Nash Finch Co.’s new Family Fresh store. The plan is to offer a delicatessen, a coffee shop, flowers, wine, high-end meats and other products and amenities that upscale shoppers expect.
It will be an attractive building, too, well shielded from neighboring properties, he promised.
The conditional use permit Hanson received contains 24 stipulations regarding the project. Several aim to lessen the impact of the store on the surrounding residents and neighborhood.
And if Hanson isn’t able to negotiate a deal with a grocery store operator?
“In order for it to be something else, it would have to go through the whole approval process again,” he said. “In other words, the way the village of North Hudson’s codes are written, if I want to change it to a variety store or a hardware store, we would have to go through all the approvals again.”
Now that Hanson has approval for a grocery store, I’d like to see it built — provided that it’s done with the promised concern for esthetics.
I live just a few blocks from the site. With gas at its current price, a quaint, old-time walk to the grocery is appealing to me.
I’d prefer something smaller than the planned 114-space parking lot. Most big box lots in the city are half (or more) empty half of the time. And they’re not pretty.
It’s reassuring to me that Hanson will have to go through the approval process again if the grocery store falls through and he wants to build something else.
Look for me in the opponents’ section at Village Hall if the new plan is for a dollar store.