Thursday, September 18, 2014

A crown for Warren Street

Above: Route 9 (solid line) currently jughandles through Hudson because a narrow,
two-block section of roadway prevents a simpler, straighter route (dashed line).
Below, the existing intersection of Warren Street with Worth and Prospect.

In a recent post, I looked into rerouting U.S. Route 9 as a way of reducing truck traffic within the Hudson street grid. I raised the possibility of simplifying the route by widening a narrow, two-block stretch of Prospect and Fairview Avenues, and as an additional option, merging Prospect and Fairview into a continuous street.

In this post I'll look at the intersection where my rerouting began, the meeting of Warren Street with Prospect Avenue and Worth Avenue. Some Hudsonians complain about this intersection because of the three-way stop signs. Personally, I find communal value in the eye contact and informal coordination they call for, but at rush hour, when I almost never drive, such charms are perhaps lost.

Whether or not the intersection is a failure from a traffic standpoint, it is most definitely a failure from a civic standpoint. This is an important intersection in Hudson. It marks the head of Warren Street, the cultural and commercial spine of the city, a street celebrated for its architecture, restaurants, and galleries. But while the bottom end of Warren Street is anchored by a promontory overlooking the Hudson River, here there is no indication of the street's significance. There is no major building or space to complete the street axis and pull walkers to its top end; the strongest architectural gestures are an auto repair garage and a marginally maintained, 1870-ish flop house. Besides presenting a significant aesthetic problem, this represents an economic and cultural problem, as properties at this end of Warren Street have tended to languish.
Warren Street is the commercial and cultural spine of Hudson. It is is received by a park at the Hudson River, but it lacks a
significant marker at its upper end.

Below I offer a suggestion for anchoring the top of Warren Street. I've realigned Prospect and Worth Avenues into a continuous street, and extended Warren to meet them in a T. I also rerouted the alley behind Worth Avenue to connect with Prison Alley. These changes would result in the loss of two buildings, an architecturally undistinguished house and the auto repair garage. The gain is a clear beginning/end to Hudson's main street and a large, developable parcel to the southeast.
A street realignment and new building and plaza offer a civic gesture at the head of Warren Street.

Portland, Maine
On the new site I've suggested a large building and plaza to preside over Warren Street. The location lends itself to a public building such as county offices, a police station, or a library. Unfortunately, these functions are all in the process of being relocated to other sites in Hudson. A church, grand hotel, or apartment building might work, and the proximity of the hospital suggests an administration building. However, some of these uses might not lend the right civic note. But it's fun to imagine something new and impactful at this location. A good street should have a good beginning. And a good end.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Laura Squillante is stalking me

Twice a month, every month. This is why your insurance premiums are too high.

N.C. Court upholds right to build a modern house in historic district

Source: Architect magazine
It's too bad the current example is so pedestrian, but kudos to the Historic Development Commission of Raleigh, North Carolina for having a policy that officially recognizes contemporary architecture as part of the historical continuum, and that allows modern architecture within historic districts. Raleigh HDC guidelines state: "The introduction of a compatible but contemporary new construction project can add depth and contribute interest to the district."

The full story may be found at Architect magazine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Found in Hudson

Developing the Hudson hinterlands
Part 1: Put your money on sprawl

Last month, the Register-Star reported that the Hudson Common Council has been asked to explore the transfer of a 33-acre parcel from the school district to the city. The city would in turn sell the unused parcel, located behind Hudson High School, for private development. This would generate revenues for the city through the sale as well as through future tax revenues.

Fiscally speaking, this seems like an excellent idea. Unfortunately, it is an inducement to create sprawl. The site is located far from existing physical and social infrastructure, most notably the Hudson grid. Presumably it would receive residential development, but anything built on the site will be automobile dependent.
A 33-acre parcel behind Hudson High School may be made available for private development.

Not far away, in Hudson's North Bay, the Columbia Land Conservancy has been pursuing a plan to create a conservation area. It would touch the Hudson street grid on the south and connect to the existing Greenport Conservation Area on the north. Question 1: Is there any land that the Conservancy has included in its plan that is a.) adjacent to the street grid, and b.) buildable?

The answer would seem to be "mostly no," as much of the land in the vicinity is swampy, steeply sloped, toxic, and unstable. But to the extent the answer is "yes," I pose Question 2: Can we rethink things a bit, such that the school district parcel becomes part of the conservation area and any buildable land near the city grid gets built on instead?

In Part 2, I'll look at an ambitious possibility for growing Hudson on an urban, rather than suburban, model.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Smiles through the trials

Columbia County Courthouse, Hudson, New York. Photo by Sorche Fairbank.

Doing tacky right

Gossips of Rivertown reported yesterday on a proposal for a cigar store to be created in an existing house at the corner of Seventh and Union Streets in Hudson. The application was approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, subject to the applicant providing some additional requested materials. The primary alteration to the building is a new canopy, which is intended to evoke a train station. The proposal looks like this:
There are more things wrong with this proposal than I can speak to; Carole Osterink already has addressed many of them. But I will attempt to make cheesecake out of cheese by addressing one big problem: The proposed roof canopy steps down awkwardly, and it has a meaningless, unused space beneath its lower portion.

Below I've suggested building a raised platform at the same height as the existing front stoop. This would allow the roof canopy to extend horizontally, more clearly evoking the desired imagery of a train platform. The raised porch would do a better job of concealing the parking behind it, and its usersI imagine the space serving as a smoking porchwould be at platform level relative to the passing trains. If only the fitness center were still across the street, we could all enjoy the theater of the smokers and the treadmillers huffing and puffing in unison.
With all that said and drawn, I don't think either proposal is legal, as the roof appears to extend over the public sidewalk. If so, surely someone will notice this before a building permit is granted... um, right? 

UPDATE, 10:50AM: I took a look at the property on Bing, and the existing house appears to sit back from the sidewalk a couple feet relative to its neighbors. So perhaps the roof does not violate the zoning setback after all.

Sunday, September 14, 2014