I’m currently in the process of concluding work with a historic reuse team focused on next steps for the H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Building in Hastings, Minnesota. The City-owned Hudson Building is of substantial size, and offers open floor plans and high ceilings – a blank, solid canvas. The Hudson was featured as a “hot property” recently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
From a finance perspective, the chief hurdle for historic reuse is reconciling long-term lease rates or purchase prices, with a rehabilitation investment that may include remediation, demolition, site costs, and a collection of items that can petrify typical investors: HVAC, roofs, stormwater management, vertical circulation, accessibility improvements. My role on the team, led by Will Stark of Stark Preservation Planning, has been to:
Historic structures offer uncommon attributes for the very reason that their construction occurred in a different marketplace. In the late 1800s when the Hudson Company put up the Hastings facility, materials including stone and lumber were available at lower real cost than today. The proximity of the building to the Mississippi River distinguishes the building regionally, in part because regulations have evolved to protect the river from development impacts. The reuse or demolition of the structure will, either way, continue to influence the health of downtown Hastings.
Last night I enjoyed seeing good friend, a professional musician, perform with two bandmates. As at times in the past, I was struck by the generative power of a talented, experienced performance artist. At one moment, there are three people on a stage, poised to play. The next moment, they create something that establishes a connection not only among the producers, but among the audience, and between the two groups.
Given that a primary filter of mine is that of placemaking, I wondered what this shared musical experience means for our work in urban design and redevelopment. Current Donjek projects include an initiative on urban open space, focused on building links between residents and workers to a major riverway and to the green space itself. An (implicit) goal is connecting people to each other using open space as the medium, to create a distinct experience. Another current engagement relates to exploring reuse of a historic industrial building; a substantial element of the community’s preservation interest is to use the structure to connect people today to yesterday’s residents and the heritage of the place. In each case, physical design acts as a language that allows us to relate to others.
Music and other performances can trigger a powerful connection among us. Our places can become more vital and durable if we build and preserve them with connection in mind.
As I mentioned previously, I have participated as one of seventeen writers in a new project created by the Star Tribune. The forum, Your Voices, features commentary by artists, advocates, entrepreneurs. Today, I posted a story describing prospects for reuse of historic structures at Minnesota's 160-acre Fort Snelling complex. A Joint Agency Task Force has been meeting since last year to develop concrete recommendations for how to complement and connect activities at the Historic Fort and the substantial recreational assets widely used there, including athletic fields and the State Park. A long story made short: State policy must be changed to allow private parties with reuse ideas and capital to engage in the reuse of dozens of underutilized buildings on the site. Failure to establish such a process will likely lead to the structural demise of buildings located at a strategic hub of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.
Stay tuned for discussion of task force recommendations.