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Developer touting First & Main's success, looks to future additions

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published: January 11, 2013 4:00 PM
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Hudson -- The developers of First & Main have put initial opposition to the downtown redevelopment project in 2001 far behind them and see the retail, office and residential mixed-use development as a success.

Nearly every space is filled, Randy Ruttenberg of Fairmount Properties, a real estate development company, told members of the Hudson Economic Development Corp. and guests Jan. 4 at Town Hall.

"We'll be lucky to have four or five people on Main Street when this is finished," was one of the predictions in 2003 before First & Main was completed in 2004, according to a Hudson Hub-Times article.

The company is now discussing the remaining open space and possibilities for the second phase of the project, which includes the school district's bus garage and the city's salt dome and some private properties, Ruttenberg said.

The biggest challenge for the developers of First & Main was creating an office and retail area that would complement the existing historic Main Street stores, Ruttenberg said.

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The plans changed a lot, and the Hudson Library and Historical Society became an anchor of the shopping district, bringing 33,000 people weekly to the library and downtown area, he said.

About 50 percent of the businesses in First & Main are local businesses, with national businesses making up the balance to attract shoppers from outside Hudson to the area, Ruttenberg said.

Some stores got off to a slow start, and Heinen's had to educate the public that it had lower prices to grow its number of customers, he said. Local stores like Nicky Nicole have flourished and expanded.

The First & Main Merchants Association learned not to impose its stores' restrictions on hours and advertising dollars on the historic stores and "works well" now with the Merchants of Hudson to promote events in the downtown area, Ruttenberg said.

"We continue to focus on events and work with the merchants to maximize productivity and fill customers' needs," he added.

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Changes have resulted from lessons learned, such as closing an upscale restaurant, The Vue, and replacing it with two more casual dining restaurants, the Flipside and One Red Door, Ruttenberg said.

Although shoppers complain about parking during the holidays and special events, there are plenty of parking spaces, according to Regan Gettens, vice president and property management for Fairmount Properties. Too many shoppers want to park at the front door.

"We don't have a parking problem," Gettens said. "We have a walking problem."

Gettens and Ruttenberg said they welcome suggestions and took questions from those present.

One remaining concern is the vacant land at the corner of First Street and Village Way near the First & Main Green.

The steep slope of the property would put half of the first floor of any building underground, with limited window space, according to Ruttenberg. Any building proposed for the site would need a special design or use, he said.

"It has to be the right thing to build and sustain in First & Main," Ruttenberg said.

Council member Bill Wooldredge said Council plans to discuss downtown development in the new year and asked about the second phase of the project.

Physical barriers, such as Brandywine Creek and residential homes, pose a problem for attracting shoppers to that area, Ruttenberg said. The shopping area also would need another anchor store or business.

"The connectivity has to be there with the entire downtown," Ruttenberg said, noting the city's pursuit of a "new trail system could ensure the new phase has connectivity."

Realtor Ted Olson said the No. 1 request of home buyers is to be able to walk to downtown. He suggested building some smaller homes in the second phase instead of townhouses, which were built during the first phase and were difficult to fill.

"I have lots of sketches of ideas [for phase 2] and some include a residential component," Ruttenberg said.

The city's next step in the development of Phase 2 of the downtown redevelopment is to create a committee to discuss the vision and how to accomplish it, according to Jody Roberts, communication manager for the city. The committee would include developers, merchants, city employees and others.

Ruttenberg and his partner, Adam Fishman, have been busy since 2004 when First & Main opened and are now working on the College Town project in Kent and the Flats East Bank project in Cleveland.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

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