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HUDSON -- The Barlow Community Center was filled to capacity Feb. 23 for the presentation on the Downtown Phase II project with more than 100 residents attending the open house.
The recently adopted 2016 Hudson Comprehensive Plan includes a conceptual redevelopment plan for Downtown Phase II. The plan is intended to build on the success of the First & Main development by redeveloping underutilized land with a mixture of new office and residential development.
Hudson City Council in September 2016 authorized the city to partner with Testa Companies to develop a conceptual plan for the 20.5 acres in the Morse Road area available for development. The project could include a mix of office and residential units.
Testa, headquartered in Cuyahoga Falls, began business in 1967 and has 13 companies covering every facet of real estate. MKSK is the urban design planner.
As part of the project, the city and Testa are also partnering to engage the community at the early stages of the development process to ensure the best outcome for all parties.
The majority of individuals attending the presentation were "baby boomers" who showed interest in the residential component of the project.
The developer asked for input through comment cards and notes. One comment asked for "empty nester housing with solid construction and good amenities."
Peggy Heh said she lives in a 3,000-square-foot home now and is looking for alternative housing.
"I want small housing with a zero lot line," Heh said.
Someone else wanted two-story apartments but not three-story buildings.
A resident asked about building the city municipal building in the area, but one of the objectives is to create taxes from the prime properties owned by the city and schools in the Downtown Phase II area, said Joel Testa of Testa Co.
"The city is looking at its fiduciary responsibilities," Testa said. "A city building would lose the tax base another company would generate."
The bus garage and city-owned property where the salt dome is located are tax exempt. The new land owners would pay property tax and their employees would pay income tax to the city.
The goal of the city was to move the bus garage, Hudson Public Power and the salt dome out of the downtown and free up the desirable property for walkable housing and office space to support First & Main and not compete with the retail businesses, said Justin Goodwin of MKSK.
"The land is not being used for its best use," Goodwin said. "We want to offer more diverse options for those who work and live downtown."
In the 2016 Comprehensive Plan, residents wanted housing diversity and quality office space and connectivity to downtown, yet also to preserve the historic look, Goodwin said.
Margi McClelland said she worked on the 1995 Comprehensive Plan for the city and was pleased with the presentation.
"I like what they presented," McClelland said. (There is a) "need to address connectivity and enhance the walking in the community to downtown."
Others present asked about a local public transportation system to connect the different shopping areas in downtown. One person asked about a trolley transportation from Versailles and Laurel Lake Retirement Community.
Crocker Park is one of Testa's recent projects and is a larger scale project than Downtown Phase II.
Testa said they have never done a project exactly like Hudson, which requires a smaller scale, so buildings resemble those in First & Main and have the Western Reserve architecture.
"This will have a Main Street feel with Western Reserve architect," Testa said. "You won't see it anywhere else."
"What is Hudson missing?" Testa asked. "How can we fill in the gaps?"
Goodwin said there is a convergence of baby boomers and millennials both looking for homes and workplaces within walking distance to downtown with specific needs and wants.
Cities need to plan for the transition of baby boomers retiring and the need to bring the tax base up with income tax from businesses, Testa said.
"The advantage of office is income tax," Goodwin said. Hudson has office space but not the kind that is walkable to amenities, which is attractive to the millennial demographic, he added.
Parking is a concern and Goodwin said they were looking at opportunities to enhance the downtown parking.
Morse Road would not be realigned because of the conservation area to the east, and the developers are aware of the pinch point at the railroad bridge on Owen Brown Street, Goodwin said. Another concern is not increasing traffic on the section of Owen Brown with historic homes. Other issues Testa said will be considered are stormwater and wetlands.
Residents could address topics important to them in the comments at the meeting, such as streets, traffic, community, environment, open space, natural features, housing, office use, architecture, development, character and parking.
The timeline for the project began with the Feb. 23 meeting, the first of two public open house meetings. During March, Testa will develop a conceptual strategy and a March 13 forum is scheduled about the relocation of the salt dome and buses.
The second open house has been scheduled for April 5 where the public will see the ideas Testa has developed. With public input, Testa will refine their ideas into one preferred conceptual plan, which will be presented to the Planning Commission.
"We genuinely want input from everyone," Testa said. "Give us that input."