The Hudson Plan Commission, in a meeting Thursday evening, Oct. 5, declined to take immediate action on a developer's request to acquire about a third of an acre of First Street right of way.
GCI Builders Inc. of St. Cloud, Minn., says it needs the property to redevelop the River City Center on the south end of Hudson's downtown. The company has proposed demolishing the existing grocery store and strip mall and replacing it with a large retail, hotel and condo building.
The Plan Commission listened to a brief description of the project by GCI Builders President Al Keller, and discussed it, but didn't want to make any commitments until visiting the property in question.
A special meeting of the commission at the property is now scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 12.
Last Thursday, Keller presented drawings of what a new building might look like, along with a map outlining the locations of the existing River City Center, the new building and the street right of way GCI Builders would like to acquire.
The facade of the building would be staggered for esthetic reasons, and constructed of brick and stone to add to its appeal, he said. Also, the side of the building facing First Street and the St. Croix River would be equally attractive, and a big improvement from the existing building.
The commissioners -- Mayor Jack Breault, Alderwoman Carah Koch, Fred Yoerg, Don Mailloux, Park Board Chairman Donald Gilbert and Public Utility Commission President Tim Caruso (Bob Bieraugel was absent) -- appeared interested in Keller's proposal, but unwilling to part with any city property until they thoroughly understood what the consequences of that action might be.
Yoerg appeared to have the greatest misgivings about parting with any city property.
"Once you sell it, it's gone, and you never, never have it again," he said. "Personally, I don't know why we would choose to let it go."
GCI Builders would like to construct the new building farther to the west than where the existing building is located, which would require acquiring some First Street right of way. Locating the building slightly farther to the west apparently would help the developer stay under a 45-foot height limit for buildings in the downtown central business district.
Keller said GCI Builders would be making a big investment in the property. Normally, he would be looking for $1 million from the city to make the project work, he said.
He said the city also would gain use of a 200-vehicle parking lot that would be open to the public. Another 200 stalls inside the basement of the building would provide parking for condo residents and hotel guests.
Later in the meeting, the commission discussed the height the city might want to limit the building to.
Community Development Director Dennis Darnold said the height of new buildings in the downtown central business district is limited to 45 feet under the city's new Lower St. Croix Riverway zoning ordinance that is currently being reviewed by the Department of Natural Resources. The city could require a lower building if it wanted to, however, Darnold seemed to indicate.
Yoerg said he had asked Darnold to put the discussion of the building height on the meeting agenda.
"The reason I did," Yoerg said, "is that I feel you do not want to block sight vision to the river with the development."
Later in the discussion, Yoerg added, "We don't want to be walking down little corridors ... We don't want to ruin our pristine beautiful lakefront so 35 people own condos and a few hotel guests have all that."
Breault and Gilbert indicated that they wanted to work with the developer on a plan that meets both his and the city's needs.