The $10 Million Women

Two Cold Spring planners land big grant for city of Hudson

By Alison Rooney

Say you had $10 million to make improvements to a small town. What would you choose, and why? How would you make it happen?

That is the challenge presented by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), a state program in its second year. Municipalities are invited to submit proposals; from the more than 100 received this year, a committee chaired by Secretary of State Rossana Rosado chose 10 and presented each with $10 million.

Sheena Salvino of the Hudson Development Corp., Juhee Lee-Hartford of River Architects, Hudson Mayor Tiffany Martin-Hamilton and grantwriter Kathleen Foley on Aug. 1 after the governor announced the city would receive $10 million to revitalize its waterfront (Photo provided)

The city of Hudson was one of the 10, thanks in large measure to two Cold Spring planners it hired to craft the 48-page proposal. Juhee Lee-Hartford of River Architects led a team that did the design work, and Kathleen Foley wrote the grant. Both said that not being residents of Hudson but living in a similar river town helped them understand the challenges.

Launched in 2016, the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative is a collaboration with 10 Regional Economic Development Councils to identify downtowns that could be jump-started with a relatively small investment.

$10 Million for Cold Spring or Beacon?

How about Cold Spring or Beacon? Could either also get a DRI “downtown identification” grant? Among the requirements in a four-page list of criteria:

The downtown …

should be compact, with well-defined boundaries.
must be a livable community for diverse populations, including in income and age.
have recent or pending job growth in or near the area.

The municipality should …

be able to capitalize on private or public investment in properties, including affordable housing.
have business improvement districts or partnerships with nonprofits.
have investments in arts and cultural institutions.
have the ability to implement policies that increase livability and quality of life through zoning and parking, energy efficiency and management structure.

Three years ago, Lee-Hartford and her husband and partner at River Architects, James Hartford, learned that Hudson officials had asked for bids for a study of how to adapt a mothballed 19th-century lumber warehouse.

The couple formed a team to respond, which included Foley’s firm, Mirador, which specializes in preservation planning. Another firm got the job, but one of the evaluators, Sheena Salvino of the Hudson Development Corp. (HDC), contacted River Architects and Mirador when the DRI put out its call for downtown proposals. HDC and the Economic Development Corp. of Columbia County funded the grant writing.

Kathleen Foley and Juhee Lee-Hartford explaining a visual included in their Downtown Revitalization Initiative proposal. (Photo by A. Rooney)

“We thought we’d be more-or-less just updating the [warehouse] grant application,” Lee-Hartford explained, which prompted a laugh from Foley.

What ensued was a round-the-clock, months-long endeavor, which included site visits, council meetings and research. “It was exhausting but super fun,” says Foley. “Working with Juhee, even if we’re working frantically side-by-side, we have a mind meld and my theoretical matches with her visual.”

One challenge was keeping their ideas with “municipal reality,” which meant poring over the city code. They also held public meetings to get feedback from the community.

Of the $10 million grant, the first $300,000 will fund a planning process to decide how the balance will be used. “One idea may go forward while another is quashed,” Foley explains. “Each component represents promise, hurdles and potential solutions for jumping those hurdles.

Switchback stairs would provide access to the waterfront (Image provided)

“Take waterfront development. As with many Hudson River towns, it’s a natural lure to offer amenities enticing people and the businesses which serve them. In Hudson’s case this is thwarted by a barrier: impassible train tracks separate that area from the rest of the city.”

To counter that, Lee-Hartford and Foley proposed a multi-use bridge that will separate bus and bicycle traffic, along with switchback stairs and a pedestrian bridge. They also suggested an expanded riverfront park, environmental center, boat club, skate park and accommodations for overnighting kayakers in what is now a disused fishing village.

“Hudson is an attractive, creative, buzzing town” says Lee-Hartford. “Folks now see that Hudson is ready.”

3 thoughts on “The $10 Million Women

  1. Thanks for a very informative article. As I read through it, the first thing that came to mind was trying to launch a similar initiative for our own Village of Cold Spring. Judging by the criteria that was quoted, it looks like the Village fits the qualifications to a “T” not to mention the fact that we could certainly use $1 million or so for upgrades to important infrastructure items like water, sewers, street lights, etc.

    Perhaps Ms. Foley and Ms. Lee-Hartford could hold a workshop at one of the local libraries and show us how it’s done. I know that I am not the only one who has tried (unsuccessfully) to get funding for various projects, including tourism and economic development. Putnam County, for example, has the benefit of receiving a great deal of income from sales tax that it does not share with the towns, yet the people who hold the purse strings are loathe to share the wealth by providing services or funding projects for local municipalities.

    From my own experience, I know that money is available for Cold Spring, but it is not easy for an outsider to navigate the many bureaucracies that are mentioned in the article. It would make all the difference if we had the benefit of seasoned planners to offer some guidance as to the best places to look for funding.

    Ms. Lee- Hartford says: “Hudson is an attractive, creative, buzzing town. Folks now see that Hudson is ready.” My response: Cold Spring is also a creative, buzzing Village and we are ready and in need of a significant infusion of money to revitalize our incredible Main Street!

  2. That’s a conversation I’m certainly willing to have. I think the catch for Cold Spring may be catchment area — meaning the draw area for population and jobs, and the potential for new job development at scale. But having said that, my hometown, the Village of Watkins Glen, was a $10 million winner for the Finger Lakes region this year and is of comparable population.

    The big advantages Watkins has, of course, is the NASCAR track and surrounding wineries. To mount a DRI application, robust public conversation and thoughtful participation is required, as well as political will and funding. Mirador Consulting and River Architects were paid by the Hudson Economic Development Corporation and the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation for our expertise, time and materials. The HEDC and CCDC also invested a great deal of time and effort in the networking and outreach with state officials that helps grant applications along.

    So it’s worth exploring. If there were an entity willing to fund the preparation of a DRI grant for Cold Spring in the next round, and the community had the motivation to see it through, I’d be willing to lend my expertise to the Village I love so dearly.

    • Many thanks for your thoughtful reply. I am hoping that tomorrow night you will be in attendance at the county-sponsored meeting so that you can give your valuable input.

      During the time I had my shop in Peekskill, I sat on the Business Improvement District board with other business owners and we administered several New York State Main Street grants, some of which were for streetscapes and even helping local property owners to improve the facades of their buildings.

      I truly believe that there is money out there for the Village of Cold Spring to help with the infrastructure needs and economic development. As you mentioned, size might not matter when it comes to getting funding. The Village has so many things going for it and maybe we don’t need $10 million but even $1 million or so would be helpful.