1927 building to be demolished, ‘oak tree alley’ preserved

by Judy Stringer

May 31 special board meeting

A line of oak trees on the lawn of the 1927 building – the front portion of the former Hudson Middle School – will be preserved but the now vacant 1927 building itself will not.

The Hudson Board of Education voted last night to move forward on an agreement with the John and Alison Quagliata Family Foundation in which the district would retain, for the next 99 years, the approximately 2.7 acres where the 1927 building sits for “uses consistent with public school purposes” and preserve its “oak tree alley” in exchange for a $710,000 donation.

The board affirmed a second resolution to demolish the 1927 building, which had been preserved as school board members considered a redevelopment proposal from Liberty Development Group. A third resolution that allows Hudson Heritage Association to salvage and store architectural components of the façade for some type of historical structure – to be agreed upon later – was also passed. HHA offered $50,000 to preserve parts of the façade for use in a gateway to the district’s central campus.

Board members did not advance – nor vote on – the resolution related to Liberty’s acquisition of the building and land. The Westlake-based firm had proposed keeping the front façade of the 94-year-old building and redeveloping the property into 14 housing units, including five townhomes inside the partially salvaged structure.

That plan met resistance from some in the community, including HHA, which initially argued for the repurpose of 1927 building into a community or cultural arts center. More recently, HHA advocated for demolition of the building and “public-use” of the land in opposition to Liberty’s proposal.

Several board members stressed that Liberty had been open, honest and respectful in its planning for the property, even scaling back its first proposal when nearby residents said a larger housing development would add too much traffic to the area. The Quagliata donation, they argued, simply tipped the scales in favor of keeping the property.

“In the last conversation we had, [John] Quagliata made the comment that ‘The only return I am looking for on my investment is the satisfaction of knowing this property will remain with the schools and benefit our students on into the future,’” explained President Dave Zuro, “and I certainly appreciate that.”

Board member Alisa Wright noted that the city of Hudson has not been a part of negotiations on residential plans for the site and might not be supportive even if the board decided to move in that direction.

“And if we take that risk, I think we risk losing a very generous donation that is in front of us,” she said.

Vice President Steven DiMauro cited, as another point in favor of the Quagliata proposal, the limited amount of usable land the district currently owns.

The Quagliatas were also the catalyst for preservation of the 2.1 acres where Hudson Elementary was once located, which is now a city park.

In addition to the salvage effort, HHA has offered $250,000 to purchase the 1893 Saywell House, located on the Oviatt Street property. It wants to restore the home, designate it as a historic landmark and return it to use as a private residence. The board, however, did not advance a resolution related to that part of HHA’s offer, with Zuro saying board members needed more time to consider and discuss potential uses of the home. ∞