To many visitors, especially New Yorkers looking for a weekend away, Hudson, New York, offers the beautiful landscapes, culture, and sense of escape that have made upstate communities so popular. But that experience is far from the entire story.
Like many nearby communities, Hudson, 120 miles north of the city, has gained and lost by becoming a second home community. New arrivals, weekend visitors, and their resulting property purchases and rehabs have driven up real estate values, shrinking workforce housing for local residents. While outsiders see it as a vacation destination, the city faces serious economic issues year round, including a 28 percent poverty rate.
“Hudson has gone through many different cycles,” says Jason O'Toole, Director of Property Management at the Galvan Foundation, which has helped spearhead recent renovations efforts in town. “Each one has involved renovating real estate, which in turn causes a greater need for affordable housing. The intention is never to renovate and re-rent at higher prices to people with great need.”
But a recently re-opened and gut renovated downtown building, and an accompanying set of new affordable housing developments, have given the city and its downtown a new sense of energy and vibrancy, showing how real estate can also be a tool to help Hudson.
The result of a joint project between the Galvan Community Foundation, Hudson, and CEI Capital Management, which helped navigate the New Markets Tax Credit, the city now has a new focal point, a 1898 armory turned Galvan Community Center. It’s a partnership that rebuilt and rebranded the hulking, historic structure as a neighborhood catalyst on Fifth and State streets.
Eric Galloway, a founder and president of the Galvan Foundation who had a background in real estate and affordable housing, decided to use his professional skills to help redevelop downtown Hudson, a city where he’d purchased some property. After deciding it was time to turn a hobby into an enterprise, he co-founded the organization in 2012, dedicated to developing Hudson (the name is also a reference to Henry Van Ameringen, Galloway’s partner in the enterprise).
Galloway saw the city’s historic character as an advantage, and taking Newport, Rhode Island as a model—the city’s Newport Restoration Foundation has turned dozens of older buildings into neighborhood assets—he aimed to accumulate enough properties to create a critical mass downtown. Instead of the status quo, where owners sat on local buildings waiting for something to happen, his group could create new homes for community groups, and usher in an injection of new, affordable housing in an area that, after decades of high-end rehabs and vacation properties, had lost much of its lost-cost housing stock (critics have accused Galloway of keeping housing off the market as he and his partners redevelop). After restoring, the group could turn them over to the market, so to speak, and find tenants that could support the community-building mission.
“This wasn’t just another real estate development,” Galloway says. “This was about restoring historic buildings for a social purpose.”
The rebirth of the armory as a community hub, the central focus of the organization’s work over the last few years, saw Vincent Benic Architect turned a dark, 18,000-square-foot brick-line structure into something lighter and more inviting. The trick was balancing the historic elements of the design with the needs of the newer, more diverse group of organizations and visitors, says Galloway, including the Hudson Area Library, Hudson Senior Center, and Perfect Ten After School. Now home to numerous community groups, the formerly blighted structure, which opened in early 2016, has taken on a new life while reanimating a traditional town center.
“The Armory was a large, vacant structure sitting on a prominent corner,” he says. “It was like an anchor, but pulling down the neighborhood. If you drive around it now, you can see people investing in the area. If you take a vacant building, and suddenly turn on the lights, and people are moving around, it becomes a place where people want to live and invest.”
Now Galvan properties, which encompass more than $30 million in funding, 35 units of housing, and 33,500 square feet of commercial and community rental space in Hudson, have becomes homes to diverse businesses and helped build up the affordable housing stock for year-round residents, adding more than 200 units to a community in need.
The foundation hasn’t finished. A day care center is in final stages of approval, and a newly rehabbed Sunset Motel is in the works, says Galloway. Galvan Housing Resources, a related nonprofit group, plans to create up to 25 affordable housing units in the city by the year 2020, to help meet the large, existing need for more housing.
“These community projects and organizations absolutely trickle down to other issues in the community,” says O’Toole. “There’s a link between these community centers and the challenges people are facing with affordable housing.”