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Hastings expects stronger downtown after construction

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS
  • Star Tribune
  • October 12, 2012 - 6:35 PM

Hastings officials and business leaders are hoping to capitalize on the major changes happening along the Mississippi River. Work continues on the striking twin arch bridge, and demolition has begun at the former H.D. Hudson Manufacturing plant next to the bridge.

The Hudson plant took its first visible redevelopment step last week as a $150,000 demolition began on the 1974 warehouse wing that makes up about a third of the riverfront landmark. City officials would like to see residential and commercial reuses in the historic building they bought for about $3 million.

A research study this year concluded the Hastings area housing market would immediately support market-rate apartments at the Hudson site. Senior housing is also viable, according to the study, presented to the city last month by Maxfield Research.

The Hudson project is benefiting from recent news coverage of the new bridge, where workers completed a key phase last month when the 545-foot-long main span was floated in and hoisted into place. Two lanes of traffic will flow onto the new bridge in May, about the same time the city's economic development agency will solicit bids from developers for the plant, Mayor Paul Hicks said.

"Things are moving to a better place," he said.

Hicks noted that downtown business also expects to benefit from more boaters using the city river dock, which is being dredged to improve access, and a double-wide new boat ramp being rebuilt nearby in Jaycee Park. Both projects are happening this fall. The ramp work is being done by the state Department of Natural Resources, which says the ramp is one of its busiest accessing the Mississippi in the Twin Cities area.

The city also is paving a 100-spot parking lot on the east end of downtown for customers and carpoolers, Hicks added.

The Hudson plant project will benefit, as will downtown, from the 35,000 vehicles a day that will cross the new bridge, said John Hinzman, community development director. He said the Hudson site could offer a rooftop restaurant or bar with expansive views of the river and of the 98-foot tall bridge with its terra cotta painted twin arches lit at night.

"We want [bridge] drivers to have a sense of the activity on the Hudson site," Hinzman said. "We want people to see something they can exit and check out."

The first exit is a block south of Hudson. The plant sits on Second Street, which cruises east under the bridge, past the Mississippi Belle restaurant and other 100-year-old-plus downtown buildings holding boutiques, bars, barbers and antiques on the main drag.

Right next to the Belle is the Town Cobbler. where Kevin Hoeschen, 57, sells and repairs shoes the way his father taught him. The past few years have had noisy bridge work, pile- driving vibrations and torn-up streets for new sewers and the south bridge approach, said Hoeschen, president of the Downtown Business Association.

But he can see light at the end of the construction tunnel and, from his shop, the beginning of an art plaza under the bridge approach. Work is underway on a long concrete wall that will bear two huge murals depicting the historic Hastings Spiral Bridge, river paddleboats and other scenes. The mosaic tile murals will be created by Craig David, who did murals at Target Field.

Hoeschen thinks downtown, hit by the slow economy and bridge delays, is on the verge of reaping spinoff business from the $120 million bridge and Hudson site redevelopment. "It's coming together," Hoeschen said.

He noted a handful of business ventures have opened downtown in the past six months or so. They include a jewelry store, a women's clothes boutique, a theater company and a photographer. Hoeschen is remodeling a downtown building where he hopes to open a popcorn and candy shop by Christmas.

The next step on the Hudson project is a more refined market study that focuses on specific reuses, such as a restaurant or hotel, to be selected by the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority board, Hinzman said. The study should be done by early next year so the city can use it to attract developers, he said.

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283

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