By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – The twisting path of the Hudson Armory from state hands to its next owner took a new turn this month as Hudson selectmen greenlit a non-profit’s efforts to start fundraising to buy the building.
The decision sets the stage for the local Hudson Cultural Alliance to repurpose the structure to serve as an indoor community venue.
“When spaces like this can be capitalized privately, then they can be used for a whole host of applications,” Cultural Alliance president Andy Horvitz said.
That list of possible uses, Horvitz said, includes everything from winter farmers’ markets to community theater rehearsals.
That, Horvitz elaborated, could make the Armory a democratizing force in the local arts and community organizing scene, offering a facility to groups who could not otherwise afford privately owned rental space.
“The Town of Hudson has the opportunity to preserve this significant historic asset and repurpose it for community benefit,” the Cultural Alliance wrote on their website.
The idea to bring arts into the castle-like, old National Guard building is not a new one.
Representatives of Hudson’s Business Improvement District (BID) spent considerable time and money exploring the prospect of building a state-of-the-art, 400-seat theater within the building shell.
Those plans, however, shriveled after an outside consultant came up with a project price tag far outside of the BID’s budget.
Fast forward to this year, after taking over redevelopment discussions, the Hudson Cultural Alliance snagged Board of Selectmen approval to get a new appraisal for the vastly scaled down project that is now going forward.
That appraisal recently came back with a $230,000 quote. The Alliance anticipates spending roughly $1 million to bring the building up to code and to reopen it.
“Those numbers feel achievable,” Horvitz told selectmen as he asked for their support Sept. 14.
Though they ultimately offered that support, the board had questions and concerns.
“I understand the desire and the enthusiasm,” Selectman John Parent said. “But you’re asking the town to take on a very severe potential risk.”
Parent worried the Cultural Alliance would not be able to raise enough money to execute its plans. In the event that happened, Parent feared the town would be left on the hook for the Armory purchase.
Fellow board members, Executive Assistant Tom Moses and Horvitz himself assured Parent that wouldn’t happen, as the town will have ample time to back out of this deal.
Other concerns focused on hazardous material within the Armory. Officials confirm that the National Guard used the basement as a shooting range, meaning there is almost certainly lead contamination there.
The more than 100-year-old building also likely has asbestos. Moses confirmed that it could possibly be a hazardous waste site.
Horvitz said he understands those concerns.
“We don’t want to buy a dump any more than anybody else does,” he said. “So we’re approaching this with eyes wide open.”
State legislators will now hash out an agreement to allow the purchase. While there is no clear timeline of when that agreement will be finalized, Hudson will have six months from that point to close on the Armory.
Likewise, the matter will also have to pass as a warrant article at the upcoming November Town Meeting.
In the meantime, the Hudson Cultural Alliance is collecting donations to buy the armory through their website, https://hudsonartscenter.org.