By Katherine Hapgood
Boston University Statehouse Program
HUDSON — The town has officially gotten the go-ahead from the state Senate to acquire the century-old armory building at the junction of Washington and Park streets after the body approved a home rule petition, according to state Sen. Jamie Eldridge.
Now comes the hard part: Raising the necessary money — potentially several millions of dollars — to renovate the structure. A group in town, the Hudson Cultural Alliance, has been doing just that in hopes of transforming the armory into a performing arts center.
The armory became available when the Massachusetts State Police notified state officials that the building was no longer needed for its storage and operations, according to Eldridge, an Acton Democrat whose district includes Hudson.
This prompted the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to notify the town and the legislative delegation that the land and property would eventually be put up for sale.
“This is really a grassroots effort,” Eldridge said, “This is an idea that came from the arts community in Hudson.”
The bill authorizing the sale would be accompanied by a $230,000 state budget earmark spearheaded by Eldridge. The state senator previously secured a $50,000 earmark using American Rescue Plan Act funds to be used for the building’s renovation.
Another key source of funding is a grant awarded last year by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The grant will match all donations up to $200,000.
But more is needed. Much more. And the Hudson Select Board has made clear that it does not support using taxpayer money for the effort.
Along with the $230,000 purchase price, it’s expected to cost between $1 million and $2 million to rehab the armory. And even more will have to be raised to transform it into an arts center. Estimates have ranged from $8 million to $10 million.
Tom Desmond, president of Hudson Cultural Alliance, said the organization will need “significant additional fundraising” to accomplish the renovations.
But once renovations are complete, the space could be used for a plethora of events, from farmers’ markets to symphonies to spaces available to local artists, Desmond said.
Other entities “critical” to the purchase, according to Eldridge, were the Hudson Downtown Business Improvement District and the Hudson Business Association, “groups that have really led the effort in the transformation of downtown Hudson.”
The future arts center is the “next stage to keep the momentum going in the economic success of downtown Hudson,” Eldridge said.
State Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow, worked to pass the House version of the bill a few months prior.
After numerous studies, input sessions and research, the Armory Steering Committee found a “lack of existing facilities and cultural programming for citizen engagement, an increasing number of cultural organizations without homes, and an ever-growing need for diversified and sustainable means for creating jobs and attracting revenue,” Hogan said.
There are no arts centers in Hudson, Berlin, Bolton, Marlborough, Stow or Sudbury, in which there are a total of more than 100,000 residents.
“What’s important to emphasize is that, in my opinion, this is not just about Hudson or Hudson residents, but the MetroWest community,” Eldridge said.
This article originally appeared in the MetroWest Daily News.