HUDSON — 2021 was an eventful year for the city and 2022 promises to bring plenty of activity, too.
Here's a look at five significant issues and projects that Hudson residents can expect to hear about this year.
1. Downtown Phase II land sale in works
Hudson city leaders are negotiating a deal to sell land to Fairmount Properties for the company's proposed Downtown Phase II project. The development is expected to include a new, 40,000-square-foot Heinen's grocery store and parking area at Morse Road and Clinton Street, approximately 100 residential units north of Heinen's and a repurposing of the current Heinen's building at 19 Clinton St.
At the first meeting of the year, city council approved a revised proposal to authorize the city to sell land west of Morse Road and adjacent to the First and Main District. It is expected to take several months for the land sale to be finalized. Both the planning commission and city council must approve a preliminary planned development plan and a development agreement before the land sale can be finalized.
Progress is expected to be made on some of these steps in 2022.
2. Sidewalks, trails, pickleball courts coming
While there are still multiple boxes to check before any construction begins on Phase II, there are many projects that are expected to move forward in 2022. City spokesperson Jody Roberts said projects that are expected to happen this year include:
An upgrade of Darrow Road (state Route 91) from Barlow Road to Stoney Hill Drive: A new center turn lane, new storm sewers, and sidewalks will be installed on both sides of the road. Utilities will be relocated for the construction, which is expected to start in the spring and be completed in fall of 2023.
Installation of sidewalks along Middleton and Stow roads: Sidewalks will be installed from Route 91 to the I-480 overpass along the southern side of Middleton Road and along Stow Road from Middleton to the I-480 underpass. Construction will start in the summer and is expected to be finished in spring of 2023.
Seasons Road water line project: There will be a water line extension along Seasons Road from near Patriot Parkway to just west of the state Route 8 interchange along the north side of the city to service future commercial properties along Seasons Road.
Barlow Community Center pond improvements This stormwater management project would include regrading and the installation of new dams. The work would begin in spring and conclude in fall.
Pickleball and tennis courts: Construction of pickleball and tennis courts is scheduled to happen at Barlow Farm Park this year.
Third phase of Veterans Trail: This project will include improving the existing trail from Barlow Road to E. Case Street, along the west side of Ellsworth Golf Course and through Cascade Park. A pedestrian bridge will replaced and stormwater management work will occur. The project will start this summer and is anticipated to be completed in spring 2023.
Railroad crossing sign improvements: Roberts said the city has been working with Norfolk Southern to install new signs on Hines Hill Road both east and west of the tracks to alert motorists of a stopped train on Hines Hill Road. Those signs will go up this summer.
3. A new city council is in place
City Council has two new members and a new leader. Chris Banweg and Karen Heater were elected to at large seats in November and began their terms in December. They are replacing Bill Wooldredge and Hal DeSaussure, both of whom decided against seeking reelection. Council member Chris Foster (Ward 2) was elected as the legislative body's new president in December. Wooldredge previously served in that role.
The new council has already changed a significant component on a major project. On Jan. 4, council voted 5-2 to withdraw a previous commitment to reimburse Fairmount Properties for "reasonable costs" the company incurs if the Downtown Phase II project does not happen.
That initial reimbursement commitment was approved 4-3 by council on Nov. 9. Two of the members who voted in favor of reimbursement -DeSaussure and Wooldredge - completed their terms at the end of November, and were replaced by Banweg and Heater, who both cast votes on Jan. 4 to withdraw the reimbursement.
What additional impacts this new council will have on the course of city business remains to be seen.
4. School district will have new leader
Hudson City School District Superintendent Phil Herman is resigning from his post effective Feb. 18, and will take a job as a principal with the Impact Group. Former superintendent Steve Farnsworth will begin serving as interim superintendent on Feb. 19.
The board of education recently hired Finding Leaders to conduct the search for a new superintendent.
The board is hoping to name a new leader by the end of March and have that person start no later than Aug. 1.
5.Decision coming on historic school building, COVID challenges continue
School district leaders will soon make a decision on how the 1927 section of the former middle school building will be reused. The district opened a new middle school structure in fall of 2020 and has, for several years, sought ways to preserve and reuse the portion of the old middle school building that was built in 1927 along Oviatt Street.
Both Liberty Development Co. and Hudson Heritage Association (HHA) have offered ideas for how the building can be repurposed. Liberty has proposed a 14-home development, while HHA asked the school board to wait for a year before deciding what to do with the historic building while HHA comes up with a plan to convert the building into a community/cultural arts center.
If the community center idea was not considered feasible, HHA asked the board to consider tearing the building down and exploring possibly setting up an outdoor learning/cultural amphitheater center.
The administration and school board facility representatives will meet with both groups and then share their recommendation with the full board by the end of this month.
The district will also continue facing challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. District spokesperson Jennifer Reece noted leaders will monitor and make decisions on whether the current mask mandate (which expires Feb. 14) will continue. She emphasized that data will be carefully reviewed to make decisions surrounding in-person learning.
"It is our goal to keep schools open for in-person learning," Reece said.
She added that another pandemic-related issue is staff shortages.
"We are trying to find creative ways to have enough substitutes to keep our schools running smoothly," Reece said. "This includes recruiting more bus drivers. The lack of bus drivers was an issue even prior to the pandemic, and has only become more dire."
The district is addressing these issues by increasing pay rates for substitutes and working hard at recruitment.
Another major school project, according to Reece, is the final step of the district's master plan.
In March, the administrative office will be moved from three separate facilities on Hudson-Aurora Road to the former Evamere Elementary School building on North Hayden Parkway. The former Evamere building, which has been downsized and renovated, will have space for Hudson Community Education and Recreation programming, Reece said. She added this component is the final part of a plan that is being paid for by an $81.55 million bond issue approved by voters in November 2017.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Five things to watch for in Hudson in 2022