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Strand Interior

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Urban Renewal

By Anthony F. Hall

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hudson Falls Seeks New Life in Art, Parks and Healthy Hearts

On a direct rail line to New York City, Hudson Falls may become the next Hudson.

Or, since it already has its own Maxwell’s, the next Hoboken.

Or, since it has a theater undergoing renovation by the same architects who helped restore the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the next Brooklyn.

“Hudson Falls is an old industrial city that we think can be supported by a new industry: ‘Arts, Parks and Healthy Hearts,’” says Jonathan Newell, the musician who is helping to bring new life to his hometown.

Hudson River Music Hall’s Kathy Carota, Jonathan Newell and Stu Kuby

Hudson River Music Hall’s Kathy Carota, Jonathan Newell and Stu Kuby

Newell and the Hudson River Music Hall have organized a two-day “British Invasion Weekend” that will take place in Lake George Village on August 15 at 16 to benefit what he hopes will be the engine of Hudson Falls’ revival: a restored Strand Theater.

Newell grew up in Hudson Falls; he said he had always known that downtown Hudson Falls had had its own movie palace but was unaware of its location until he happened to be in the Town Hall one afternoon. He asked the Town Clerk if she knew anything about it. Rather than answering his question, she took a key from a drawer and said, “Follow me.”

They walked down the hallway, entered a narrow doorway, climbed a flight of stairs and, lo and behold, they were standing in the balcony of an Art Deco treasure. More than forty years ago, the municipality purchased the building and turned it into a town hall, obscuring but never completely obliterating the theater it once was.
The town has agreed to sell the building to the Hudson River Music Hall, an arts organization co-founded by Newell, and funds are now being raised to restore it as an arts center.

Newell said he and the other activists behind Hudson Falls’ revival “take our cue from Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais; he brings so many events to Lake George Village that he keeps everyone busy, including the working musicians.”

Among other things, Newell and the others have created an outdoor ampitheatre inspired by Lake George Village’s Shepard Park on municipal property. They even hope to connect it to Lake George Village through the nearby bikeway.

It’s Phase One of a plan to build a “Central Park for Hudson Falls” – the ‘parks’ part of Art, Parks and Healthy Hearts – that would include biking and hiking trails – the source of the “Healthy Hearts” part of the triad.
At the center of all this activity is the Hudson River Music Hall, established in 2010 by Newell, Stuart Kuby and Nick Bettino.
A performance space, arts education center, library, art gallery and space for dance, exercise and yoga, it’s currently housed in a former telephone company building.
“Once you let artists know a space is available, they’ll fill it,” said Newell.
Paul Pines, the poet, novelist and Lake George Jazz Festival founder, has a play he’d like to produce in one of the building’s performance spaces.
His wife, the singer Carol Pines, would like to stage a cabaret in another one of the spaces.

The kingsbury Town Hall will be reborn as a theater

The kingsbury Town Hall will be reborn as a theater

Nevertheless, Newell said, “the Hudson River Music Hall is not really about the physical space; we’re concert producers.”

Those concerts may one day be presented in a refurbished Strand Theater, and if Newell has his way, the storefronts, now dark, will be lit and thriving, restaurants will be serving out-of-towner customers and long-vacant apartments and lofts will be renovated and occupied. And people will be wondering where to find – not the next Brooklyn – but the next Hudson Falls.

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