AMSTERDAM — The Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency is in talks to sell a portion of the 3.3-acre site of the former Chalmers Knitting mill to a private developer.
“We were approached by a private developer who presented an idea, and that idea was well-received by many of us in the meetings, and it’s a very exciting opportunity for the city,” AIDA Board Chairman Joseph Emanuele said. “So we’re trying to shepherd it through a few of the agencies like [the city’s Economic Development Department] and the mayor’s office to get it on track, so we can make an announcement of a very exciting project. I can say it’s not a residential project.”
Emanuele said his agency acquired the parcel from KCG Development a few months ago for approximately $300,000 after the board hired C.T. Male Associates for $2,200 to do a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment [ESA] for the property.
The environmental study did not show anything that would warrant a reduction to the purchase price of the land, Emanuele said.
Emanuele said the Montgomery County Industrial Development Agency had expressed no interest in the parcel after KCG Development indicated its desire to sell it back after purchasing it from the city of Amsterdam in December 2019 on the last possible day of its purchase option agreement with the city for a total of $297,0000.
KCG Development had proposed building a $34 million workforce housing complex and banquet hall on the site, which had been one of the cornerstone elements in the city’s successful $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative application with New York state in 2018.
But over the course of several years worth of purchase option extensions political support for the Chalmers apartment building project seemed to diminish, as some landlords and business owners publicly expressed concerns about what the project might mean for tenants and restaurant customers in the city.
In October 2018, a 15-foot-deep oil contamination was discovered on the parcel. Former Mayor Michael Villa’s administration successfully argued the City Council should grant KCG Development a purchase option extension, while cutting the company a break on the purchase option extension fees in exchange for KCG Development conducting a surface remediation of the soil at the location. KCG Development has said the surface remediation cost $70,000, a point they often made when arguing the city should continue to grant it purchase option extensions while the company applied for $18 million worth of federal low income housing tax credits needed to finance construction of the building.
Deputy Mayor James Martuscello — who represents the 5th Ward, where the building would have been built — withdrew his support for another purchase option extension for the parcel in December 2019, forcing KCG to either buy the land or walk away, but after buying it KCG publicly announced it was ready to walk away in April 2020.
Stacy Kaplowitz, the vice president for KCG Development, in April 2020 said she believed the project would not be awarded the affordable housing credits it needed without support from U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and Mayor Michael Cinquanti, both of whom had stated repeatedly they did not favor an apartment building on the parcel.
Emanuele said AIDA having site control of the property is important for making sure the development of the land fits with the 2003 comprehensive plan’s vision for the parcel, as well as taking advantage of the Brownfield Opportunity Areas designation for the Chalmers site in 2015 and for the $10 million DRI projects tied to development of the parcel.
Ultimately, the Chalmers apartment project just didn’t have enough “juice” to get done, Emanuele said, but he’s optimistic the proposal AIDA is considering now will be more enthusiastically supported by Cinquanti and city residents.
“At least this private developer is not proposing housing,” Emanuele said.
Emanuele said the 3.3 acre Chalmers parcel will need to be subdivided in order to accommodate the public park boardwalk project — which received $312,785 in DRI funding toward a $1 million project to “Transform the South Side into a walkable community” — will still be built. He said the parcel will also need an “easement”, which is an access right-of-way, created for it to create public access to the boardwalk.
He said AIDA will be able to reveal more details about the proposed project when it has a site plan from the developer.
AIDA’s February meeting has been canceled, but the agency expects to meet on the fourth Thursday of March at 6 p.m., and a video recording of the meeting will be available on the city’s website after that.
Emanuele said the February meeting was canceled because there was no new pressing business before the agency’s board. He said AIDA Executive Director John Duchessi has been placed on medical leave, but he believes his condition has been improving.