Chalmers purchase option lapses, Amsterdam IDA to market property

Old buildings
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The derelict Chalmers mill complex in Amsterdam is shown in December 2010, several months before its demolition.

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AMSTERDAM — The Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency plans to market the former Chalmers Knitting Mill site for sale after a purchase option on the property held by a developer expired without being exercised, due to rising construction costs.

The AIDA Board of Directors on Thursday approved a motion authorizing Antonio Johnson, the realtor for the agency and a commercial real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway, to market the vacant site for sale to developers. A formal listing agreement must still be signed before promotion of the property begins.

Johnson previously helped facilitate the $340,000 purchase option on the Chalmers site with Five Corners Development of Saratoga Springs. Sumeet Gupta is the managing partner of the commercial real estate development and asset management company, which has no connection to the infamous Amsterdam intersection of the same name.

The developer was pursuing a possible mixed-use project at the South Side location, but Johnson informed the board those plans were at a standstill, due in part to escalating construction costs and interest rates. The purchase option expired last week without being exercised.

“It’s very difficult to get new construction deals done,” Johnson said.

Plus, the going rental rate for retail space in Amsterdam is just $10 per square foot, according to Johnson, who said building a 10,000-square-foot space would cost around $10 million.

“From a developer’s standpoint, even a retail project doesn’t make sense,” he added.

Under the circumstances, board members said they would welcome any future proposals from Gupta, but they weren’t interested in extending the purchase option. Instead, officials favored openly marketing the site for the first time since it was acquired by the AIDA in 2020.

“We can’t undervalue that space. If anything, land in Amsterdam is getting more expensive,” board member Matthew Moller said. “There have been so many ideas that people toss around for that area.”

The 3.3-acre site at the corner of Bridge Street and Gilliland Avenue has seemed primed for redevelopment since the decrepit former knitting mill was razed from the property and environmental remediation was completed in 2012.

Most recently, KCG Development planned to build a $34 million workforce housing complex and banquet hall at the site. The developer held a $297,000 purchase option on the property for more than two years before finally buying it from the city when officials declined to extend the option in late 2019. KCG sold the property to the AIDA for $300,000 the following year when local support for their plans faded, stifling attempts to secure tax credits.

Subsequent plans by the Lanzi Family to open a brewery on a portion of the property stalled after the project was awarded a $250,000 state grant in late 2021. The sum was only a third of the aid requested to advance plans.

While agency members are interested in aiding further efforts to secure grant funding to support redevelopment of the property, Charles Schwartz, attorney for the AIDA, noted that a developer needs to be brought on board before any applications can be filed.

Hopes of spurring redevelopment with the boardwalk project planned by the city along the edge of the property are still on hold, due to rising costs. Amsterdam has approximately $650,000 in grants for the project, but recent construction estimates came in around $4 million.

Officials are seeking additional funds to cover the gap, trying to proceed with construction next year. The boardwalk featuring public amenities will be built beside the levy wall on the Mohawk River and connect to the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian Bridge.

“That’s going to enhance the property and hopefully that would stimulate even more ideas to come forward,” AIDA Board Chairman Joseph Emanuele said.

Despite recent setbacks and unfavorable economic conditions, Emanuele is optimistic the site’s potential will attract interest from developers when it is actively marketed. He said the agency is open to new concepts for the site, but any plans will need support from residents and city officials before receiving the green light.

“The Chalmers site is a prime area and the South Side is really turning the corner for the better,” Emanuele said. “We’re going to try to make this a great place.”

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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