AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam’s plans to build a boardwalk on the South Side have received a boost through a $500,000 State and Municipal (SAM) Facilities Grant secured by state Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Albany.
Plans to build the elevated boardwalk near the levee wall along the Mohawk River on the edge of the former Chalmers Knitting Mill site and connected to the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook (MVGO) pedestrian bridge were developed as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative state grant awarded to the city in 2018.
The project with public amenities and related streetscape improvements was originally expected to cost roughly $750,000 total. Escalating construction and material costs have now driven estimates for the full designs prepared by Saratoga Associates to just over $3 million.
“Costs move so rapidly upward, it’s a juggling act to try and be accurate these days,” Mayor Michael Cinquanti said. “Every time we get a bid we’re surprised.”
Officials received confirmation earlier this month of the $500,000 SAM grant awarded to the project by Breslin’s office. The city now has about a third of the total project cost and is seeking additional funding to close the gap.
The project is set to receive $312,785 from the $10 million DRI grant. The city was additionally awarded $150,000 from the state Canal Corporation and $115,696 from National Grid for the boardwalk.
“That boardwalk is a key piece of the DRI strategy and a key piece of the waterfront development,” Cinquanti said. “It’s going to be a great destination. People know about the pedestrian bridge and the boardwalk will be an extension of that.”
Coinciding deadlines have the city seeking $2 million from two separate sources. The city has already appealed to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand seeking Community Project Funding and will submit a Consolidated Funding Application through the next round of the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils Initiative in July.
Officials expect to hear in the coming months whether Gillibrand supports the boardwalk project and will seek federal funding for it in the annual omnibus spending bill normally passed in December. CFA awards are typically announced around the same time.
“We don’t want to ask for money we don’t need, but we have to go forward,” Cinquanti said of the dual approach.
In the meantime, officials will explore options and cost estimates with Saratoga Associates to potentially break the project into two separate phases and to begin building the boardwalk with the available funds.
“We’d like to get it started,” said Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, Amsterdam’s community development and grants assistant. “That would help other funding to come in to complete it.”
An initial phase would likely involve construction of the platform area connecting with the MVGO bridge along with a section of the boardwalk. The wider end of the boardwalk where public amenities and event space would be concentrated could be built later on.
Officials will also examine options to have city staff perform in-kind services installing planters and other features to help control costs and reduce the overall project budget, similar to the approach taken to completing flower beds along the MVGO.
“As you’re seeing with most projects everywhere, the construction costs have changed so much since these projects were first envisioned,” DaBiere-Gibbs said. “We have to see how much of a boardwalk we could get, because we don’t want to have just groundwork done and no boardwalk able to be built.”
Furthermore, Cinquanti said the city would only move forward with the project in separate phases if the initial work would result in an “attractive” feature, which would also make continuing to build out the boardwalk easier.
“I believe when you build things, people will come. Especially if they are built right and beautiful and in a good spot,” Cinquanti said. “The fact that the boardwalk will be connected to the pedestrian bridge will make a popular landmark and destination longer and more inviting.”
Beginning construction of the boardwalk may help finally spur redevelopment of the Chalmers property, which is now owned by the Amsterdam Industrial Development. The AIDA Board of Directors last month voted to begin openly marketing the property after a purchase option held by a developer eyeing a mixed-use project expired without being exercised due to rising costs.
“The vision has always been to develop the Chalmers site with both public and private investment. The public investment being the boardwalk,” DaBiere-Gibbs said. “It will allow for additional activity, promote the walkability of the South Side being within the city’s downtown boundary and having that pedestrian activity will hopefully bring in development of the site to lead to future economic development.”
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.
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