Amsterdam expected to extend purchase option on West End properties by 90 days

Man stands next to building design

Luis Gonzalez of Mohawk Valley Developments LLC discusses plans for a mixed-use project that would redevelop former industrial sites on the West End at the Amsterdam Planning Commission's May 24 meeting.

AMSTERDAM — The Amsterdam Common Council is expected to grant a 90-day extension to a purchase option held by a developer on former industrial sites on the city’s West End eyed for a mixed-use project, according to Mayor Michael Cinquanti.

“We’re very pleased with the progress they’re making,” Cinquanti said. “They’re very close to buttoning up everything they need to move forward on the project.”

Mohawk Valley Development, controlled by Luis Gonzalez of Troy, held a one-year option to buy 36 Carmichael St., 52 Carmichael St. and two separate properties with a common street address of 399 W. Main St. from the city for $1. It expired on Thursday without being exercised.

Cinquanti recently met with the developer to discuss the status of the planning process and the potential to issue a short-term extension to the option. City officials have agreed in principle to renew the option for 90 days. Corporation Counsel Anthony Casale is drafting the contract extension for formal approval by the Common Council.

“We’re not thinking there is going to be any issue with the extension, especially because it’s short-term,” Cinquanti said. “We are not going to go a year out on anything anymore after the initial investigatory period.”

While he indicated his support for the 90-day renewal, Deputy Mayor and 5th Ward Alderman James Martuscello said he wouldn’t support any further extensions without a “really good reason.”

Martuscello is wary of repeating the circumstances surrounding the planned redevelopment of the former Chalmer’s Knitting Mill site on the South Side, which never came to fruition after the city repeatedly extended a purchase option held by developers seeking state tax credits.

“We’re not budging anymore. I don’t want to be extended out,” Martuscello said. “If they can’t do it, it’s time to move on.”

Mohawk Valley Development was first granted a one-year purchase option in November 2020. It expired while the developer faced pandemic-related delays studying the feasibility of remediating and reusing the potentially contaminated former industrial sites. The Common Council subsequently renewed the option for another year in April 2022.

Full plans to redevelop the sites have since been drafted with separate four-story mixed-use buildings proposed at 399 W. Main St. and 52 Carmichael St. The buildings, totaling roughly 122,000-square-feet combined, would each feature ground-level commercial space. Upper floors would feature one-and-two-bedroom apartments with 90 units combined across the sites.

“I’m all for it, because there is definitely a need there,” Martuscello said of the housing plans.

The overall project is estimated to cost $40 million, out of which around $6 million is expected to go towards removing the dilapidated buildings and demolition debris from the sites and remediating environmental contamination. State affordable-housing tax credits and brownfield tax credits will be sought to support the plans.

“If this comes to fruition, it will be a game changer,” Cinquanti said. “It’s an environmental quagmire of old dilapidated buildings, which will be replaced by modern facilities with affordable apartments. It will be part of the solution to Amsterdam’s housing needs and improve the neighborhood in which it is placed.”

The city is working with the developer to clear old liens from the former Dudka’s Garage on Carmichael Street for unpaid state and federal taxes to present clean property titles before the option is potentially exercised.

“We’re expecting within 90 days, when those title issues are cleared, they’ll be ready to move forward,” Cinquanti said.

Mohawk Valley Developments is also actively seeking necessary variance, site plan and special-use permit approvals from Amsterdam’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Commission to ensure plans can advance.

Members of each board have responded positively to the project they say would be a staggering improvement over the existing conditions at the sites where former industrial buildings have languished in various stages of decay.

Nearby residents have been less enthusiastic, concerned the four-story structures will dominate the neighborhood of mostly two-story homes and rip away neighbors’ privacy by providing tenants of the new construction bird’s eye views of their backyards.

Limited on-site parking has been another sore point among residents concerned the project will further burden the already overcrowded on-street spaces in the neighborhood, which are cut in half each winter by alternate-side parking rules.

The developer and project engineers revised the plans in response to the criticisms by reducing the square footage of each structure and pushing the buildings towards the streetside corners further away from homes. But Gonzalez previously said further reductions in size or deviations from the plans for four-story structures would make the project financially unviable.

“The developer has addressed, as best he can at this point in time, some of those concerns,” Cinquanti said.

Members of both the ZBA and Planning Commission have indicated they are satisfied with the revisions. The changes also scaled back the number of variances being sought from the ZBA. Only streetside area variance from the required 10-foot setback distances are requested for the front yard of each building and the western side of the Carmichael Street building.

Variances from the combined 285 off-street parking spaces required for the reconfigured buildings are also sought. Developers have proposed 45 spaces on the West Main Street site and are negotiating with St. Mary’s Healthcare to secure 200 spaces in the neighboring employee lot.

The ZBA and Planning Commission have each determined the project will not have any significant adverse impacts under State Environmental Quality Review. Both boards are poised to approve the applications before them after they have been reviewed by the Montgomery County Planning Board later this month.

“The developer wants to do this project as badly as I want to see the project completed, so I have confidence they’re going to move forward,” Cinquanti said.

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

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