An Indiana-based developer is in the midst of inking a deal with officials in Amsterdam to develop the Chalmers Knitting Mill site on the south side of city, a 3.25-acre plot of land across the Mohawk River at the foot of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge.
Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa said the city has been in talks with KCG Development for over a year on a mixed-use development with residential housing and commercial space. While the project is in the early design and study phase, Villa said preliminary plans call for 60 housing units with a 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot banquet facility.
The residential units and banquet facility will be built above the flood wall on the south side of the Mohawk River, and will afford views of the river and downtown Amsterdam. The raised structure will be built to accommodate parking on the round floor, Villa said.
“It’s the first time I can remember a building being built from the ground up that that will be an economic driver for us, so we’re excited,” Villa said of the project. “We’ve been engaged with [KCG] since last March. They’re very excited and committed to Amsterdam, and I think this is a great thing for us.”
A second phase of the project calls for an additional 60 housing units to be built, Villa said. The project is meant to incorporate the pedestrian bridge and the nearby Erie Canalway Trail. Officials in Amsterdam are also hoping for a boardwalk-style component to be built that runs along the waterfront, and the addition of an outdoor space that can accommodate a farmers' market.
Montgomery County Business Development Center CEO Ken Rose, who was involved in bringing the project to Amsterdam, said the prospective project fills a need in the county for an event space.
“There’s really not that type of banquet space where you can fit 200-300 people in an event space, and we lose quite a few different events during the course of a year to surrounding counties,” Rose said.
Rose said a letter of intent is being reviewed by city attorney William Lorman, but the two sides have agreed to work together on the project. The letter stipulates an 18-month option period prohibiting the city from working with another developer on the site, and requires KCG to hit certain milestones over that time period.
Those milestones include completing a housing feasibility study within 30 days of signing the letter, as well as having preliminary financing commitment in place by May of this year. The agreement requires the developer to submit a first draft of the site plan to the Amsterdam planning board by October, Rose said.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity,” Rose said. “Building that critical mass on the south side and this becoming an attraction for people outside the area, it’s an important step in the urban rebirth of the downtown core of Amsterdam.”
Rose added that the Chalmers site was sold to KCG for $300,000. He said the agreement should be signed by both sides by next week.
The Chalmers Knitting Mill site in July 2016. (Daily Gazette file photo)
Bill Teator is a local project development partner with a minority stake in the project who helps KCG originate projects in upstate New York. The company, based just outside of Indianapolis, has similar residential projects in Buffalo and Utica.
Teator said KCG approaches any project with a “community-development mindset.”
“We don’t come in and try to force-feed a solution into a community, he said. "We really try to work with stakeholders."
Teator said KCG looks for opportunities in cities that are recovering from their industrial roots and appreciate a desire for walkable and bikeable downtown areas among their residents. KCG sees these qualities in Amsterdam, he said, noting that the company was particularly attracted to the site’s proximity to the Mohawk River and nearby attractions such as a the pedestrian bridge, Riverlink Park and bike path.
“All of those things factored into the appeal and we really got excited to look deeper into how to optimize the site to be appealing on the riverfront,” Teator said. “We just really started to imagine how we could integrate the community and pedestrian-friendly aspects of the site. ... All of those things really spoke to us, and we had some of our designers down on the site a few times imagining what we could achieve.”
Teator said the next step is to complete a housing study to determine demand in the area, but that the company imagines catering to a range of people — including young professionals and families, as well as empty-nesters looking for a maintenance-free living situation with great amenities.
Teator said the company fully expects financing for the project to come together, but that there are hurdles to clear and “it’s not a done deal yet.”
That said: “The reception from community leaders, from the mayor on through the county, was tremendous. They definitely showed a desire and will to collaborate and really work together on a public-private partnership.”
“We’re very bullish on the support from the community,” he added.
The letter of intent is set to be signed by city officials and KCG by next week, said Rose, and a stakeholder meeting is scheduled for the end of the month, according to Villa.