AMSTERDAM — A $30 million plan to construct a 130-unit apartment building and banquet hall on Amsterdam’s South Side was announced Thursday.
The project is dubbed the Chalmers Mill Lofts, and draws its name and some stylistic inspiration from the industrial complex that stood on the site for nearly a century.
It would be the largest project in the city in recent memory, by a considerable margin, and would be potentially transformative for the quiet neighborhood on the south bank of the Mohawk River. It's a significant jump from a year ago, when officials announced negotiations were underway for a 60-unit complex.
A key part of the project is a restaurant/banquet hall, containing up to 15,000 square feet, that will be operated by the Lanzi family, who now operate four restaurants in Fulton County but got their start in the business 99 years ago a stone’s throw from the old Chalmers Mill.
Leading the project is KCG Development LLC, an Indianapolis developer of multiunit rental housing on the East Coast. Its local partner for this project is DEW Ventures LLC of Saratoga Springs.
Plans call for a four-story building containing 50 one-bedroom and 80 two-bedroom apartments renting for $650 to $1,100 a month. Amenities will include elevators, a community room, a fitness center, some covered parking and outdoor patios. It will be designed to maximize its connection to the riverfront, the new pedestrian bridge, the surrounding neighborhood and the nearby bike-hike trail that runs from Albany to Buffalo.
The restaurant-banquet hall will be designed to the specifications of the Lanzis and will be able to seat 300 people.
Luigi Lanzi on Thursday said the venture is tentatively named Lanzi’s Southside and is a homecoming of sorts for the family.
His grandfather immigrated from Italy, worked stints for the railroad and in a carpet mill, then opened the original Lanzi’s Restaurant on the South Side in 1919. The family set down roots in the neighborhood, and Luigi had a particularly strong connection to the Chalmers Mill.
“I was born one block from that place, 1955. My mom worked in that place.”
Luigi’s father moved the family to the north side of the river, and in 1956 opened a Union Street eatery that would become a city institution: Lorenzo’s Restaurant.
Lorenzo’s closed in 1998, but five brothers — Anthony, Christopher, Joseph, Lawrence and Luigi — and some of their 13 sons carry on with four other restaurants: Partner’s Pub in Johnstown, Lakeside Tavern, Lanzi’s on the Lake and Sport Island Pub, the last three of which sit on three sides of the Great Sacandaga Lake.
“This is on the water too, go figure,” Luigi Lanzi said of the South Side restaurant the family will run.
Each of the four existing Lanzi restaurants varies from the others in some respect, and so will the fifth. Sneak preview: It will feature the homemade pasta that Lorenzo’s was famous for.
They also plan to offer culinary classes in conjunction with the farmers market that will operate on site.
Lanzi said the family is excited to operate a restaurant in Amsterdam again. They were unable to secure intermunicipal cooperation when they proposed a venture on Route 30 some years ago, so it was never built. Part of the excitement Lanzi feels about Chalmers Mill Lofts is seeing the county and city working so closely together to make it happen.
“For us it’s a spark, hopefully it’ll be a spark for the city,” he said. “Things happen for a reason. Our hearts are still in Amsterdam, all our kids went to school there.”
The old Chalmers Knitting Mill, or Chalmers Building, was actually two connected structures. David Chalmers and three partners started a smaller factory on the north side of the river in 1901 but needed more space when their new underwear design — two pieces instead of the traditional one-piece union suit — proved hugely popular.
The partners built a four-story L-shaped brick building on Bridge Street in 1913 and a much larger seven-story concrete addition in 1916. Their fortunes waxed and waned through two world wars and the Great Depression, but cheaper overseas competition eventually took its toll. Various types of manufacturing continued under a succession of owners, ending in 1985.
The vacant complex crumbled over the next quarter-century as redevelopment efforts were fruitless. One final proposal — a conversion to housing — gained some support as demolition plans were drawn up, but was rejected when the developer failed to move it forward.
The mill complex, a hulking post-industrial gravestone standing at the southern gateway to the city, was knocked down in 2011 and 2012. Soil contamination was cleaned up and the site was seeded with grass.