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Foss: Don't kill Amsterdam Chalmers project

Foss: Don't kill Amsterdam Chalmers project

Foss: Don't kill Amsterdam Chalmers project
The Chalmers mill complex, shown in Dec. 2010 before its demolition, is the site of a proposed $34 million mixed use project
Photographer: JOHN CROPLEY

Here's a thought experiment.

Let's suppose the Amsterdam Common Council votes against extending the $300,000 purchase option for the long-dormant city-owned parcel of land where the Chalmers Knitting Mill once stood. 

Private developers had planned to build a $34 million apartment complex and banquet hall there. 

But now their project is dead. 

What happens next? 

At first, there's hope. 

Hope that another developer will be interested in buying the land and building something there. But no proposals are forthcoming. 

The unceremonious scrapping of the Chalmers Mill Lofts apartment project has made other developers wary. The land sits empty for the foreseeable future, a high-profile reminder of the city's failure to attract new investment and revitalize its urban core. 

It's too soon to say whether this is how the Chalmers Mill Lofts apartment story ends.

Last week the Common Council said nay to extending DEW Ventures and KCG Development's $300,000 purchase option, a move that appeared to doom the 120-unit apartment building/banquet hall proposal. 

But a re-vote is set for tonight, which is reason for optimism. 

Having had a week to consider the consequences of killing the Chalmers Mill Lofts project, perhaps the Council will do the right thing and grant the extension needed to keep this promising project alive.

Yes, there have been some hiccups. 

But that's not unusual for projects of this magnitude, and the developers have shown that they are committed to the Chalmers site, located on Amsterdam's South Side.  

Among other things, they have retooled their building design in response to community feedback and agreed to mitigate soil contamination on the site. KCG has already put nearly $250,000 into the project. 

In order to finance the project, KCG needs $18 million worth of federal low-income housing tax credits awarded by the state Department of Homes & Community Renewal. In May, the developer learned that it did not get the tax credits. 

The plan is to re-apply - but only if the city extends their purchase option. 

Given what's at stake, this extension ought to be a no-brainer. 

If the city kills the Chalmers project despite KCG's significant investment of time, money and energy, it will send a very damaging message: That Amsterdam is not only closed for business, but also a bad partner and risky bet. 

The Chalmers project can still have a happy ending. 

It can still become the catalyst for development city officials hope it will be. 

But it needs support from a City Council that appears all too reluctant to give it. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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