By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Another $25 million housing project will be making its way to the city of Amsterdam this year, this time on the southern end.
In December 2012, the owners of River Ridge Living Center on Sandy Drive was given approval by the New York State Department of Health to build an assisted living center with 120 beds.
According to Department of Health documents, Deer Run at River Ridge, as the new facility will be called, was awarded the second-highest amount of beds in the state, running only one below a Niagara County assisted living program of 150.
River Ridge Executive Director Paul Guttenberg sat in his office this week with administrator Susanne Guttenberg and assistant administrator Heather Reynicke looking at the structural plans and commenting on the achievement.
"That shows that there's a need for it," Paul said. "That was a great feat to accomplish and required and very long, complicated, what they call, Certificate of Need.
"It wasn't an easy project, but (we) made it happen."
Susanne said the state put out about 6,000 beds and had the task of divvying those up among applicant projects.
"We were very fortunate," she said.
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said she knows there's a need for this type of project and she is excited and anxious to see what happens with it.
"I think it's part of that redevelopment of a community," Thane said. "We have the big $25 million project happening on the north side at the Colonial gardens. We've got the $25 million project happening on the south side at River Ridge. It's all good for us. It's going to create jobs and good paying jobs ... as well as be a boost to our economy in a financial sense."
The new facility will employ about 100 people when it's finished and construction alone will employ anywhere from 300 to 400, Paul said.
Planning for portions of the project began in 2011, Paul said, but they have really grown since then.
"What we plan on doing, in essence, is building a continuing care retirement community," Susanne said.
The 40 acres of land on either side of Sandy Drive, right next to the current River Ridge facility, will be the home to the new facility. The building is expected to be three stories high, have a good amount of parking, and will feature outdoor areas for the residents.
Each wing of the building will likely act as its own little community.
"There will be changes, but this is the general idea so we could get a rough layout of what it's going to be like," Susanne said. "And we do like the Adirondack look, with the stone and the timbers."
The $25 million project is expected to bring not only the 120-bed assisted living center to Amsterdam, but also a second phase of senior housing units that will be built along Sandy Drive and once finished, available to rent.
There will be 20 cottages in the senior housing phase, each consisting of two two-bedroom units and one one-bedroom unit.
"We've already done a feasibility study and there's a definite need for this type of housing," Paul said.
Thane said the baby-boomers, herself included, are now in the period of looking for housing for their parents and looking down the road for themselves.
"To be able to count on having independent living opportunities and assisted living in our elder years, this is attractive to people that live here and probably to people in the surrounding region," she said. "And they do such a beautiful job up there. They're really top notch quality and that's what we're looking at."
Robert von Hasseln, the city's director of Community and Economic Development, said the plan is fantastic and well thought out.
"These are the people who can do the job based on their track record," he said.
And though the area is filled with wetlands, Paul said they have already paid for a wetland survey.
"A lot depends on getting environmental approval," he said, "and getting water and sewer."
The latter piece has been one of the main concerns for the Guttenbergs.
Currently, there are no water and sewer lines to where the new facility will be built. The administrative team at River Ridge met with city and county officials earlier this year to not only talk about the project, but about what to do with sewer and water.
Reynicke said city and county officials indicated that they are submitting grants within a three-month period or so, but the River Ridge hadn't heard any news since then.
"They're all enthusiastic about it, but someone's got to get back to me," Paul said.
Von Hasseln said there are several options for getting water and sewer to the new facility, one being grants, if they're available.
"Some of the engineering work has already been done because of some of the other studies in the area. We have a pretty good idea and we're kind of ahead of the game as far as exactly what needs to be done," he said.
Aside from grants, Thane said they could alternatively also enter into an incentive program with River Ridge giving them long-term financing for connecting water and sewer to the facility.
"We can try for grants, but you can't count on grants. So we want to see this work for them and we can offer very low interest terms to have the lines extended."
The full building project will be privately funded and is likely to begin this year.
"We're going to make every effort to make this as luxurious as we can afford to," Susanne said.
Von Hasseln said the facility is a prime example of how a company realizes the growing need in their community.
"We have this whole life-cycle of property. You can start from an apartment on Main Street as a young adult, move out to Henrietta Heights or Florida Avenue and get a house with a garage and a lawn. And when you're done, you can go up to this new project, and when you're ready, you can go to one of the nursing homes if need be," he said.
"It's good for Amsterdam and it's good for the company."