By ALISSA SCOTT
Recorder News Staff
Another piece of the revitalized puzzle of Amsterdam is in the process of being placed downtown. The old America's Best Value Inn on Market Street is being gutted and refurbished to accommodate a Hampton Inn hotel, an announcement Mayor Ann Thane made on Facebook last week.
"We're trying to come up with a revitalized downtown area," said Robert von Hasseln, Amsterdam community and economic development director. "This will help anchor it."
Different national brands were considered, but Hampton Inn was the best fit, he said
So far, the owners have closed down two of the building's floors, which most recently housed a slew of restaurants, to begin rehabilitation. They have already cut ties with the restaurant and do not plan to reopen another, he said. However the kitchen and old, boarded-over swimming pool will remain so the company can cater to special occasions.
Von Hasseln said they plan to create a health club within the hotel with a new in-ground pool and a gym for guests.
"The hotel is important in itself. But it's also important as a vital building block in a scheme of revitalizing downtown ... and attracting more people to come here."
The hotel could come in handy for one of the biggest visitors' weekends of the year -- Spring Fling and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame induction -- which draw thousands of people.
"Many of them are day trippers, but several hundred are not. This year, all the lodging and dinner parties were up in Johnstown even though the hall is down on our Main Street."
Right now, the Rock Motel Inc. on the east end and the Valley View Motor Inn on the south side are available to visitors, but neither boast complimentary recommendations from past guests online and don't have "the kind of class" the Hampton Inn offers.
"We don't have a good quality hotel in downtown. In order to get downtown to grow, you need that. It's sort of a symbiotic thing."
Montgomery County Economic Development and Planning Director Ken Rose echoed that, saying the county has struggled with having a "quality" hotel in the past.
"It's been a huge issue for us for a long time. Obviously, the Super 8 takes care of commuter traffic from the Thruway, but we've struggled to get a well-established hotel with a banquet facility."
Rose said that's not a knock on the bed and breakfasts and smaller hotels throughout the county.
"But, dealing with the business community and the executive-level types, they're looking to stay at a well-established, well-run, higher-quality hotel."
On top of accommodating the influx of people Amsterdam sees during the early summer, it will benefit thousands expected to visit the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook upon completion. Contracts for its construction should be signed either this month or next, with an anticipated deadline of fall 2015. Von Hasseln said the overlook is just one of several reasons he told prospective buyers why they should open a hotel downtown.
"One of the things is there is so much that's about to go on here. It's like you've been pushing a big rock up the hill and you're almost to the top, and once you get to the top, the tipping point, it's going to get much easier.
"With the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook ... you're going to have tens of thousands of people coming here. They're going to need a place to stay."
And they're going to need to eat, which will boost area restaurants. He said the city searches for a "decent and different" eatery to plant on Main Street.
"This is another example of synergy. The motel is now going to become an attractive operation. They're going to need a place [for their customers] to walk out, go around the corner and have a nice meal. Not just pizza."
The hotel will be walking distance from the Via Ponte district and a block from the train station once its been relocated.
He said owners have proved their intent already by paying half-a-million dollars in back taxes, penalties and fees accrued by past owners.
They have also filed for a New York State Consolidated Funding Application requesting a grant for economic development. Though von Hasseln said he was uncomfortable discussing the total cost estimated and apportionments, he said it was "mid-seven figures," with the largest portion being owner financed.
The application states that exterior work is to begin fall 2013, moving indoors during winter and completed June 1, 2014 -- though von Hasseln recommends construction be finished mid-May to accommodate Spring Fling and the PWHF induction.
The application will be reviewed at the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, the mayor is a voting member.
Multiple calls to Hampton Inn representatives were not returned by deadline for this article.