When an already-in-progress plan to overhaul the city's South Side was held up five years ago by a last-minute proposal to turn the former Chalmers knitting mills into luxury apartments, supporters of that idea said preserving the building was essential to boosting that area of Amsterdam. They feared taking the buildings down would result in another empty piece of land sitting along the Mohawk River, even though tearing down the complex was an essential part of the city's original development plans. Officials who put the original proposal in place believed the developers would come once Chalmers was gone.
As it turns out, they may have been right.
Since the buildings were torn down, city and Montgomery County officials have been entertaining ideas from developers interested in the site. Interest has been so high that the deadline to submit formal proposals has been extended until Nov. 26. The city hosted an informational luncheon in September that included around 15 developers, and Robert von Hasseln, Amsterdam's new director of community and economic development, said several have been asking for follow-up meetings and more time to come up with a plan.
"We've had a much more positive response than we had expected," von Hasseln said.
While city officials may be pleasantly surprised by the post-Chalmers demolition response, we're not. This is a prime piece of real estate in Amsterdam. It's right on the river and it's close to main thoroughfares like Route 30 and the Thruway. It's at one end of a pedestrian bridge project that will connect the area to Riverlink Park on the northern bank of the Mohawk.
Any economic development expert will tell you that in cities like Amsterdam, revitalization starts with the river and works its way outward. The South Side has already experienced a bit of a rebirth, with the reconstruction of Bridge Street and several new shops opening along the roadway. A developed Chalmers site will only improve what's already in place and could make that side of the city the place to be -- not only for people who live here, but also for people outside the city.
We realize the process of redeveloping the property is in its early stages, and it will likely be a while before we see actual work begin. Still, it's great to see the lot generate so much interest, and we're confident city and county leaders can work together to find a proposal that works best for Amsterdam.