EDITOR'S NOTE: This week, the Recorder will be looking at the top news stories of 2012. This story focuses on economic/business development.
By JAIME STUDD
Recorder News Staff
The Amsterdam skyline was dramatically -- and permanently -- changed this year with the demolition of the former Chalmers Knitting Mill on the city's South Side.
Years in the planning, the last of the site's buildings were officially wiped from the landscape this spring and city officials immediately turned their sites towards future plans for the property.
Having rejected the lone "complete" proposal for redevelopment of the site for not having adequately met the needs of the city, Amsterdam Director of Community and Economic Development Robert Von Hasseln is actively working with other local developers and area economic development agencies like the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency, the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency and the Montgomery County Economic Development and Planning Department to forge ahead with future plans for the site.
Von Hasseln has said he believes the best use of the land for the city is either market-rate housing to attract younger people to the city, mixed-use high-end apartment and commercial space, or hotel and banquet space overlooking the Mohawk River.
* Other economic development efforts being focused on by von Hasseln and AIDA include those for old Mohasco Mills site, the Five Corners area, and the Esquire Novelty building, and he said there's talk of adding an affordable housing building on Amsterdam's East End.
* In an effort to invigorate the city's economic development efforts, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane appointed von Hasseln, who also serves as City Historian, to serve as Director of Community and Economic Development for the city in September.
* On April 26, members of the Fulton and Montgomery County Chambers of Commerce overwhelmingly approved merging the two organizations into a single entity. In December, the merger received the stamp of approval from the Secretary of State and is currently undergoing the final approval process locally and through the state. The Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry is expected to officially begin operating under its new title and structure in the coming months.
* Increased investment in the downtown Amsterdam was the goal this year for AIDA. In May, AIDA Executive Director Jody Zakrevsky told the common counsel that in addition to closing on the East Main Street building that once housed the United Way of Montgomery County, AIDA is in the process of buying another unnamed downtown property. The agency also owns a building at 30-32 E. Main St., the current home of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. The hope, Zakrevsky said, is that an increased investment in downtown will not only boost the Rug City's center, but provide an influx of funding to the cash-strapped agency.
* Massive development efforts along Route 30 in Amsterdam continued this year, with the building and opening of several new commercial entities, including Panera Bread. According to the site plan from Benderson Development, the 7,700 square foot box store will eventually house a second unidentified eatery, and an undisclosed retail store. The completion of the Panera building and opening of the women's clothing store called Maurice's mark completion of the Commons plaza, which is anchored by a Kohl's department store and Target. Stores that are already open in the strip mall include Michael's Arts and Crafts, Route 30 Wine & Liquor Depot, Super Shoes, Rue 21, Rue 21 Etc., Olympia Sports, Staples and Dollar Tree. The plaza additionally features two existing box stores, respectively holding an Aspen Dental and GameStop, and GNC, Verizon Wireless, SuperCuts and Moe's Southwest Grill.
* Fulton County's economic development efforts this year were centered in Perth, more specifically, at the former site of the Tryon Juvenile Detention Center. Late last year, the county was awarded $2 million from the Mohawk Valley Economic Development Council to begin transforming the property in an industrial park and incubator center. The lion's share of that money will be dedicated to infrastructure improvements at the site, including new water and sewer lines and construction of a new perimeter road. Redevelopment is expected to begin in earnest this spring, following the official transfer of ownership of the property from the state to the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency.
* This year marked the loss of a landmark Amsterdam eatery with the official closing of Crystal's Ristorante and Bar on Lyon Street after 51 years in business. The property is currently in foreclosure proceedings.