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Encouraging news on development

Saturday, December 08, 2012 - Updated: 6:31 PM

Amsterdam's aggressive approach to economic development as of late should be an encouraging sign to city residents who have been waiting for things to turn around.

The city is taking a multi-faceted approach involving several agencies and is targeting various neighborhoods for improvement.

At the top of the list is the former Chalmers site on the city's South Side. The dilapidated buildings were finally torn down earlier this year and officials have been aggressively marketing it.

Although Amsterdam didn't get as many as proposals as originally hoped, city Economic Development Director Rob von Hasseln is right when he says the worst thing the city can do is rush to redevelop the long-dormant site.

There was only one complete proposal received after the city initially expected five to 10, but von Hasseln doesn't sound overly concerned. He's encouraging officials to wait until Amsterdam gets a proposal that would best fit with existing plans to revitalize the entire waterfront area. We agree.

After all, it wasn't as if the city was entertaining tons of offers when the buildings stood vacant -- save for one proposal that came in shortly before plans to demolish the structures were set in motion. That proposal had little chance of getting off the ground, highlighted by the developer's inability to secure the funding necessary to move it forward and that his own market study cast doubts on the project to convert the former mills into high-end loft apartments.

But the development efforts aren't just focused on the South Side. Von Hasseln has had discussions with potential developers about the 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.

It's also encouraging to see the various agencies that exist to promote economic development in Amsterdam working hand-in-hand toward a common goal. The Urban Renewal agency has been busy securing and administering grants for development and repairing the city's aging infrastructure -- a key component in attracting people here.

Meanwhile, in addition to its recent focus on downtown, the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency says it continues to answer inquiries from businesses looking at relocating to the city.

Granted, we've all heard the talk before about how Amsterdam officials are making things happen, only to see very little in return. We've also seen city leaders latch on to stars that quickly burn out.

What's encouraging now, however, is that Amsterdam's adjusted approach appears to be more realistic, but with a tremendous upside. It's easy to see Point B from Point A, but getting there can be a different story, and it can be a tough path to travel.

City and Montgomery County officials should continue to work together to get the most value of out the land available for re-development. It might take a while to turn things around, but if done right, the result could be worth the wait.

     

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