The City of Amsterdam has been awarded a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant from New York State. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul officially announced the award at a press conference held at City Hall this afternoon. The grant does not require any matching local funds, and will be applied to a variety of public and private sector projects in the city’s downtown area on both the north and south sides of the Mohawk River which are ready to be implemented in the next few years.
The application process was led by the Montgomery County Business Development Center in cooperation with county and city officials, and was the third try at the coveted grant which has been awarded to one city in each of the ten economic development regions in the state in each of the past two years. Past winners in the Mohawk Valley region, in which Amsterdam is included, were Rome in 2017 and Oneonta in 2016.
Some of the 17 priority projects proposed in the application include:
- A culinary incubator
- A community dog park
- A community and recreation center built on the east end of the city
- A new parking garage, also on the east end
- A three-story addition to the Amsterdam Free Library
- Removing a section of the Route 5 arterial and returning the city’s downtown streets to a “grid pattern”
- The Chalmers Mills project on the south side proposed by KCG Development
- A multi-modal transportation hub
- The rehabilitation of several vacant buildings for either residential and/or commercial use.
According to NY State, funds will be disbursed to the city mostly on a reimbursement basis, and may be used to cover the entire cost of a project or to supplement investments from other private developers or other federal or state grants.
According to a press release from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, the next step will be to utilize $300,000 from the grant to develop a strategic investment plan. The state calls for local planning committee to be made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners.
Projects submitted in the application will be further vetted by the community and state planners and the final list of projects may include those from the application, or others that arise during the next planning phase.
At the press conference, Hochul was joined by Senator George Amedore, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort, and City of Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa, who each spoke about the potential of the city’s downtown area and the impact the grant will have on the city’s future.
“People from the outside are investing and realizing what we have here,” said Hochul. “The waterfront looks spectacular. The downtown has great potential. This is from someone who has seen literally thousands of communities. I love the architecture, the history, and the charm that is just inescapable. “
“Sometimes when you live in an area and you go past these areas all the time, you sort of get desensitized to it. But to an outsider who comes periodically, you need to know there’s something really special here. Today we have the opportunity to take it to a whole new level.”
“$10 million in a community the size of Amsterdam is literally transformative. And I cannot wait to see the work that will continue to unfold as the plans are announced.”
“Our objective is to bring back downtowns – to make them fantastic places to live, to work to play…The era of people thinking that the American dream is about life in suburbia is over. People want to be downtown. “
Amedore recalled hearing about Amsterdam’s “heydays” from his grandfather, who once ran a liquor store on Market Street, and his mother, who he said grew up in the city. Amedore said the grant will help Amsterdam to regain the “sizzle” it once had.
“I believe that this great investment will reap a great return for the whole Mohawk Valley region that we haven’t seen before,” said Amedore.
Santabarbara called the announcement “historic” and said, “We have seen, when you revitalize downtown areas, historic downtown areas…how much it changes a community, it brings so much.”
“This investment will lead to more investments for years to come. The best part –local jobs, it generates jobs. It brings new people to our community,” said Santabarbara.
Ossenfort gave credit to the county economic development team including MCBDC CEO Ken Rose and MCBDC Senior Planner/GIS Specialist Amanda Bearcroft for their work with the application.
He shared that he learned of the award yesterday when he arrived home and was met by his young daughter who was holding a congratulatory balloon and card.
“And that’s when it hit me,” he said. “This isn’t about us, this is about the future, it’s about how we’re going to leave this area for our kids and our grand kids. And that’s the truly exciting part about it.”
Villa said he was “humbled” by the award and gave credit to the efforts of Danielle Whelly, who previously worked with the MCBDC and is the current Assistant Recreation, Marketing, and Tourism Department Director.
He recited a quote from the Amsterdam Oratorio, composed by Maria Riccio-Bryce, which is also inscribed on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge: “What once was home is home again, my Amsterdam.”
“It’s an important symbol of the city’s revitalization efforts,” said Villa. “It speaks to a connection with the past as a fuel for future generations that strive to reclaim our former glory with the rebirth of our vibrant urban core. Momentum is building in Amsterdam. Now is the time for revitalization to capitalize on this upward trend. Morale has improved. People are moving here. Businesses continue to grow. Developers are eying Amsterdam. Investors are starting projects.”
“We are centrally located and what happens here has a direct effect on the entire region. Tourism is increasing, and people are coming from surrounding areas to attend our events and to utilize our recreational amenities and visit our attractions.”
“Our vision for downtown is not to rebuild the former downtown, but to build a new, diverse, sustainable, downtown model. In addition to the typical retail aspect, we are incorporating crucial mixed-use components to create a successful year-round downtown including housing, recreation, education, employment, and community facilities.”
Cuomo wrote in his press release, “Amsterdam’s downtown community is full of potential, and its prime location on the Mohawk River makes it an ideal candidate for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. With this funding, the city will be able to attract new businesses and residents to the area, boosting the local economy and transforming the neighborhood into a destination for locals and visitors alike.”