Mayor Villa outlines next steps in Downtown Revitalization Initiative planning process


A committee made up of local business and community leaders who will work with New York State planners and private sector consultants to finalize a plan for using $10 million in funds from the recently awarded Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, could be in place as early as Monday according to City of Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa.

Villa said yesterday that he expects the committee to consist of 15 people, and that he will co-chair the committee with Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger, who also serves as the co-chair of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council.

“We want the public’s participation in this. So we’ll do the best we can to get the most qualified, interested people that really want to see Amsterdam grow and continue this path that we’re on right now,” said Villa.

Villa said that public hearings will also be held in order to keep city residents informed about the planning progress.

The 17 projects listed in the grant application (listed below) will serve as the starting point for discussions, however the local committee will work with state planners and consultants hired by the state to come up with a strategic investment plan, which will ultimately determine what the funds are used for. According to NY State guidelines, up to $300,000 of the award may be used for the initial planning.

NY State guidelines also indicate that DRI funds are intended to be used on projects that “transform the physical environment of the downtown in ways that will benefit current residents and future generations” such as “economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects.” The funds cannot be used for planning (beyond the initial strategic plan),  operations, maintenance, property acquisition, training, or any other continuous costs.

Villa said that an indoor sports complex, which was proposed in the grant application, is one of his priorities because he believes the project will not only benefit city residents, but draw people from the surrounding area. The proposal calls for a new facility to be constructed on land already owned by Centro Civico on East Main Street. The facility could include a track, turf field, and basketball courts. The project will also include a community center to be housed within an existing building owned by Centro Civico on the same property. A new parking garage is also proposed to be built nearby. Villa said that the city is in talks with the Boys and Girls Club about partnering to provide additional programming at the facility.

To help support the implementation of the DRI award, Villa hopes to fill two full-time city positions as early as next week: the community and economic development director, and the recreation, marketing, and tourism program specialist. He expects that both staff members will network with other city departments on DRI projects.

Networking with other cities who have previously been awarded the DRI grant will also be part of the plan.

“We’re going to meet with the City of Rome and maybe one or two others to see the pitfalls they faced when they got the DRI,” said Villa.

He said the target date to have the strategic plan completed is March 2019.

“The ball’s going to move rapidly,” said Villa. “It’s exciting, really, to see something of this magnitude, to give us the opportunity to do some great things.”

The 17 priority projects listed in the DRI application:

  1. A culinary incubator proposed to be located on the south side
  2. A community dog park proposed to be located on the south side
  3. Streetscape and parking improvements near the planned Chalmers Mills Lofts on the south side
  4. Telephone pole removal on Bridge Street
  5. 2 River Street, a privately funded project near the entrance of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge, intended by the owners to be leased or sold to a restaurant business.
  6. Removal of a section of Route 5 to open up space for development and funnel traffic through the city’s core
  7. A multi-modal transportation station, including a train station, bus station, and other amenities, proposed to be located on the north side of the Mohawk River and will also include a walkway to connect Main Street downtown area to the north entrance of the MVGO
  8. Renovation of 6 Market Street for use as office space
  9. Renovation of the former Key Bank building into upscale loft apartments, with a first floor mirco-brewery.
  10. Renovation of 20-22 Main Street for first-floor retail and upper-floor apartments
  11. Additional improvements to the Chuctanunda Creek Trail
  12. A new three-story addition to the Amsterdam Free Library which would house space for an expanded makerspace program, conference room, and art gallery, and many other new features.
  13. Vehicle and pedestrian wayfinding signage
  14. Re-establishing a grid traffic pattern in the city’s downtown
  15. A marina/ferry service
  16. A community center/recreation center to be built on land owned by Centro Civico on East Main Street.
  17. A 2-3 story parking garage to support the increased parking needs of the community/recreation center.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.