Duchessi proposes demolition and reconstruction of unsafe Main Street building

A city-owned property at 20-22 Main Street is in imminent danger of collapse and needs to be demolished, according to Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency Director John Duchessi.  He said the determination was made during a recent engineering assessment of the building. Duchessi discussed the situation and what to do about it with the common council before Tuesday’s meeting.

“This building is problematic and needs to come down,” said Duchessi.  “Immediately after conducting the site review, the engineer for the project stopped by the office to tell me the building is unsafe, and cannot be entered…and is in imminent danger of collapse.”

Duchessi had hoped the property was a good candidate for renovation by the agency. In September, he requested the common council keep the foreclosed property and several others out of the upcoming auction so that the agency could complete an engineering assessment on the properties.

While some members of the council suggested the space could be used for additional parking for the downtown area, Duchessi said that leaving the space empty would make the downtown streetscape look like it was “missing a tooth” and proposed constructing a new building in its place.

“We can put a project together to build a similar building in its place,” said Duchessi.

The property was included as a priority project in the city’s winning Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant application. The plan was to convert the building into a mixed use residential/commercial development similar to the successful AIDA-led restoration project at 44-46 Main Street. Duchessi said that he is in the process of creating a proposal for the new construction which will be submitted to the DRI local planning committee who will decide what projects will receive funding from the $10 million DRI grant.

In a written report distributed to council members, Duchessi wrote, “The new building, consisting of four apartments and two retail spaces, will serve to maintain the integrity of the streetscape, further establish a mixed-use downtown settings, and help create an active, desirable downtown with a strong sense of place.”

Alderman Pat Russo asked whether the facade of the building could be saved. Duchessi said that he had asked the engineer, but was told it was not possible.

However, he added, “we can replace the building and make it look similar to the other buildings downtown.”

Duchessi also told the council that several other foreclosed properties on the city’s west end that he had also thought may be good candidates for restoration, including the former Dudka’s Garage properties on Carmichael Street and the former Harry F. Bowler Brewery on West Main Street, will need extensive rehabilitation before they can be used again.

According to an environmental site assessment done on the properties, pools of standing oil, or unknown oily substances were observed at the sites, as well as drums containing oil or other unknown substances. The report also referenced spills previously reported at the former garage properties to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation which were never cleaned up. Additionally, the report mentioned structural safety issues at the West Main Street Property and the possibility of mold, asbestos, and lead contamination.

Duchessi said the best course of action would be to get a brownfield designation from New York State for the properties to help secure future state funds for cleanup and re-use of the properties.

Tim Becker

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