Posts Tagged With: Chalmers

The Via Ponte Project

Via Ponte Conceptual Overlay by Saratoga Associates

Aerial View of Amsterdam Southside Neighborhood by Google Maps

The Via Ponte project was designed by Saratoga Associates as A Guide to Rebuild Amsterdam Southside Neighborhood District and presented to the City of Amsterdam in March of 2004. The project entailed opening up the Southside waterfront with the installation of a marina and pedestrian friendly walkways. The plan calls for a neighborhood recreation center and a cultural center with an interpretive museum, art gallery and restaurant. There would also be shops and a historic canal store.

This is a great plan that also calls for adaptive reuse and waterfront access. As you can see from the images, the plan was always to demolish the larger portion of the Chalmers building, the part City Historian Robert von Hasseln has labeled as historically significant. The smaller brick structure was to be repurposed as mixed-use commercial and market rate housing (not luxury apartments).

Where are we with the Via Ponte project? Has the Kaufman saga sidetracked development? I see from the City’s updated website that we actually have a Via Ponte Planning Committee described as:

Following the guidance of the Amsterdam Comprehensive plan, the goal of this committee is to liaise with the Mayor of the City of Amsterdam and Saratoga Associates for citizen and business input on the south side Via Ponte development.

I wonder if this committee actually conducts public meetings. The chairman is Sue Phemister owner of the Amsterdam Castle that has been on the market for sale since 2008. I would love to see a concerted effort on the part of the administration to actually follow through with this plan that has the potential to increase the economy through tourism.

Categories: Amsterdam | Tags: , , , ,

A Chalmers Love/Hate Story

I consciously tried to ignore this issue as it was being covered in the local papers and discussed in the local blogs, but I just could not hold my tongue any longer. The issue of the Chalmers building development/demolition has grown into something quite absurd.

To make a long story short, there is a huge cement and brick structure on the banks of the Mohawk River overshadowing Amsterdam’s South Side.¬† The former Chalmers Mill building has been abandoned for years and is such a state of disrepair that chunks of it are literally falling into the street.

Chalmers Building from Riverlink Park

The building was scheduled for demolition as a part of the Via Ponte project to revitalize the South Side. All that was sidetracked when novice Mayor Ann Thane entertained a proposal from developer Uri Kaufman to redevelop the building into luxury apartments similar to what he accomplished in Troy with Harmony Mills. The Common Council approved a contract with Kaufman to purchase the building that had a timetable with specifics.

Not everything Uri Kaufman touches turns to gold. Kaufman has also had a series of failed projects including Victory Mills in Schuylerville, the Statler building in Buffalo and the English Station power plant on the Mill River in New Haven. Lets face it, he is in it for the money and history shows us if he can’t get construction costs covered with grants and public funding, he bails.

After a meeting and presentation from Kaufman, the public learned that he had not met the requirements of the contract and became skeptical of the project. The issue soon divided the city with the Common Council severing the contract. This should have been the end of the issue and this is where Mayor Thane, in my opinion, lost a lot of respect from her constituents when she relentlessly pursued the issue despite public outcry. The building was nominated for placement on the National Registry of Historic Places by Kaufman. The Common Council announced their disapproval through a resolution that was later vetoed by Thane. The dialog between Kaufman and Thane was captured in the form of an email conversation in which she responds with the candor of a smitten schoolgirl. At one point she even wished them (Common Council) at the bottom of the Mohawk.

The issue seemed to blow over and for months we heard nothing more from Kaufman. The building was finally set for demolition again. A bid was accepted from an outside firm with contract in place and date set. Then the city received notification that the Chalmers building was accepted for placement on the national registry. The building is now eligible for federal historic tax breaks. Soon after that notification, Uri Kaufman filed a lawsuit against the City of Amsterdam for breach of contract. Kaufman is also trying to block the demolition. Recent findings of local newsmen indicate that Thane has been in contact with Kaufman all along, some bloggers even concluding that Thane had something to do with the lawsuit. The Mayor denies any conspiracy stating that she is going along with the wish of the people to demolish the building.

A Common Council meeting tonight is scheduled to address that very question. Two Alderman will propose that all correspondence concerning this issue be made public.

As it should be.

Update: JibJab admitted a mistake with the quality of the downloaded video and has corrected it. This post now has the updated video which was meant as a political parody of the professional relationship between Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane and developer Uri Kaufman. It is just comedy relief with no malicious intent.

Categories: Amsterdam, Entertainment, Media, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

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