Amsterdam riverfront property ready for development
AMSTERDAM State regulators say a once-contaminated knitting mill property no longer poses a hazard to people or the environment, a declaration that will make it easier for the city of Amsterdam to promote its redevelopment.
Following cleanup activities completed last year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Tuesday the former Chalmers Knitting Mill site on Bridge Street won’t require further remediation.
There are few if any other available riverfront sites in the city, and the Chalmers site serves as an important facet of developing the city’s South Side, officials said.
“Its front door is going to be the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook,” city Community and Economic Development Director Robert von Hasseln said, referring to the $16.5 million pedestrian bridge planned to connect the city’s South Side with downtown on the north side of the Mohawk River.
The cleanup entailed excavation, removing soil and two 20,000-gallon underground storage tanks, removing six PCB-laden transformers, asbestos remediation and demolition of the buildings.
The site consisted of two primary buildings, a four-story brick factory put up in 1913 and a seven-story concrete addition built in 1916. They sat vacant and deteriorating for a quarter-century after the last tenant left in the mid-1980s.
For years before the buildings were torn down, attempts were made to market and reuse them. Late in the process, developer Uri Kaufman presented an ambitious plan to create luxury apartments but was unable to make progress on it. The city got into a legal battle with him, and the plan died.
Economic development representatives from Montgomery County and the city began showing the city-owned site to developers last year, but von Hasseln said interest was light, and another request for proposals is being prepared for the 3.3-acre site.
Officials have been telling developers they expected a clean bill of health for the site, but having papers saying as much is more encouraging, he said.
“People have been burned so much with environmental remediation costs, they are a little hesitant,” von Hasseln added.
Though the site is considered cleaned up, a monitoring system must be set up in any building constructed there to make sure contaminants don’t seep into the air inside, according to the DEC. Soil vapor sampling turned up elevated levels of “chlorinated volatile organic compounds” — solvents — in a few samples, according to the DEC.
Monitoring for these compounds in the air will be required as part of a site management plan and environmental easement to be established. But there are ways to keep any soil vapors out of the building in the first place.
According to DEC Region 4 spokesman Rick Georgeson, contractors are often adding soil vapor mitigation systems during new construction.
“Installing a soil vapor mitigation system is not very expensive and is virtually the same as a radon mitigation system that vents sub-slab vapors directly outside,” Georgeson said in an email. “Many builders find it is simpler to install a system during construction to vent any vapors that could be collecting beneath the finished slab/foundation.”
Running a blower tied to these systems full-time keeps vapors out of the structure itself, Georgeson said.
Another requirement is maintaining the 12-inch soil cover currently in place and replacing it if buildings are constructed.
Also, groundwater cannot be used, but the city water system serves the site.
Von Hasseln said interest expressed so far in the site includes a manufacturing facility and subsidized housing, neither of which fit with goals for the site.
“We’re not going to go for the first thing that comes down the pike,” he said.
He said another request for proposals will be drafted once shovels are in the ground for construction of the new pedestrian bridge, which he expects will make the site “very attractive” to developers.
Getting construction underway on the bridge — a project of the state Thruway Authority — should spark interest among those considering construction, von Hasseln said.
“This attraction is going to be finished by the fall of 2015. It’s a major selling point,” he said.
The Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook construction project requires tearing down another vacant industrial building next to the Chalmers site, something Mayor Ann Thane believes will spark interest in development.
“I think once people see the demolition across the street, which should be in the near future, and staging starts for the [bridge] footings and for the materials to build the bridge, people will begin to get excited,” Thane said.