Amsterdam projects net over $1M in federal funds

PETER R. BARBER/THE LEADER-HERALD

A look at Amsterdam City Hall.

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AMSTERDAM — Plans for a new park in Amsterdam’s East End and a business incubator at the Amsterdam Free Library will be supported by over $1 million combined in federal funding.

The $1.7 trillion federal omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2023 signed into law last week by President Joe Biden included nearly $13 million to support 15 community development improvement projects across the region backed by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.

“The community projects in our Capital Region bring incredible promise for our communities with key investments that will drive economic growth, create good jobs and propel our Capital Region forward,” said Tonko in a prepared statement. “I look forward to seeing how these federal dollars will unleash the untapped potential of our region and ignite our economy.”

The investment of over $1 million into a pair of projects in Amsterdam that were awarded funding will boost ongoing revitalization efforts, according to Amanda Bearcroft, Amsterdam’s director of community and economic development.

“It’s huge that we have someone in congress that is adamant about bringing this funding back into the city,” Bearcroft said Tuesday. “When we constantly have that support it really does assist the city moving forward.”

EAST END PARK

Plans to provide the community green space on the city’s East End with the creation of the Esperanza Verde Park at 285 E. Main St. will come to fruition with $650,000 in federal funding awarded to Amsterdam.

“With all the work going on downtown there are still amenities lacking on the East End,” Bearcroft said. “Having green space is critical for the neighborhood. Getting closer to having meeting and gathering space over there for residents is a huge win.”

The federal funding will be used to transform a pair of vacant lots owned by the city and Centro Civico, a Division of Ibero totaling just over a quarter of an acre into a full-scale park featuring amenities and spaces designed by KOMPAN to fill neighborhood needs with community input.

The park’s name translating to green hope inspired the concept for the public space that will be surrounded by flowers and vegetation. The rear of the park will feature stylish planter boxes to upgrade the existing community garden started on the plot by Centro and Grow Amsterdam.

Across the front of the park will be playground equipment taking its cues from the environment shaped like bees and flowers opposite an awning featuring picnic and chess tables. Near the seating will be open space for live music with room for dancing and community events. The park ground will be stamped concrete capable of withstanding wear and tear from foot traffic.

The Esperanza Verde Park will help fill multiple voids on the city’s East End where there is not a convenient path to existing parkland, many homes lack yard space and access to fresh produce is limited.

“This brings so many other opportunities,” Bearcroft said.

The federal funding was expected to fully cover the cost of the park, but Bearcroft acknowledged escalating costs drove latest estimates for materials and installation above the award total. Officials will discuss cost control measures with KOMPAN and options to bridge the gap.

The timeline for the park’s installation will depend on the receipt of contracts from the federal government to release the funding to the city. Work could begin sometime next year.

BUSINESS INCUBATOR

A new business incubator will be incorporated into the Amsterdam Free Library’s upcoming expansion and renovation project through a $469,333 federal funding award.

“Multiple entities within the state and federally are supporting the growth and development of the library, showing how important libraries are to communities,” said Nicole Hemsley, library director.

The funding will be used to overhaul the basement of the historic library with needed repairs to plumbing and flooring before creating office and conference space where budding entrepreneurs can get started with assistance from library staff and area organizations.

“We’re meant to be a resource for everyone and we’re really trying to think outside the box in how we deliver those options to people,” Hemsley said. “It’s about real life applications and things you can use to make life better.”

The business incubator will be outfitted with technology locals can use to develop business plans, create prototypes, record podcasts, produce advertisements, generate logos, conduct meetings and more. Library staff can provide instructional assistance throughout the process or folks can work on their own.

Partnerships with local schools and workforce training organizations will offer business development guidance and access to vocational training. The incubator will empower residents to enhance their skills and start new businesses supporting economic development.

A dedicated space will also be created for the Montgomery County Literacy Project, which provides free tutoring services for adult learners.

The project will transform an unusable area in the basement into a valuable community resource that will preserve the historic Carnegie Library built in 1902, while bringing it into the modern era with a forward facing design to simplify the introduction of any future upgrades.

“It’s bringing the historic building to its fullest potential, which is really exciting,” Hemsley said.

The business incubator will be installed during the multi-phase expansion and renovation project planned at the library. The federal funding brings the total aid for the entire project up to around $6.1 million with multiple awards from the State Aid for Library Construction Program and an allocation from the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative state grant.

The overall project will involve the removal of the single-story addition on the rear of the library for replacement with a three-story structure featuring public meeting space, a multi-use community room, educational space and an instructional kitchen. Infrastructure and handicap accessibility upgrades will ensure the library’s long term preservation and operation.

Project designs and full cost estimates are expected to be finalized early next year. A capital campaign will eventually be launched to raise the remaining balance of the project cost. Hemsley expects the project that has been years in the making will break ground in 2023.

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

By Ashley Onyon

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