Amsterdam awarded $2M grant to demolish 5 Corners strip mall

FILE – The five corners intersection at Forest Avenue and Church Street in Amsterdam
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AMSTERDAM — A massive eyesore will finally be eliminated from Amsterdam through a $2 million state grant awarded to the city to demolish the abandoned strip mall at the Five Corners intersection.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful day for our city and the people of the 4th Ward,” Mayor Michael Cinquanti said Tuesday. “It’s the first step in what will be the transformation of that property.”

The funding through the Restore New York Communities Initiative was included among the $102 million awarded to 64 projects across the state to support revitalization efforts and boost economic development.

“These Restore New York grants will help to reimagine downtowns across our state and transform vacant, blighted, and underutilized buildings into vibrant community anchors,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a prepared statement.

The $2 million grant is expected to cover the full cost of razing and hauling away debris from the former strip mall along Fourth and Forest Avenues off of the Five Corners intersection, according to Amanda Bearcroft, Amsterdam’s director of community and economic development.

“Just having that old strip mall down will bring a lot of value to residents,” Bearcroft said. “Finally getting rid of one of the most highly visible, blighted parcels in the city.”

The city sought enough state funding to cover the worst case scenario for demolition estimated by engineering firm Weston & Sampson based on the potential presence of asbestos and other hazardous materials within the structure.

The firm will conduct environmental testing to pinpoint contaminants at the site through a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded to Montgomery County last year to study four brownfields across the community.

“We’ve had a lot of support at all levels of government,” Cinquanti said, expressing appreciation for all officials and agencies involved throughout the process to address the property.

The environmental assessments at the city site should be completed within the first quarter of the coming year before contracts with the state are executed to set up the release of the grant for demolition enabling the city to send the project out for bid.

“The intent has always been to hopefully have this done sometime in the spring or summer of 2023,” Bearcroft said.

Although further site remediation will not be performed with the state funding, Bearcroft said taking down the building to leave behind a graded site will support long standing redevelopment efforts once the full extent of contamination is known to unlock its future potential.

“This does put us so many more steps ahead than we were a year ago,” Bearcroft said. “We’ve come leaps and bounds because of this Restore New York grant and we’re able to start taking a harder look at this site and attracting a developer.”

Volatile organic compounds and petroleum contaminants are believed to be present in the soil and groundwater on the 3.4-acre property based on its historical use. The site was once occupied by Kelloggs and Miller, a producer of linseed oil. It may also have housed a fuel storage company and a landfill in the past.

Learning the extent of site contamination will enable the city to estimate the full cost of cleaning up the property to either seek further funding to tackle the work on its own or marketing the site to private developers capable of tapping into brownfield funding.

“The funding stream available to help developers has never been better for a property like that,” Cinquanti said. “All the factors necessary for successful redevelopment are in line with the announcement of this grant. It’s a big step towards that.”

The city is eyeing the site for mixed-use redevelopment combining commercial and retail uses. Efforts to attract developers will be boosted by the $15,000 funding awarded to the city earlier this year by the National Technical Assistance Brownfields Program for consulting assistance to help advance redevelopment plans for the property.

For now, officials agree that removing the abandoned strip mall from the highly visible property viewed daily by locals and the thousands of motorists passing through the city daily on Route 67 will have a significant impact.

“People are so used to looking at a lot of this blight,” Bearcroft said. “When it’s finally down they start to have hope and realize [redevelopment] is possible.”

“It’s one of the prime locations in our city and it’s got this blob of blight that’s been there forever,” Cinquanti said. “To be able to clean it up and get that building out of there it’s a wonderful signal that things are changing in Amsterdam for the better.”

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

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By Ashley Onyon

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