The city of Amsterdam has grown much as a community in the past few years. With the creation of the downtown Pedestrian Bridge in 2016, more diverse activities have taken place in the downtown section of the city. This includes the homecoming bonfire, the Italian and October festivals, the Spring Fling, and the Halloween trunk or treat event at the bridge. This thriving activity seen throughout the community will surely continue: The city of Amsterdam has recently received a grant of $10 million to revitalize the downtown area. Many ideas that have been introduced in the past with the intent to improve the city finally have the funding to be accomplished.
The RamPage staff met with Amanda Bearcroft, the head of the downtown revitalization initiative (DRI), to gain more insight into this project. Ms. Bearcroft is the city’s community and economic development director; she also wrote most of the city’s application for the DRI state grant. When asking about the process it took to obtain the state grant, Bearcroft told RamPage news that the city’s application for the grant was actually not approved the first two times and took until the third try to finally be accepted. She saw a positive to this situation, however, saying it gave them “the opportunity to really narrow down what was important”. Bearcroft also mentioned that the city was one in six counties competing for this grant. Counties such as Fulton and Oswego also were included.
The vision for this initiative is to join the community and have a real focus on the future. Bearcroft says that with the DRI, the downtown area of Amsterdam could turn as popular as Schenectady or Saratoga. Since the project is in its infancy, lots and buildings are still relatively inexpensive. Bearcroft says that businesses are already calling to fill the spaces since they see that Amsterdam could soon be a popular destination for people from neighboring counties.
There are fifteen projects total that are part of the DRI, the least expensive costing $50,000 and the most expensive costing around $1,800,000. While the state grant was for 10 million dollars, the sum of “all the projects will cost around 20 to 30 million”, according to Bearcroft. The projects range from downtown reconstruction to the creation and restoration of new facilities. Some of the projects include the creation of a community dog park, renovating and expanding the Amsterdam Free Library, the creation of community and recreation centers, the renovation of the southside’s Sweet Canal store, and overall creating the southside into a “vibrant, walkable community”. One area that will not be taken on by the DRI is the use of the Riverfront center. This is due to the fact that it is privately owned and no known companies yet have an interest in purchasing the building.
Planning for the DRI is already in place and the projects are slowly coming into motion. The timeframe for all the projects is expected to take about two years. The short timeframe is in place to allow all the projects to have a larger impact on the people in and around the community. According to Bearcroft, “All the projects for the DRI have a strict timeline, the governor wants them completed within two years… with the exception of the rec center which should take about 3 years to complete.” The DRI is expected to increase tourism to Amsterdam, help small businesses, and repurpose empty lots and abandoned/rundown buildings. The downtown revitalization initiative is part of a larger step towards Amsterdam’s future.