A Tale of Two Developers

It was interesting to hear about how the Key Bank building is going to be converted into a mixed use building. From the Recorder:

The former KeyBank building at 29 East Main St. is proposed to be renovated by Cranesville Properties, LLC. Joseph Tesiero, property manager, said the company’s plan is to have four upscale one- to two-bedroom apartments per floor from the third to eighth floors. The second floor could be used to develop a townhouse. The first floor, Tesiero said is planned to house a microbrewery that would serve alcohol on-site.

I thought this was interesting in light of the Chalmers fiasco so let’s take a look at the two projects.

Chalmers versus Key Bank Development

Chalmers versus Key Bank Development

Fascinating, isn’t it?

With Chalmers we get all kinds of political pushback; all kinds of uproar about how such a project will never , ever work in Amsterdam; all kinds of absolute certainty from the local media — newspapers and radio– on how it is a boondoggle and how dare a developer take public money to fund private development to — gasp– make profits. And of course, as it is Amsterdam, rumors, innuendos and blatant lies on the project as a whole to discredit it fueled , again, by our local media and amplified by the abundant naysayers and doubters and do-nothings.

Fascinating that none of the Chalmers demolitionists and sages of economic development are not vocally discrediting this effort, especially our local media pundits who pulled no punches in discrediting such development in the city.

Of course, Chalmers required demolition and as there is no higher or no more noble goal than demolishing stuff, I should be hardly surprised that this might be a factor. You know, better to knock something down than take a chance on a $20 to $30 million residential development. But still, the projects overall have very much in common, yet the community responses differ so wildly.

So come on guys and gals, why so mum on Key Bank repurposing?

The Thing That Will Never Happen Keeps on Happening

Remember how the local sages of economics and marketing railed against the notion that Chalmers could ever hope to achieve rents above $1000 per month? Remember their mantra: no one will pay more than $1000; no one will live in a high rent apartment when you can buy a house for $30,000; no one wants to live in Amsterdam; and no one … yadda yadda yadda.

Well, here we go yet again with market evidence that rents exceeding well above $1000 are viable: 

It is the final step before town planners vote on the proposal, which includes the construction of four townhouse-style buildings — two 12-unit buildings and two eight-unit buildings — with attached garages for residents ages 55 or older. Each unit would be two-bedrooms, around 1,125 square feet, and would be rented at a cost of around $1,200 a month.

Just remember the lesson here kids if you live in the city: If something is possible, convince yourself that it is not before you might find out that it is possible. And kids, remember that it’s a tragedy indeed to achieve success, but a blessing to fail by not even trying. And if it is someone else’s success, make sure you do your best to make them fail because you only achieve success by assuring the failure of others. And most importantly, always strive to do nothing as you might just succeed by doing something.

The best part is that our esteemed local ‘sages’ with such wonderful insights and lessons for us all still get a platform and still get to drive policy here instead of being relegated to roles well outside the sphere of economic development and community planning.




The Thing That Never Ever Could Ever Happen Here Happens Everywhere Else Except , of Course, Here

And the Chalmers demolitionists are proven wholly wrong yet again (from Daily Gazette): 

Downtown living seems to be the wave of the future for a growing population of young adults who are putting off marriage and kids, and consequently, the desire for backyards and suburban life. Cities with well-developed downtowns, such as Saratoga Springs, have been attracting people to live in or at least close to the place where they already work, dine, shop and hang out.[snip]

The townhouse development where Jordan lives consists of eight three-story units with attached single-car garages, 1,300 square feet of living space and rent around $1,500 a month. This is just the first phase in a multiphase development that will eventually include 14 more apartments and 3,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. Maddalone said this phase of the project should kick off in July.

Remember kids: parking lots and wrecking balls , and lawn chairs, are the requisite metrics for successful development here.

But don’t expect our pundit and editorial and “protectors of the taxpayers” classes so keen on demolition and the implausibility of anyone paying more than $1000 a month in rent to face any self-examination or accountability for their utter failure to reposition or repurpose the city. While all around us, a number of cities move ahead, we certainly can do anything but. Indeed, the reality here is that if you’re spectacularly wrong on your economic development strategies year after year and decade after decade, you gain influence versus lessening influence.

If you want to know why our taxes are so high and why no development happens here, just read this story.


The Thing That Will Never Ever Happen Happens

As Chalmers taught us, no one will ever pay more than $1000 per month for an apartment in the city. Ridiculous! Who would want a fancy, shmancy apartment with river views for $1000 plus per month.  Ridiculous!

We were schooled that $1000 plus apartments in Amsterdam were NEVER…GOING…TO…HAPPEN because NO ONE WILL EVER PAY MORE THAN $1000 PER MONTH RENT.

But on Wallins Corners, absolutely!

The THing That Will Never Happen in Amsterdam

You see kids, river views are like murals — you just can’t market that.






Pull Up a Lawn Chair

I’m quite baffled at the tone of editorial reaction and commentary by the goings at the Recorder in light of their recent acquisition and attendant management change.

According to the new owners and publisher, they state the following:

Both Kosineski and McClary said readers should be excited for the new, but gradual, changes that will help the newspaper advance to the next level.

“I expect that readers and advertisers will notice positive improvements in the papers very soon and will be pleased as future plans are implemented later this year,” McClary said.

Some changes Kosineski said he wants to make over time are printing a consistently larger paper and in full color. He said he wants to explore upgrading the paper’s overall design. Readers can also look forward to more in-depth reporting and expanded sports coverage.

Given those statements, I’d expect a sternly worded editorial against such expectations — growth, design,  investment, change. Why, there’s even a hint of –gasp–optimism?!

I would think the editors would face the reality that the newspaper industry trend is downward and the very last thing we should do is plan for growth or spend money on investment. Sure, you can change the corporate strategy here but should the editors not advocate for themselves what they preach other entities in decline to do — consolidate, slash costs, ignore design and aesthetic, and decry any efforts centered on technology. Should the editors not warn the new owners , like they editorialize to existing businesses,  that city tax rates may rise and businesses and consumers — the very life blood of their newspaper — will flee?

Of course, my equivalency of the economic environment facing the local newspaper to the economic environment facing the city will be challenged as apples and oranges or perhaps, more aptly, demolition balls and lawn chairs.  I disagree as the dire economic challenges facing the city as a result of significant technology, cultural and economic changes mirror quite closely to the radical changes faced by newspapers.

You see, the very advice administered daily and year-in-year-out to the city administration by the editorial pages of the Recorder — cut costs, forsake growth, consolidate, forsake any new approaches or change, shun the Web and technology, take no risks, and even, believe it or not, even cease to exist as an entity — is suddenly cast aside.

Why can the Recorder — in a state of decline and weakened competitiveness — deem itself worthy of adapting and changing while not granting , and even advocating against, the city from pursuing a similar transformation?

Indeed, the editorial pages took particular delight with the demolition of Chalmers quipping that it was an event worthy of a lawn chair to sit and watch the attendant destruction, not only of the physical but, I daresay, of the very notion of change, optimism and progress. That’s what made it all the more spectacular. What better metaphor to the future of the city as one of ultimate decline and hopelessness with which we are meant to watch , helpless and resigned to its downward spiral. But I guess lawn chairs lose their charm when they encircle your very own building.

I like highlighting Chalmers as it teaches us many things about issues subject to this editorial mindset of cutting versus growing, demolishing versus building, consolidating versus focusing. But ,by no means, is Chalmers the only issue framed in this way as many posts on this blog prove.

I think this lawn chair mindset of do-nothingness, fatalism, passiveness, unimaginativeness, risk-aversion, and on, just needs to stop as it is fundamentally toxic to building anything — whether it is a business or a city.  If the Recorder wants us to believe that strategy, investment, change and technology matter, they should consider extending that courtesy to other entities facing their own challenges who also believe they might have a chance to turn things around.

I wish the new owners and all the Recorder folks well on their new course and for the record, I don’t own any lawn chairs.

Compare and Contrast

I like to revisit the Chalmers saga from time to time for no other reason than to point out the utter wrongheadedness of the Chalmers opponents.

What prompts this post the following from the Business Review story Kaufman gears up to transform iconic Albany Int’l complex

“This is incredible,” said Kaufman, president and CEO of The Harmony Group, which just bought the 400,000-square-foot property for $1.35 million. “You never see a building preserved to this degree.”
Kaufman, who transformed the massive Harmony Mills cotton plant in Cohoes into 231 upscale apartments, is laying the groundwork for a $40 million to $50 million conversion of Albany International into apartments and professional offices.

And look what people in non-12010 zip codes say about such things:

“I think it is wonderful for Menands and the Capital District that Uri can have the imagination and the plans to take what has been an historic building and develop it into something that can be vital, that can make a difference in the area,” said Susan Siegel, a company spokeswoman.

Many questions come to mind reading the above but let me boil it down to 3 key sets of questions:

1) Where is the plan which was to have emerged for developing Chalmers once it was torn down? Where are all the developers and ideas that were sure to burst upon the scene once the site was demolished?

2) In light of the above, why are opponents to Chalmers still voted to hold political office? Or listened to on local radio? Or deemed relevant for policy and decision making?

3) Why does Amsterdam shun outside  investment and ideas? What is the cultural and institutional mindset here that expends tremendous energy working against ideas while expending close to zero energy on working toward an idea.





An Outrageous Affront to Taxpayers

As a taxpayer, I’m outraged at how my tax payer dollars are being used to build what I am sure to be Section 8 housing and sure to be low-income rentals for those people. Here is what prompts my outrage:

mayor announces community development block grant award

The City of Amsterdam has just received HUD Community Development Block Grant Award through the New York State Office of Community Renewal.  This grant, in the amount of $400,000, will be utilized to fund a neighborhood revitalization and housing rehabilitation program is a targeted area in the City bounded by Reid Street, Church Street, James Street and Hibbard Street.

The program will provide grants of up to $25,000 per dwelling unit to rehabilitate income qualified owner-occupied homes in the target area, and up to $12,500 per unit for owners of rental property. Qualified owner-occupants will be eligible for grants of up to 100% of the cost of rehabilitating their homes, whereas rental property owners will be required to fund 50% of the repair costs.  The goals of the program are to eliminate code violations and unsafe housing conditions; eliminate blight; assist elderly, disabled, and low income homeowners; improve energy efficiency of homes; improve the appearance of the neighborhood; stimulate private investment; and keep properties in sound condition and on the city tax rolls.


Did we, the taxpayers, not make ourselves heard loudly enough when HUD wanted to fund repurposing Chalmers? Why do our leaders insist on wasting tax payer dollars on socialist Obama programs like HUD versus just tearing it down? No one wants to live in Amsterdam anyway and who is going to pay to live on James Street when you can live in Clifton Park?

I am outraged as a taxpayer!

None of my questions on this project have been answered: Where is the marketing plan for these rental units? Why do homeowners and investors get to make profit off of HUD dollars– my dollars? Why won’t they admit they will all be Section 8 housing? Why don’t we tear it down — that’s the only answer? Is someone out of town going to use HUD money? Is an out-of-towner going to make a PROFIT!!??

Did you know Mayor Thane is secretly hauling bricks out of the houses and selling them on ebay?

No? Well, that’s what I heard!

And what’s this “improve the appearance of the neighborhood”?! This sounds like Agenda 21 , another Obama socialist program. Why do my tax payer dollars get wasted on beautification? THAT’S THE PEOPLE’S TAX MONEY!

Why don’t we listen to our local pundits who righteously deride any effort to beautify or focus on the brand/image of the city? What’s next: marketing?!


We need to tear it all down and then AIDA and the county will market it and then an awesome industry will move in, and then , um, I don’t know, things will turn around because AIDA and the county are turning things around.


It’s too bad George Amedore is no longer our State Senator because he could have redirected this HUD money to pay for infrastructure projects because solving difficult fiscal challenges to localities is merely redirecting money from projects others fought for and acquired versus actually delivering your own fiscal solutions.

Undoubtedly this is another socialist program where — to paraphrase the Randian economic genius of Paul Ryan and Rand Paul —  I, the maker, have my tax dollars go to the takers on James Street and its environs.

And speaking of takers, I see this will help our elderly — the ultimate takers of social security benefits, Medicaid, and even discounts at local restaurants all at my expense. They’re 95% of the 47% problem.

As a taxpayer, I’m utterly outraged.