I’m going to be honest… if there is one city I have visited that had almost no sign of new growth or community revitalization effort, it’s Amsterdam, New York. While I truly enjoyed my visit to this little city, the absence of even a trendy coffee shop or a micro-brewery really painted a picture of a city that was still asleep after the long-winded assault of 1960s and 1970s urban renewal and a loss of manufacturing jobs.
And to be clear, I’m not implying that urban revitalization has to be started, fueled or maintained by the aforementioned and potentially gentrifying additives. But those are typically the first whispers of a community that is ready to reconnect with their urbanity.
The bones were there, ready for the invigoration or outside vision… and money. It’s always about the money, like it or not. Maybe money’s not the right word… let’s say investment.
Yes, the city made an ambitious and wonderful effort to re-energize a sense of local pride by building Riverlink Park, but while this project is an important step, it is the spark that stokes the fire of human scale private investment.
Enter Hudson, New York. A short distance north of the congested reality of New York City, Hudson is New York State’s 3rd most traveled Amtrak station… not bad for a community of under 10,000 residents. Like Amsterdam, Hudson was once a shadow of its former self. Then New York City artists, fleeing from rising studio prices, moved into to the sleepy town and set up shop. The restaurants, bars and nightlife followed. Now it’s a livable slice of micro-urban in the middle of the countryside, perfect for NYC escapees who have made it their home and the visiting tourist alike.
Hudson is an hour-and-change closer to the Big Apple than Amsterdam, but as the event horizon of investment that is being displaced by the almost unapproachable price tag of development in NYC spills outward from The Big Apple, smaller communities with convenient rail access will likely be the beneficiaries.
As scary as this may be for urban-lite communities like Amsterdam, keep in mind that the people who want to invest in a ground floor urban community are looking to do what small cities do best… cater to a strong urban core while maintaining approachable access to nature and the slower pace of micro-urban reality. The flexibility of smaller and more approachable urban cores will no doubt be a heightened commodity in a post-Covid-19 world.
Amsterdam has seriously struggled. But welcoming NYC investment with regard to micro-urban infrastructure may be what this former economically successful city needs to take the next steps forward. While my first and only trip to Amsterdam unveiled very little investment in a resilient future, I see the prospect of ground-floor development from New York City investors looking to create a positive and progressive vibe on a blank slate that is the future of this small city. Like Hudson, NY, Amsterdam has the bones to become the next approachable, human scale urban paradise in Upstate New York.