By C. Harris-Lockwood
Given all of the social misery and conflict surrounding the proposed construction of a hospital in the Columbia Lafayette district or CoLa, there has yet to be a comprehensive plan offered to replace the admitted blight between the many up and running businesses, some which have been in business for over 100 years.
People should consider that the both Landmarc Building and the Adirondack Building were once on the demolition list. Take a good look at both of those buildings now home to numerous corporations, spacious and upscale loft apartments and one of the hottest restaurants in the Northeast.
This should give many-pause to wipe out the last remaining developable and walkable sections of Utica’s Downtown.
Listed here is a partial projection I envision for the redevelopment of the area.
Grocery Store – Utica is without a downtown grocer. It must be an inconvenience for loft-dwellers lured to live in a ‘walkable downtown’ to have to go all of the way Uptown or to North Utica for grocery shopping.
100 years ago, in 1918, what is now the remnant of the dilapidated Norm Seakan Appliance Center was the opening of the upscale and storied Berger’s Department Store.
There are people who will drive to Syracuse to go to a Wegman’s Grocery. How about a Wegman’s or a Whole Foods, a Trader Joe’s or even a Price Chopper in place of the Seakan building?
Why doesn’t the City of Utica U&ED or MVEDGE seek out the proper corporate channels to secure the development of an upscale Downtown grocer? There are plenty of people would shoot down Route 12 from up North or shop downtown after work to shop in a fancy downtown grocer instead of the truncated choices at Hannaford’s in Clinton. I know I would.
Drug Store – Along with a grocery store how about situating a Rite Aid, Walgreens or CVS Drug Store and Pharmacy in the CoLa district? There is plenty of space for development there. Working with City Planners and MVEDGE could determine the best location in a walkable downtown district.
As it stands a woman can’t even buy a pair of pantyhose, a comb, shampoo, soap or deodorant downtown. This is not even considering having a prescription filled.
Ice Cream Parlor or Liquor Store– Do these really need an explanation? Either or but both would work.
Health Center – And other than a megastructure hospital downtown, how about a shiny new walk-in primary care clinic provided by MVHS or Basset or Crouse. Downtown residents and inner-city dwellers deserve access to quality medical care in their vicinity.
Veterinary Office- For the many city-dwelling pets, (dogs and cats, ferrets, birds, snakes and animals of all types) one would think that a veterinary office in downtown would be a welcome addition. The last vet’s office was on North Genesee Street originally operated by Doc Sellman, Cornell University ’27.
The operation was taken over by Dr. Frank Mondi sometime in the late 60’s. Dr. Mondi moved his operation to New Hartford opening the New Hartford Animal Hospital.
If my memory serves me correctly, that location on North Genesee Street was also the original home of the Humane Society.
Recovery Center for Women – At this time of crisis of Opioid and other addictions, there are plenty of recovery centers for men but, there is a dearth of recovery centers for women.
Very recently, NBC news featured a story about the Women’s Treatment Center in Chicago, a highly successful program for women in recovery. A big part of the success is that the children remain with their mothers. The children are an incentive for their moms to succeed. We could use one here in Central NY.
Among other things, mothers receive parenting, cooking and nutrition classes while they attend their group and therapy sessions on their way to full lives in recovery.
While the American Opioid crisis continues to claim the lives of countless men and women, only the Addiction Crisis Center receives women in active addiction in Oneida County. The Insight House and Catholic Charity’s 1616 are the only facilities for women and their children are not part of the process.
The Salvation Army operates their very successful Thrift Store in the former Chicago Market Grocery Store. In the not too distant past, the Army provided addiction and recovery services for men across the street.
They could reclaim their previous lot ownership and construct a facility for women in recovery and their children across from their very lucrative Salvation Army Outlet store.
The closest facility for women in recovery is the Salvation Army in Syracuse which maintains a few beds for women in their program.
Relocate the Turning Point Church-Devin Garramone has the intention of opening a bistro or Jazz club at 328 Columbia St. Currently, a prohibition exists for serving alcohol within 500 ft. of a church and the Turning Point Church is right next door.
This involves the transfer of the former St. George’s Church to the Turning Point Church for their sanctuary. The adjacent property, the former John Bosco House, would become the culinary training facility that the pastor has plans to develop.
This development would free the current church space for replacement with a retail dress shop or hobby shop or gun shop or cheese shop or consignment store next to Garramone’s bistro.
Craft Store or Leather Shop – Crafts, art supplies, costumes and leather work remain activities plenty of people participate in. Such an enterprise could be considered.
A Burger Joint – A friend of mine recently relocated to North Utica and had a friend come to visit. They were walking, then driving around looking for a place to get a good burger, not a pizza, not a sub, they wanted a big juicy burger. We could use a burger joint.
Reopen the Columbia – Once the entrance to the Varrick Street District, this bar once was home to live music and some good old-fashioned bar fare. There are apartments above to add to the district’s population and character.
So, there you have it. To those who insist that the blight is impervious to all but the bulldozer, ask the woman looking for pantyhose or lipstick, the visitor looking for a burger, the shopper looking for fresh fish, the health nut looking for Vitamin C, the pup with the mangled paw, the resident with the splitting headache, the music lover looking for an evening of cool Jazz, or any of the other possibilities I have mentioned. Then come up with your own!