Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Utica Plan? Pardon My Skepticism . . .

Because of blight, Utica has erased buildings from large swaths of land left and right. The lack of a city plan discourages redevelopment. (Would you want to build something without knowing what could potentially be placed next door?)

It's about time that the Mayor is finally moving on a plan . . . . but Pardon My Skepticism . . .

1967-0700-138pUrban Renewal Project No. 1 from the '60s immediately comes to mind. It was a grand plan that was going to transform Downtown. Some nice buildings (New City Hall, Kennedy Plaza Apts., Radisson, and parking garages) were constructed -- But these were soon joined by cheap steel shell "pre-fab" buildings that were wholly out of place in the downtown district and lacked character -- and other parts of the project are still vacant after 40 years. What went wrong?

When moving forward on the new plan, let's figure out what went wrong on past failed plans so that mistakes are not repeated.

Another reason for some skepticism here are some of the partnering firms. While Saratoga Associates comes with a compelling portfolio (including a rather nice plan for Amsterdam's South Side - a familiar place to this blogger), the choice of "local consultants" Shumaker Engineering and Paige Marketing raises some concern. Shumaker and Paige were both picked by the Oneida County Sewer District to study and "market" the county's response to its DEC Consent Order. Although Uticans will pay a significant portion, if not most, of their cost on that project, Utica was totally left out in the cold in the selection process. Will these firms be working for Utica . . . or will they be working behind the scenes for the County or New Hartford? Does the Mayor really believe these firms have the best interest of Utica at heart, or is he playing "nice nice" with the county and suburban powers-that-be which, so far, show no understanding of or concern about the hand that they have played in Utica's decline?

Let's be thankful that planning is finally going to take place . . . . and make sure that the process is transparent.


Anonymous said...

Utica definitely needs a plan. Are there no other consulting firms from which to choose except the same old Schumacher and Paige?!

I've been spending some time in Utica, here and there. What a grand old city it was, and full of history and elegant architecture! I hope the city sees a revival.

Anonymous said...

Utica has it backwards. A development plan is only as good as the abilty to carry it out. Utica has neither the competency within City Hall nor the financial resources to lend success to any master plan. The City cannot handle tiny projects such as the former Bossert and Washington Court sites and Woolworths. My goodness, it has been 6 years sense a new parking garage was announced and not a shovel of dirt has been turned! The real need is exactly what is not being done; a plan to restructure government and administrative capabilty starting with a City Manager and a reduction of the Mayor to a ceremonial position.