Friday, June 05, 2009

Highrise "Living?"

Six-story Utica apartment building planned for downtown

WOW! The headline suggested Utica may be coming back. Then I read the story . . .
"The construction of a six-story, roughly $10 million downtown apartment building is among a series of ambitious projects the Utica Municipal Housing Authority plans to undertake soon, officials from the agency said.. . . "
Another government-paid-for project! That's sort of like buying self-esteem, isn't it? The city cannot get private investors to do this, so it gets the taxpayers to do it instead. Oh, I know, these are Federal Dollars rather than local, but we pay for them anyway.
"It would include both subsidized and market rate apartments."
That sounds like public housing! The city just spent millions to bulldoze (rather than renovate) another public housing project, Washington Courts, only a few blocks away . . . Now it wants to build more public housing? I would like to think that city officials learned a lesson from what they already did: that doing away with Washington Courts killed the market for a downtown drug store which everyone now misses. . . But somehow I don't think that even played a role.
"The building would be built on top of the Kennedy parking garage near City Hall."
Now THAT REALLY got my attention. Maybe my memory is failing (so someone please correct me if I'm wrong), but weren't we told during the last administration at about the time that Utica National was looking to locate some offices Downtown that the Kennedy Parking Garage could not support a structure on top? I remember that it was designed back in the 1960s to support an office tower -- a six story tower at that. I thought we were told that the existing structure had deteriorated over the years and could no longer support a tower?

Anyway, assuming the structure is sound, why the change in use from office to apartments? There is a huge municipal housing development already there, right next door. It seems to be too much of one use in the same location. Also, how many people would want to actually LIVE RIGHT ON THE City Hall Plaza where numerous public events are held? I might enjoy the symphony from my balcony, but I wouldn't want to be subjected to heavy metal if I want to go to bed early. The original intent was for an office building, and that would seem to be the best use for the site.

But, of course, there would be no Federal Dollars for an office structure, now would there?
So I guess area residents will just have to put up with a misplaced use that will detract from, rather than enhance, both the City Hall Plaza and the residential structure itself.

Where is the Master Plan in all this nonsense, anyway?

To me, this is just more of the Same Old, Same Old around here -- a grab at some Federal Money -- which will make some individuals rich . . . but saddle the public with something that is not going to work very well.


Anonymous said...

Pretty good take on the situation, Strike. I hadn't known about the history of the parking garage, and you do make some good points.

I am kind of conflicted on it. I agree that office space/building would be desirable. But how realistic is it? I was totally against tearing down Washington Courts. All that did was ruin West Utica and displace people that actually liked living in MH.

I think MH has its place and is functional. However, you are right to question it being placed right next to City Hall, on a spot that can be marketed to private industry. Unfortunately, the fact that Washington Courts sits empty still, shows that we have NO ONE capable of marketing our city. How Utica National was lured here is still a mystery, and a credit to those involved (NOT EDGE).

Stay on this one. I'd like to hear more about your thoughts on development in Utica, its history and your ideas for the future.


Anonymous said...

Had you ever been inside Washington Courts to see all the damage that was done to the building. It was so horible that the only thing was to demolish it. Ironically most of the tenants moved to Kennedy Plaza Apartments which is not owned by the Municipal Housing Authority, it's privately owned just like the other three multi storied apartments in downtown Utica. They are rent subsidized through Sec 8, which is having problems of there own.

I think the MHA is moving into a newer concept of housing. This seems to have emerged from Hope 6.I hear many people say that apartments are very expensive in Utica, considering the many low paying jobs in the City. This would answer that question and at the same time do what the City can't afford to do namly build affordable apartments in the downtown area. I have ofter thought that Hotel Utica should remodel some of its floors into one and two bedroom apartments. Oh and by the way the majority of sales going out of Rite Aid downtown was beer and cigerettes.I know the market value for one bedroom apartments in one building is $600/mounth.
I do, however, remember reading that the Kennedy Garage might not be able to with hold a six story structure---but I guess the engineers know more about that now, otherwise it wouldn't be logical to proceed with the MHA project.

clipper said...

the demise of Washington Courts was a perfect example of our Federal Governments ultimate wisdom. Although many of the residents were very happy and content living where they lived, the government decided that they could not exist there because there was no grocery store close by (one of several justifying reasons for tearing down W.C.)

They tore down the projects on Whitesboro St, and it signed the death warrant of a small grocery, and most likely had a huge impact on the entire Liberty St area of the city, as well as on the customer base of some of the downtown sub shops, and coffee shops, etc.

There are many, many, properties in the downtown area that could be turned into low income as well as market rate apartments, without building another misconceived, government subsidized, white elephant downtown.

I would rather see the city put housing on the upper floors of the Harza building, or one of the other existing high rises in the inner city, than for them to waste money on a new building.

The Hotel Utica has the upper floors unused. Subsidize housing there, and keep all our ill fated tax dollars under one roof. We pretty much support the damn place anyhow. It amazes me that the owners of the hotel have not delved into the possibilty of apartments on the upper floors long ago.

Greens and Beans said...

I really like the idea of having additional residents living in the downtown Utica area. The project would most likely add, as well as enhance downtown businesses. It may even raise property values as vacant office space becomes reoccupied. However, this begs the question on how a six story apartment building would impact the already inadequate parking situation that exists in downtown Utica? Perhaps this could accelerate construction on the proposed Charlotte Street parking facility. Despite the minor parking hiccup, this project can be a good project well worth the investment of tax dollars. This could be a worthwhile project in terms of augmenting the resurrection of downtown as again being the nucleus of activity for the City of Utica. We can only hope that this is not one of those infamous MHA pipe dreams they seem so good at promoting only to see them fizzle out as time passes.

Next, Utica needs to get its act together regarding the making of the Utica North/South Arterial into the astatically pleasing and pedestrian friendly parkway. The East/West Memorial Parkway could be extended over Burrstone Road to meet the new North/South General Casmir Parkway. This could turn the corner to usher in a Twenty-First Century City of Utica Renaissance.