Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Where is Utica's NYS-Sponsored Business Campus?

If you've traveled to Albany to do business with the State, chances are at one time or another you found yourself on what is called the "Harriman Campus" -- an area of spaced out state office buildings in the western part of the city. Those buildings have become old and the campus has become old. But as the Albany Business Journal points out, things are changing:

State releases Columbia Development plans for Harriman campus
The state is targeting 140 of the Harriman campus’ 330 acres for redevelopment; the remainder will continue to be used by state agencies that employ 7,300 people.
Among the redevelopment plans:

• up to 700,000 square feet of new private-sector office space and R&D facilities, along with renovations to existing campus buildings for private-sector tenants

• a hotel with at least 110 rooms, a restaurant and banquet facility and up to 40,000 square feet of meeting and conference space. The site would have room for an expansion adding up to 90 more rooms and up to a 50 percent increase in meeting space.

• 80 to 100 units of upscale townhouses and condominiums

• 20 acres to be sold to the University at Albany

• two locations for retail stores

Utica has a "state campus" of aging buildings of sorts in West Utica: The old Utica (now Central New York) Psychiatric Center.

At one time this campus was a major jobs center - - - and it anchored the entire West Utica neighborhood. However, following deinstitutionalization of many patients there, many jobs evaporated. In a mini-version of urban sprawl, large older buildings became abandoned while smaller buildings (with fewer jobs) were constructed on vacant parcels.

But the campus in general looks like a disaster. Buildings have broken windows or are boarded up. The multistory imposing Brigham Building sits vacant, deteriorating. And all this has had a direct impact on West Utica. The neighborhood now looks like the state campus. . . . deteriorating.

The city has sat idly by for 30 years while this went on. That has to change. And the state needs to clean up its act.

If the state can come up with a plan for mixing private facilities with the state facilities in Albany it can do the same here. The Brigham Building looks like it could be reused. . . . offices? nursing home? condos? Some of the other buildings have interesting architectural details and may be reusable as well. And there is a lot of vacant land.

Redevelopment of the Utica Psych campus could return jobs to the neighborhood and stabilize it.

But Utica must demand it.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Utica's leaders demand nothing more than what they deserve. Our Mayor is too busy driving to Albany to kiss-up to Silver, etc. and thinks that these guys actually take him serious.

It is people like him and Destito that give SNL the impression they have of us. Say what you want about Hanna, but at least he wasn't afraid to go down there and start some trouble if he felt we weren't getting what we deserved.

Greens and Beans said...

Strikeslip you wrote that “Redevelopment of the Utica Psych campus could return jobs to the neighborhood and stabilize it. But Utica must demand it.” Absolutely correct!

The absence of outrage is deafening. Pressure should be placed on the State of New York emanating from the residents first. The first calls should be made to the City of Utica Common Council Members, then to the Mayor’s office, then to the NYS Assemblywoman’s office, then to the NYS Senator’s office, then to the NYS Governor’s office, and finally to the U.S. Congressman and both U.S. Senator’s offices. Then, after compiling the various responses – or those who opted not to respond – a press conference should be called and/or an informational picket should be conducted to wake up the area’s sleeping media giant. Being an election year, the timing can be optimized now to get the all of the aspiring political candidate’s attention.

I will not bore the readers with the plethora of opportunities that this campus could be used for, but before any government or taxpayer subsidized nonprofit agency were to build or relocate their facility, this campus should be prepared for occupancy first. But it takes public pressure before any politician will attempt to help their constituents. The simple fact of the matter is that the politicians receive their paychecks weather they do anything or not.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Utica doesn't have any real representation in Albany. Both Destito & Griffo are from Rome. If by some miracle those 2 would leave office, then maybe Uticans could elect someone from the city who would actually look out for the city's best interests. Sadly, the above scenario is unlikely. Those 2 are entrenched lifetime politicians. How many times is Utica going to get screwed before the voters wake up?

Anonymous said...

Where are our state reps? Has not this been an issue for a very long time? Does the area deserve at least an answer of whether or not anything will be accomplished? Are the City's Mayor and development director involved in an effort to recieve one? Does the OD rate this as an issue at all or is the downtown their only concern and priority for Utica?

Anonymous said...

Now from the left coast comes this comment-

Well, why not turn the campus into some kind of useful educational facility/outreach center. I've heard that urban gardens are becoming popular in the city - plenty of empty lots- so why not turn it into an urban farm institute- probably the first in the country.

The institute could have demonstration gardens, classrooms etc. Probably one of the first in the country if you act soon. Could be a tool in organizing creative re-use of all that empty real estate.

Anonymous said...

Although I find the hippie suggestion to be cute, quaint, and trite... I just have to ask this: Where is the money going to come from to turn it into an "educational facility/outreach center" or "urban farm institute?"

The nation is in a recession, and Utica is even worse off compared to the rest of the union. NYS has extremely high-falutin' mandates and regulations for doing that kind of stuff, and just getting a certificate of occupancy would be orders of magnitudes more expensive than purchasing the building/campus itself. Just paying for the heat would be cost prohibitive since we have the some of the most expensive hydro and heating fuel rates in the nation, not to mention we use more of the power because of how horribly cold it gets here.

The government can't afford it. The community can't afford it. The owners can't just give it away... it would be fiscally irresponsible, no matter how much money the owners already have in their bank accounts.

Not to mention the facilities would be a rotting piece of garbage even with an "electric boogaloo 2" kind of effort put into it. This isn't California, Mr. Free Waterfall Jr. We don't have your weather. We don't have your people. We don't have the bleeding-edge avant-garde attitude in power over here. We definitely don't have the money.

Maybe you might want to check someplace cheaper to operate... You know, places where people can actually get jobs, have a lower cost of living than Utica, not pay an exorbitant amount in taxes, and have the spare change to throw at such a ludicrous project? My suggestion would be to start in Austin or Denver...