Concerned with the condition of the former HSBC Bank building downtown, codes officials are working with the California-based owner to arrange an interior inspection.
If the owners prohibit that, codes likely will issue a court order that could lead to the building’s demolition.This does not bode well for Downtown Utica.
The building's bright white marble facade is replicated on another building's facade facing the little Ellen Hanna sculpture garden across Seneca Street. The public area created in between at the former southern end of Seneca Street, with its seating and stone checkerboard tables, is a place for office workers to relax and socialize during breaks. The HSBC Building and the public area together create a uniquely urban space that you won't find in the suburbs.
One would think that the pleasant public space on the Seneca Street side and the ample parking area on the west side should make the HSBC Building prime office space. . . but the building sits vacant. Why?
No one is answering that question. . . . or even seems interested in answering that question.
If the building must be demolished, the property has at least one interested developer: the city.
Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Randy Soggs said it could play into the city’s recently refocused vision for downtown parking, which now includes plans for surface lots instead of a parking garage.
“We need some more downtown parking,” he said. “If that building has to come down, there may be a way we can accomplish that at the same time as dealing with a potentially unsafe structure.”
The landmark City Center Building near by is also vacant, as is the first floor of the former Neisners Department Store next to the State Office Building. Both have had a lot of money poured into them. City Center has been given an expensive marble facade. Neisners has been given an arcaded front with unique curved display windows extending into the arcade. Why are there no tenants?
While parking may be an issue for City Center and Neisners with both being on the east side of Genesee, it is NOT an issue for HSBC which has a large parking area next door. Yet all are vacant.
The fact that city officials find an opportunity for a parking lot in a landmark facing the wrecking ball is downright scary. What happened to the Renaissance City?
Instead of seeing another opportunity for parking, city officials need to see an opportunity for introspection. They need to answer the question why prime office space having ample parking has not attracted tenants. Only then will they have a clue on what to do with Downtown Utica.