I guess a "bird in the hand" is NOT "worth two in the bush."
Ultimately this may turn out good for Utica. Between the noise and traffic of sporting events to the south and railroad tracks with speedy freight trains to the north, the site seemed an unlikely one for "market rate" housing -- and more likely to turn into the subsidized housing that previously occupied the site. That was clearly on the minds of the council members. Chalk one up for some common sense!
That said, the manner in which this unfolded is bad for Utica.
Rick Gefell, Purcell Construction Corp. business development director, said he was “blindsided” by the decision. “We were disappointed,” he said. “We expressed a good-faith proposal and in the 11th hour somebody else came in. There’s not much we can do about it but I guess we just have to wait and see.”The site had been vacant for 10 years, a developer comes in from out of town, spends time and money putting together a proposal for "market rate housing" -- something in which the city had expressed interest and had studies to demonstrate an existing market -- only to discover that "somebody else," unbeknownst to the general public, planned to turn the area into a sports themed district -- a plan that has no discernible details other than "sports," "45 to 60 million dollars," and that it involved that site. (Does anyone see a pattern here?) And that vague plan by "somebody else" became the basis for the Council to reject the developer's proposal.
Prospective developers are sent the wrong message: "Beware, in Utica, the city's planning is done by those with an 'inside track'" -- in this case, the sports proponents.
Now at least one of the developers vying for the site is going to leave Utica on a sour note, because their time was wasted. . . . and others (especially outsiders who might bring in some new ideas) will be discouraged.
This sort of "insider trading" had been a staple of Utica for years: no wonder why people avoided Utica for so long . . . and just as interest finally picks up . . . this happens.
Utica needs to get its act together. The fact that a sports facility can compete with a housing complex for the same parcel of land is crazy -- and demonstrates the unfinished nature of Utica's Master Plan.
It's time to finish the work of the Master Plan, and create a specific enough vision that both developers and the public can understand. No more wasted efforts. No more surprises.
Maybe then Utica will receive the PRIVATE investment it both wants and deserves.