Thursday, April 21, 2016

Utica Will Be A-Maze-ing!

What might a combo sports facility/apartment complex on Whitesboro St. look like? The Catalyst's Facebook page contained the rendering below.  It looks great! The rendering serves its purpose to demonstrate that a sports and apartment complex can co-exist on the same site. BUT there are some troubling aspects to the rendering that, if not fixed, could spell more trouble for the future City of Utica.

The rendering shows more street closures that will make getting in and out of the proposed sports/apartment complex and Baggs Square West difficult. 

The project site can currently be accessed from the heart of Downtown via both Cornelia St. and Broadway. These streets run south all the way to Court St., which is part of a major East-West thoroughfare across town.  Cornelia and Broadway also provide an important visual connection between the project site and Downtown, helpful to both drivers and walkers making their way.  The site can also be reached via Washington and Seneca Sts; however, these streets, which formerly ran to Genesee, have been blocked by the Radisson and Ellen Hanna Park, and now only provide limited connectivity.

The rendering shows that the segment of Cornelia north of Oriskany Blvd will be eliminated, cutting off access to the west end of Whitesboro Street  and the west end of the project site. (Cornelia may also be cut off by the proposed hospital according to renderings of that project).  The north ends of Broadway and Seneca Sts. are being cut off by medians or a park from those streets to the south making access to these areas from the southern direction more difficult. This will reduce access to both the project site and Baggs Square West (which is already difficult to reach because of the N. Genny bridge).

It looks as though planners are depending on Washington St for site access to the south, but it's connectivity only runs to Lafayette -- and the value of that connection gets threatened if the proposed Hospital blocks Lafayette!

Whether the street closures are proposed by the developers, the city, the State DOT, or all of them, they spell trouble. It is as if they are deliberately creating a maze for people to navigate through! 

Utica should be re-connecting its streets, not cutting them off into small isolated segments, if it wants them to be accessible for economic activity.

Will the new Utica be Amazing . . . . or just a maze?

P.S.  Some afterthoughts . . . The connectivity problems on this rendering appear to be easily solvable by closing one block of Charles St., which has limited connectivity, switching buildings "a" with "e" and "f," re-configuring the existing connection between Cornelia and Whitesboro Sts. to give access to the proposed parking garage, and maintaining the existing connections of Broadway and Seneca.

The connectivity problem with the proposed hospital can be similarly improved by designing  the buildings to maintain the current street grid. (This is NOT an endorsement of that project, but it will at least reduce some of its off-site impacts.)

The city should be applauded for trying to make this work -- but wouldn't it have been better to simply lay down some general principles in the Master Plan (like: "maintain the street grid
") and let the developers use THEIR creativity, instead of the government involving itself with the intricacies of a design? The less government needs to be involved, the more developers will be encouraged to come to town. "Freedom" (within an ordered structure) sells!


Greens and Beans said...

I believe that Oneida County taxpayers paid at least hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the former Potter school only to subsequently sell it for one dollar. How much do you think it will cost the taxpayers to purchase it back via emanate domain? Will the new baseball field be replacing Murnane Field? Will all of the commotion from rock concerts, rap concerts and loud tailgate parties interfere with the serenity of having a major hospital across the street? Notwithstanding, the additional flow of traffic could be a major obstacle for emergency access to the hospital. I also wonder if this new plan complies with Utica's "Master Plan?" One can't help but think that Utica would make good fodder for the late Ted Mack.

Brett Truett said...

How about a traffic pattern that helps Utica more fully utilize it's roadways> One that I think give "east-to-west" traffic (and vise versa) an efficient and quick path through downtown

Frank Montecalvo said...

Interesting proposal on your link, Brett ... and it makes sense. Have you been in touch with DOT on their 5S remake? Unlike their series of public hearings on the N-S Arterial, DOT is quiet on 5S. Under the Highway law they should be working with the Common Council from early on (they waited until the last minute on the N-S Arterial, then claimed it was too late to change anything so the Council went along with them). Arterials contributed to the demise of downtowns by removing traffic from the streets where businesses were located (starving them of customers) and forcing it onto highways giving no access to adjacent parcels (or businesses). Before arterials, if traffic got heavy on a street either it would be widened, or a parallel street would be added to carry some of the load. Compare Utica's 1950 comprehensive plan with the 1960 plan and you will see the change in approach.

Brett said...

DOT looked at the concept 10+ years ago upon my first suggestion, not sure of their current thoughts. The DOT seeks a "safety plan" and to make it easier for pedestrian flow, which means narrowing road paths, slowing traffic. That means longer traffic backups. Narrowing, slowing, traffic is not conducive to commerce, probably hurts AUD and the stupid government-back downtown hospital traffic flows too... :-( they have a lot of thinking to do!

Anonymous said...

The point of the compatibility of a hospital and sports complex is worth more discussion. Donavan Field( Murnane) has co existed with Faxton for a very long time. John Elway even hit one into the hospital parking lot. However, if the new complex is to have concerts and the like, problems could be major on many levels. Well, at least those who overdose or drink to a stupor would not have far to travel to get treatment.