Utica considering selling city buildings, moving to new location

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 11, 2019

 The city of Utica is looking to possibly sell the land where its existing city buildings are located and further develop the downtown area. The city already owns the land north of the downtown, with an entrance off Cass Avenue, where it is looking to relocate its buildings. The Fire Department is proposed to be located in the area of Hall Road and Van Dyke Avenue, though there is no specific site proposed for it yet.

The city of Utica is looking to possibly sell the land where its existing city buildings are located and further develop the downtown area. The city already owns the land north of the downtown, with an entrance off Cass Avenue, where it is looking to relocate its buildings. The Fire Department is proposed to be located in the area of Hall Road and Van Dyke Avenue, though there is no specific site proposed for it yet.

Graphic by Jason Clancy

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UTICA  — The city of Utica is considering making a change to the location of its city buildings and selling the present sites of those buildings.

The proposed location that the city is looking at to relocate its buildings is the old packing plant on the north end of Pioneer Park, off Cass Avenue, across from Ruby Street. The entrance would be located off Cass Avenue.

The proposed City Hall, Police Department and library would be located near one another, and the Department of Public Works would be closer to the Clinton River, but still on the property. The Fire Department is proposed to be somewhere near Hall Road and Van Dyke Avenue, but there is not an exact location yet.

The topic of possibly selling the city buildings has been discussed in previous years, along with at recent city meetings.

“We would hire a company to sell our old buildings and a company to build our new buildings,” said Utica Mayor Thom Dionne.

Dionne said selling the buildings would not be a problem, as there are people already looking to make an offer and purchase them. He also said the city is due to get new buildings.

“There comes a time when you need to renovate, and we already have people looking to purchase the properties,” said Dionne. “Once we start developing there, hopefully we can bring more businesses in and make it a more thriving downtown.”

He said it would all depend on what the people of Utica want to see, and they would decide whether it would happen.

“It is up to the people, and it will put these properties on the tax roll, and the city and the residents would get tax money estimated around $100,000 in tax per year, if sold,” Dionne said.

He said the estimated amount that the city buildings would be sold for is not yet known. The current stance on the topic is to get resident input and take steps from there.

“This project would likely require a vote of the people. There are several steps that need to be taken in order to begin a project like this. The first for me would be resident input. I would like to see this project gain legs in the near future, with a goal for a start date of 2020. It could take several months for a project of this size to come to a realization,” said Dionne.

During the time of sale, build and relocation, Dionne said that the city would not face any significant down time for municipal services. The transition would require the moving of equipment and furniture, as with any move, at the conclusion of the project.

After the sale, the city would relocate to the new location at the old packing plant site, which is where buildings would be built with money from the sale.

“The majority of the construction cost of the new municipal buildings would (be paid) by way of the proceeds from selling the current buildings. There are no land acquisition costs, as the city already owns the property where the proposed construction would take place. Separately, the Fire Department would require a location on Van Dyke or Hall Road in order to have the best emergency response. That project would require the purchase of real estate,” said Dionne.

He said the estimated cost to build is not yet determined.

Dionne added that moving the city buildings to the proposed location would not affect traffic flow much.

“A change of traffic flow to the new complex would be likely unnoticeable,” said Dionne.

“The Fire Department, in its current location, is not preferable for the best response, for many reasons. The fire apparatus (vehicles) needed for our city has outgrown the small city streets.”

“We need large fire apparatus, such as a 100-foot ladder truck, to fight fires of multistory structures. That truck is sometimes unable to work its way through the downtown district effectively,” he said.

Dionne said selling the downtown buildings and moving to the new location would improve the lives of Utica’s residents and add to the growth of the city.

“Utica’s city services are exceptional. That’s a common thread among the residents. Replacing the current locations where the municipal buildings exist with new commercial developments will add to the walkability of the downtown district, bring in new growth opportunities, and will enhance the overall appeal of the city.

“Additionally, it will place those new business ventures on the tax roll. The city will benefit from the real estate tax as well as the personal property tax that those new structures will provide,” said Dionne.

Utica City Councilman Brad O’Donnell said that the proposed sale and relocation would benefit Utica and that the city is due for an upgrade.

“If Utica gets a decent price for the land and the new city building locations are in a walkable area, I think it’s a great idea,” O’Donnell said in an email.

“Utica’s current municipal buildings leave much to be desired. If we can replace them with economically productive activity, while at the same time bringing the city into the 21st century, it’s a win-win,” O’Donnell stated.

He said that he would not be for the change if it involves taking away from the residents or taking on new fees.

“The only thing I would oppose is raising taxes or taking on new debt to finance the new buildings. As of right now, that isn’t on the table,” said O’Donnell.

For more information on the possible sale and relocation, call the city of Utica at (586) 739-1600.

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