UTICA — "Transformative" is the word some have used to describe how Utica’s Harbor Point project will affect the city and the surrounding region.

On Tuesday, project leaders expressed this to about 15 developers from across the state and a number of local bankers, inviting them to help bring their vision to reality.

A project overview and a bus tour of the city and Harbor Point were part of a developer’s forum hosted Tuesday at Aqua Vino restaurant. The Harbor Point project is a multimillion-dollar effort to redevelop the waterfront for mixed-use purposes, including residential spaces, restaurants, retail outlets, recreational facilities and commercial businesses.

“I’m happy with our timeframe,” said Vincent Gilroy Jr., chairman of the Utica Harbor Point Development Corp. “All this stuff is really going to accelerate from here forward.”

The state Canal Corp. is relocating operations of a dredge spoils area out of the project site, with plans to transfer ownership of that land for the project.

At this point, Gilroy said the Utica Harbor Point Development Corp. is working with the State Historic Preservation Office to tear down a few nearby buildings. The structures do not have any historical significance, Gilroy said, but the agency needs state approval due to their affiliation with the Erie Canal.

Gilroy said road construction work and filling the site likely will begin next year. Crews then will have to let the site settle for about a year, allowing developers to break ground on any construction in 2019.

To facilitate that timeline, Gilroy said project developers to date already have completed a generic environmental impact study in testing the soil, air quality and other environmental components. He said this will expedite the process involved with a state Environmental Quality Review.

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, one of the speakers during Tuesday's event, touted the Harbor Point project as “beyond shovel-ready.”

Seeing Harbor Point as “the jewel” that will elevate the Mohawk Valley region, Palmieri said his vision for the project includes an indoor water park, a conference center, a state-of-the-art baseball facility and tournament-quality soccer fields.

“I think what you’re seeing for the first time in my history is a city that is transforming into an area where, as I say, it would be the best little city in America," he said. "What I mean by best little city is that you can go to New York, Chicago, Miami — all these larger cities — but you don’t have that community feel. Utica gives you that.”

During Tuesday’s opening remarks, Brian Stratton, director of canals for the Canal Corp., said Utica’s project is among several other development initiatives along the Erie Canal. Specifically, Stratton spoke to two current developments: a $480 million waterfront development project in Schenectady and a $350 million project re-envisioning Syracuse’s Inner Harbor.

Utica’s project, he said, is a priority project for funding through the $50 million awarded in 2015 through the state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative, while $6.7 million has been committed since 2011 through the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council awards.

“Today, it’s a new opportunity, and we’re seeing this all over the state: People want to be along the water,” he said. “There is capital — there is commitment — to making this project happen.”

Contact reporter Greg Mason at 315-792-5074 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Mason).