A clean slate.
That is what has been afforded to Utica’s Uptown Theatre as its current owner looks to donate the property — once locked in foreclosure with thousands owed against the parcel — to a nonprofit organization.
Theater owner Tracey Mills said Monday that the debt owed on the property at 2012-2018 Genesee St. has been forgiven by M&T Bank, the mortgage company, to allow the donation to move forward.
The nonprofit is Uptown Theatre for Creative Arts, or UTCA. According to a statement from UTCA, the group plans to "revive the theatre as a space for live performances and movie screenings, with a new emphasis on community involvement through collaborative workshops and classes."
The restoration work, according to the UTCA statement, will begin in the coming months. A reopening date has yet to be determined.
“I’m in the process of donating the theater to a nonprofit who plans to open it and revive it,” Mills said. “We will be hopefully closing soon so that they can start doing whatever they need to do on the property.”
Devin Mahoney, a founder of UTCA, said in a statement, "The Uptown is a beloved symbol of Utica's hardworking spirit, and it's so obvious why this place means a lot to so many of us. We just couldn't let it waste away."
Mahoney is a native of South Utica who "has been inspired by the city's revival in recent years," according to the statement.
A spokeswoman from M&T did confirm that Mills has been given a clean slate to move forward with the donation. She declined to comment about the details of the arrangement.
“As a matter of policy, M&T Bank does not comment on the details of customer relationships,” said Julia Berchou, assistant vice president of corporate communications for M&T Bank.
With the restoration, UTCA plans to reach out to architecture firms specializing in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification guidelines and theater design. Further project details were not immediately available.
"The Uptown has evolved with the times as a place to truly experience entertainment," said Briana Mahoney, UTCA co-founder and director of marketing and community outreach, in the statement. "The time has come to bring the experience back to Utica in a big way. We are excited to present our vision to redevelop the Uptown Theatre — another major step toward appreciable change in the uptown business district."
The Uptown, first opened in 1927, has sat empty for the last four years.
The theater showed first-run films and was a venue for the Utica Music and Arts Fest along with other fundraisers and events. After Mills purchased the property in 2007, she made several building improvements, such as renovations to the lobby, the original stage and the backstage area.
At least $400,000, however, was owed against the property to the bank, and a judgment of foreclosure and sale was filed in state Supreme Court in May 2016. The property originally was scheduled for auction that July, but that was postponed.
Mills said she is grateful to the bank for the arrangement, which she said has been in the works since around late November.
“It’s thrilling that they recognize what an asset the Uptown was to the whole community, cancelled the foreclosure and gave me a satisfaction of mortgage so I could proceed with the donation,” Mills said.
Contact reporter Greg Mason at 315-792-5074 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Mason).