Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you're downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything's waiting for you
- "Downtown," composed by Tony Hatch; recorded by Petula Clark, 1964
Perhaps it's not Petula's downtown, but anyone who doubts that Utica's lights aren't shining brightly needs to pay it a visit.
Everything's waiting for you.
Don't go on a weekend. Go during the week. That's when the music of the traffic in the city is at full volume. Jackhammers pounding. Bulldozers groaning. Hard-hatted men and women fitting new pieces into a puzzle that is beginning to take form.
Not in many, many years has there been so much going on in the center city. Whether it be loft apartments being created in the massive Doyle and Jeffrey hardware buildings or renovations being done to landmarks like the Hotel Utica, New Century Club, Memorial Auditorium or Bank of Utica, the city is being redesigned. And it looks darn good.
Check it out:
- Hotel Utica is getting a facelift inside and out as it becomes part of the Doubletree by Hilton hotel chain.
- After flopping under a previous owner who declared bankruptcy, the Doyle Hardware building at 330 Main St. in Bagg's Square East was sold to Doyle Hardware LLC for $1.1 million in May 2016. Developer Jeffrey Foster and his company, Summit Commercial Real Estate Group in Syracuse, are in the midst of renovating it into commercial and residential space.
- Not far away, Rick Manzardo, president of the Vecino Group of Springfield, Missouri, has crews developing another former hardware building - Jeffrey Hardware, a 60,000-square-foot facility at 327-333 Bleecker St. - into 49 apartments.
- The 22,000-square-foot building at 171 Genesee St. that once housed the Utica Catholic Book Store was purchased in 2015 and has been renovated by Christine Martin, president of FosterMartin Inc., an interactive marketing agency in the city, and C. Edward Schmidt. The building also consists of FosterMartin’s production studio, a VIP suite for brides, event spaces and a larger space for weddings and corporate events. The Leatherstocking Ballet, a nonprofit regional dance company, is on the third floor. In the bookstore space, Christine’s Cookie Shoppe, a high-end cookie and catering business, recently opened. Now, Martin is targeting another purchase - the former Rite Aid building next door at 167 Genesee St. - and in June announced that she hopes to include a Jimmy John’s, a national sandwich chain based in Illinois, in the plans for redevelopment.
- Next door, Utica College operates its downtown campus - a business program - in the Clark City Center, the former Harza building at 175-183 Genesee St.
- Ocean Blue restaurant in the Landmarc building is a destination. What an incredible view from the deck.
- Bagg's Square West continues to develop. The latest addition: Renovations continue at 96-98 Genesee St., a historic building owned by Vincent Ficchi. It's a building that was the site of what’s referred to as “The Utica Rescue.” On Dec. 29, 1836, two black men accused of being escaped slaves were caught and turned over to Judge Chester Hayden whose law office was here. Two abolitionists demanded that the men receive a legal hearing, and Hayden agreed, locking them up to await his return. Meanwhile, a group of blacks, armed with clubs, broke into the building and rescued the imprisoned men.
- Crews are busy renovating the New Century Club at 253 Genesee St. that could include building out the interior based on tenant commitments, and there have been conversations with several parties such as law firms, an insurance company and an education center. In January, Utica was slated to get $1 million in state funding to help it rehabilitate that building and the former Security Building at 120-126 Bleecker St. Both buildings were purchased by Syracuse-based Bowers Development LLC.
- The Utica Memorial Auditorium is undergoing vast expansion, adding a 21,000-square-foot addition that will include new women's bathrooms, office space for Utica Comets staff, six executive suites with their own bathroom and kitchen facilities, furniture and a high-definition television. Each will have an unobstructed view of the ice. Also, there will be loge or club box seating with capacity for 50 people for group events, expanded locker rooms for visiting teams, upgrading the building's fire alarms and sprinklers, and a new elevator and other improvements to help meet Americans with Disabilities Act. The work is expected to be completed by Friday, Oct. 20.
- Utica's iconic Bank of Utica at 222 Genesee St. has undergone extensive renovation inside and out, redefining the downtown skyline with its glass-enclosed exterior clock tower, symbolizing that of the original City Hall that once was located where the bank’s drive-thru is now.
- Cooperstown-based Bassett Health Network has been renovating the former M&T Bank office building at 231 Genesee St., next to the historic Gold Dome, in order to locate an operational support center at the site. Approximately 125 employees are expected to be working there over the next few years, officials have reported.
- Businesses throughout the heart of downtown have gotten facelifts. A strip along Bleecker Street has been completely renovated with new facades and interior work. So have many shops along Genesee Street.
There's plenty more. Several blocks from downtown in the city's Brewery District the Irish Cultural Center is rising. And nearby, The Sanctuary has added to the district's mix of nightspots providing visitors yet another option as that area continues to evolve.
Things are happening. They're happening because dreamers like Lynne Mishalanie, whose long-running Utica Monday Nite lit a fuse, helped people believe in downtown again; because cooperative political leadership at all levels became a catalyst for a positive energy that breathed life into entertainment venues like the Stanley Center for the Arts and Utica Memorial Auditorium; because people - old timers and newcomers alike - believe in their city and that things can happen here.
Don't be left out. Go see it for yourself.