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Local business owner buys Harza building in downtown Utica

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Many have tried and failed to fill downtown Utica's "Harza" building with tenants, returning it to its former glory. City leaders say the largely-vacant building was weeks from the auction block, and potential loss of local control of the downtown landmark.

However, the building has been purchased-and some say rescued-by a successful local businessman who vows to develop it.

Tom Clark owns and operates the local McDonald's Restaurant franchise. He owns the Harza building's neighbor, the Adirondack Bank building and is chairman of the bank's board.

"I would say it's not the city's responsibility, it's my responsibility as a private developer to bring people downtown and then everything will take care of itself. That's the way I see it," says Clark.

Clark paid the city's Industrial Development Agency $250,000 for the building. Whether or not that turns out to be a bargain basement price may depend on whether or not Clark is any more successful than those before him at filling the building with tenants and turning a profit.

The city has said they're 'partnering' with Clark to make his ownership of the building a success. That partnership includes a 'P.I.L.O.T." or, payment in lieu of taxes which allows Clark to pay zero taxes on the building for the first five years he owns it. Mayor Robert Palmieri points out that Clark will have to make a significant investment in the building.

Clark says he's looking at mostly business/professional tenants, such as law offices. He says it could take three to five years to fill the building, but that he has more immediate, easily-implemented ideas in terms of getting tenants in there in the short term.

Parking has historically been a problem and presented a challenge luring tenants. The six-floor building has no dedicated lot. There is some street parking. In addition, Clark says he has the top floor of the nearby former Boston Store for parking, as well.

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