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Utica Mayor unveils plans to transform downtown

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - After months of planning, Utica's Mayor Robert Palmieri presented his vision to transform the city's downtown Tuesday. The plan includes a complete reconstruction of Genesee Street from Oneida Square to Oriskany Boulevard and calls for more downtown parking. His idea is, if you build, businesses will come.

"I think we are municipal downtown have a lot of service-oriented businesses downtown but as warm as our community is, and we're a very giving community, I think it's time that the downtown reflects that," said Mayor Palmieri.

Together with Utica's Police and Fire Departments, Department of Public Works and Economic Development Council Mayor Palmieri says the city has come up with a plan that will make downtown better for pedestrians and business.

Taking a boulevard approach, Genessee Street would convert from the current 4 lane roadway to 2 lanes with a landscaped median in between, what's expected to enhance foot traffic, bring more street parking and make the streets safer.

The plan also includes bringing in pay stations to move downtown employees from parking on the street to lots and garages.

The city outlined four different lots and parking decks to expand city parking. The surface lots include the HSBC parking lot (which they do not currently own,) the former Horrick-Ibbostson parking lot, the former Big Daddy's parking lot, and a lot on Oriskany Boulevard. The city would also partner with either New York State, Oneida County, or solely build on various plans to bring parking deck(s) to downtown.

"This along with infrastructure and curb appeal, it gives you an overall downtown change, which is a game changer," said Mayor Palmieri.

The city estimates the whole projects to cost about $15 to 16 million with a significant amount of costs underground, separating the city's sanitary and storm sewer lines.

"Instead of overwhelming the plant we'd send the storm water directly to the river (Mohawk River) and the sewage directly to the treatments plant which would decrease the cost of the plant being run unefficiently because they are treating the water that's not suppose to be treated, not necessary to treat and lot of money," said Goran Smiljic, Utica's Deputy Chief Engineer.

This would meet state mandates and reduce the risk of flooding when the plant fills with excess storm water that Smiljic says could could go straight to the Mohawk River.

Utica's infrastructure plan also calls for more downtown living and refurbished office spaces like Black River Systems where Tuesday's press conference was held.

"I think this puts all the pieces together and it solidifies us for the 21st century," said Mayor Palmieri.

The city has applied for both state and federal grants for the project, Mayor Palmieri says he expects to hear back by the end of November.

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