NEW HARTFORD - The New Hartford Shopping Center has been around since 1955 - but now there's some uncertainty about its future, and some tenants are concerned.
Bill Morris, Jr. says he and his brother Robert have been thinking about the future of this long-standing shopping center. Their 60-year lease with the owners of the property expires in 2029. He has been in talks with the owners, who are based in Milan, Italy, about repurchasing the property.
“My dad built the place in 1956 and sold it in '69. Leased it back for 60 years - and it seems like a long time, but now it is," said Morris.
He is concerned about the future of retail, unlike some of his tenants.
“This is a viable shopping area. People still like to shop,” says Sam Colozzi, owner of Colozzi’s Gifts and Collectibles. “The internet is strong, but people like to shop. They like to come and pick it up, touch it, but the most important thing - social experience."
Just two months ago Morris sent a letter to Mohawk Valley Health System asking them to consider the shopping center as a site for the new hospital.
“We tried to think of tenants that are internet-proof, more than regular bricks and mortar. That’s how the idea of health care and the hospital came to fruition. Knowing that there was a lot of sentiment against putting hospital on Oriskany Street, we thought this has been the best location in the county for the longest time," said Morris.
Morris says MVHS did not respond to him.
“That was a little disturbing. I thought maybe I could get a blow-off letter," said Morris. “You know, what a stupid idea this is, don’t bother me - but I got nothing."
MVHS President and CEO Scott Perra sent NewsChannel 2 a statement on Friday, saying “…the grant stipulates that the project be located in the largest population center in Oneida County, which is the city of Utica. Therefore, it is still not a location that we would consider as the shopping center is in New Hartford."
New Hartford Mayor Donald Ryan says that would only happen if eminent domain were to come into play.
“Eminent domain has been used many ways… but I think you definitely open up to a legal situation, that's for sure," said Ryan.
The future of the New Hartford Shopping Center is pretty secure for at least the next 11 years. But after that, no one knows for sure.