Will Utica renew Handshake City's lease come June?

Handshake City was a vacant, overrun lot on the west side of the North Genesee Street bridge.

Posted: Feb 15, 2019 5:58 PM

UTICA, N.Y. -- Not-for-profit 'Handshake City" wants to keep holding events like 'Barks & Brews' and 'Downtown Getdown' from that vacant lot they spruced up next to the Genesee Street bridge in Utica. But their lease is up in June, and it looks like the city might not renew it.

Those events, as well as ‘Book Jam’ and ‘Meatball Sunday’ are events Handshake City brought to the lot during much warmer months. They have even more planned this summer, if they can stay.

Handshake City was a vacant, overrun lot on the west side of the North Genesee Street bridge. But the not for profit cleared the blight and put something there.

"We can put multiple vendors in them on small, flexible daily rates, so they don't commit to a long-term lease in downtown, but they get the exposure in downtown while promoting their business,” said Justin Parkinson, with Handshake City.

It's an urban greenspace where bands might play, or vendors display their goods

"You would use Handshake as something to step you into a larger building, perhaps, or move you into being a more recognized business so you're getting your insurance in line, your permits are in line,” Parkinson said.

Their one-year lease is up June 7, but they asked the city to extend it

"Because of other initiatives, that fit the long-term vision that the city has for that site, I responded that I thought it would be unlikely,” said Utica Urban and Economic Development Chair Brian Thomas.

The initiatives include retail development and parking.

“Very few of the properties have their own dedicated parking, so parking is an issue,” Thomas said.

But the handshake city team says, they could work with that. And hope the city will be amenable

"Our plan calls for 50-60 parking spots over a three-year phase. So we're totally open with parking, we just want to be considered to occupy the space alongside the parking, because parking would be beneficial to us, too,” said Parkinson.

Sounds like an impasse, but a sit-down is brewing between the two, for next week.

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