The Mohawk Valley Health System unveiled the site plan for its new hospital in Utica Thursday. The design calls for a nine-story, 670,000 square foot facility with space for 373 beds and an adjacent parking garage. It would be located on 25 acres of land in the city’s downtown, which presents both opportunities and challenges.
Mohawk Valley Health waited two years to secure the state funding it needed to begin the design process. It’s still only halfway complete, but architect Kim Way says that’s a good thing because it allows his firm to continue implementing public input.
“Listening to the community, working with the hospital, civic leaders, coming up with those words that are important about connecting neighborhoods and all of that - that has really been a key component of trying to integrate and address community issues," Way said.
Way says this plan reflects what they have heard from the public, such as a campus walkway outside of the hospital to connect neighborhoods that surround the site and keeping the height of the facility in line or lower than other buildings in downtown Utica. Mohawk Valley Health COO Bob Scholefield says they may even fulfill requests for utilizing some of the historic buildings within the proposed footprint.
“We haven't decided exactly which buildings yet," Scholefield said. "There’s a number of them along Columbia Street that could be considered for reuse. So we’ve been working closely with the county and city planning offices to determine what buildings have that historical value and what buildings we would retain and then internally, we would have to decide could we realistically reuse them for something or would that be an opportunity for additional retail in that particular area."
A vocal opposition group called No Hospital Downtown has adamantly fought the proposed location, saying it will actually wipe away many historical buildings and displace dozens of existing businesses in this footprint. Joe Cerini’s business is one of the 45 properties affected.
“I mean I didn’t move down here and spend 17 years of what’s left of my youth to bring a building back to life and reutilize it you know if I had know they were going to do this," Cerini said.
But several elected officials at the event defended the opportunity for a new healthcare facility and the $300 million New York state is investing in it. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says it’s key to Utica’s future.
“If we don’t take care of our people, and we don’t have a healthcare facility that can do it the way it’s being done today and the way it’s going to be done in the future, then we’re not going to move forward," Picente said. "This really is something that will change the face of this city and this region."
Mohawk Valley Health will hold a public hearing on the plan December 7.