Included in the governor's proposed budget is money to build a new hospital in downtown Utica. After years of planning, Mohawk Valley Health System officials are optimistic that progress will finally be made on their project this year. But some residents are still trying to change the hospital's proposed location before construction begins.
On a bitterly cold morning, three protesters stood outside of the Radisson Hotel in downtown Utica to catch local lawmakers as they head to a legislative forum. They wore big signs that said "no downtown hospital." One of the protesters, Brett Truett, was worried that planting a massive hospital in the heart of Utica's historical downtown will kill the area's development.
"There’s a master plan for the city of Utica that says it should be a small scale, small buildings, historic, politicians who want a hospital downtown are ignoring the law and calling us the vocal minority," Truett said. "It’s going to be a long fight."
Those like Truett who are opposed to the downtown site say the facility should instead be built at the Mohawk Valley Health's campus where its St. Luke's Hospital is located. But Bob Scholefield, executive vice president of Mohawk Valley Health, says there are too many logistical challenges with adding another hospital on that campus, which is why the board of trustees opted for the downtown location.
Schoelfield says the hospital will be a benefit to downtown Utica.
"We look at the downtown hospital project as something that will become part of that transformation of downtown Utica that started a number of years ago and will just take it to the next level," Schoelfield said. "So yes there are some people who are opposed to it, but I think it’s our responsibility to continue to involve them and continue to inform everyone what the plans are so they can become more comfortable with it."
Mohawk Valley Health is working with an architectural firm to build the new hospital in a way that complements efforts to grow downtown Utica. Schoelfield says that firm can begin sketching the plans for the hospital once the state funding is officially secured.