Groundbreaking Held for Downtown Utica Hospital

Groundbreaking Held for Downtown Utica Hospital
Local dignitaries and Mohawk Valley Health System employees toss shovels full of dirt during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new MVHS Regional Medical Center Thursday, December 12, 2019 on Columbia Street in Utica. [SARAH CONDON / OBSERVER-DISPATCH]

By Edward Harris, Times Telegram

UTICA — The Mohawk Valley Health System held a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday morning for the downtown Utica hospital.

The overall project plan calls for a 25-acre hospital campus between Lafayette, Columbia and State streets and Broadway that encompasses parking lots, a medical office building and a parking garage. The ceremony was a formal recognition for the start of construction, as demolition work has been going on for about a month.

“We are embarking on a time in our city or region that we have only talked about,” said Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri. “We’ve crossed that road, and today, with the groundbreaking, it is transformational. It gives a vision that this is real. This gives us an opportunity to not only be on the map, but be an area where people want to live, want to play, want to work, because we have a state of the art medical facility.”

The health system has purchased most of the properties in the planned footprint, while others are under purchase agreements. Four owners of properties in the parking garage footprint have thus far refused to negotiate a sale. Meanwhile, two property owners in the parking lot area have not yet reached purchase agreements.

Acquiring the properties in the garage footprint falls to the county. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said the county must appraise the properties, make a formal offer and then go to court for possible eminent domain procedures if the purchase offer is rejected.

Picente said this process would begin in the next few weeks and likely stretch into the first quarter of 2020.

“The time frame of the garage is not as tight as the hospital,” he said, noting it would take about 18 months to construct the garage.

Hospital officials believe construction of the hospital will take about three years.

Demolition is expected to wrap up by the end of the year or early next year. Soil mitigation will begin once the demolition is complete.

The soil in the area will be tested to determine whether it’s strong enough to hold the hospital and, if necessary, the soil will be improved.

Foundation work will begin following soil mitigation.

“It’s been real for a while,” said Bonnie Woods, chair of the health system’s Board of Directors. “It’s about to get very real. Our vision for transforming health care in our region is taking shape literally right before our eyes.”

What They Said

The following individuals released statements concerning the hospital groundbreaking:

U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi: “This is an important day for the Mohawk Valley, delivering on a years-long promise to build a state-of-the-art hospital right here in Utica,. Throughout this process, the most important priorities for me with this hospital development have been access and accessibility for patients, and this project will provide easier access for residents and generate real economic development downtown. This was truly a collaborative effort, and I was proud to work with Senator Griffo to secure a $300 million state Health Care Facility Transformation grant, as well partner with County Executive Picente, Mayor Palmieri, Governor Cuomo, and the local leadership in Oneida County to make this project a reality.”

Steven J. DiMeo, president of Mohawk Valley EDGE: “The Mohawk Valley Health Systems downtown campus will not only change the skyline of Utica, but it will change the face of healthcare in the region. Having high-quality healthcare located strategically in downtown Utica helps strengthen our urban core, attracts the best and brightest employees, and helps us recruit new companies who look at available healthcare options as a quality of life necessity. Today’s groundbreaking is an exciting next step in our region’s remarkable future.”

Alicia Dicks, President/CEO of the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida counties: “Our community has been experiencing a long-awaited rise over the past few years, and with today’s groundbreaking we celebrate yet another major milestone of growth and vitality, one that will enhance regional healthcare center as it delivers on the promise of an evolving urban experience and skyline for the City of Utica. This investment in regional healthcare, in the heart of our area’s largest city, marks a turning point in the community’s belief in itself, and it will benefit us, our children and their children — for generations to come.”

Contact reporter Ed Harris at 315-792-5063 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_EHarris).

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