The Utica landmark known as the Harza Building was once home to Woolworth's department store. That was when that part of downtown was a retail hub of the city. For nearly a decade now, the building has remained largely vacant, maintained at a cost to the city's Industrial Development Agency. Friday, officials announced the building's been sold and in the nick of time. Our Sarah Blazonis reports.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Utica banker and businessman Tom Clark says he remembers when folks came to Genesee Street instead of heading to the mall to do their shopping. While he doesn't see shoppers returning, he does envision a future with a more bustling downtown.
"That can be replaced by having a vibrant business community down here with various eateries and small specialty shops,” said Clark.
City officials announced Friday that Clark is the new owner of the Harza Building. The city's IDA took over the building's title in 2004 and Mayor Rob Palmieri says the purchase couldn't have come at a better time.
"By the end of July, if this was not sold, this was going to go to an auction. An auction would've meant, at this point, we would not have any control over who comes in here, we would have no controls whatsoever," said Utica Mayor Rob Palmieri.
Bringing life back to downtown is nothing new for Clark. He bought the damaged Adirondack Bank Building 17 years ago and turned it into the occupied office building it is today. Office space is also what he pictures for the Harza Building.
Clark said, "The last thing Utica needs is another boarded up building like the building across the street. That would be a disaster. And we all know what happens to buildings that are boarded up. They go down very rapidly."
Officials say the deal is a partnership between Clark and the city.
"There is a PILOT on the building where the taxes will ramp up over a period of time, so at least that gives me time to get some tenants in here," Clark said.
Clark says new tenants could begin occupying the building in the next few months.