On Thursday, June 22, the Urban Renewal Agency (URA) of the City of Utica discussed at length the sale of the 318.8-1-52./1 Whitesboro Street Property, also known as Washington Courts, to The AUD Authority and Oneida County to be utilized for development of The U District.
Chairman of the AUD Authority Carl Annese, along with Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., CEO of Mohawk Valley Corporation Robert Esche and County Attorney Peter Rayhill spoke to the URA board on their vision for the 5.5-acre property and how it will be instrumental in the imminent developmental plans for The U District. The district, which was unveiled on May 16 by Picente, outlines an Arts, Sports and Entertainment District that will include the Nexus Center, American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center and additional amenities that will drive foot traffic and critical mass to downtown Utica.
The meeting concluded on a positive note, as the AUD Authority, Oneida County and URA set a follow-up meeting for next week to discuss logistical efforts to purchase Washington Courts. Chairman of the URA and Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said, “I will do everything in my power to make Nexus happen,” affirming a sentiment that has run rampant through Utica since the plans were revealed last month. The Nexus Center, which will live on the Washington Courts property, is Picente’s vision for a sports epicenter that will transform downtown Utica and drive regional traffic to the area.
Common Council Members Bill Phillips and Samantha Colosimo-Testa both echoed Palmieri’s sentiment, with Phillips stating, “I want the project to move forward,” and Colosimo-Testa elaborating, “As the representative on the Urban Renewal and the 6th ward, I have wanted to see that land developed for a number of years and I believe that it’s a no-brainer for our area. I see what has been done with the Comets and The AUD and believe that the sale of the old Washington Courts is the best vision with them to move forward with.”
Picente and Esche, who spoke at length on their goal of creating a mutualistic partnership between the City and the County, know that the purchase of Washington Courts is the next step in the right direction. “I am eager to move forward with the URA in discussing the purchase of Washington Courts,” said Esche. “I am confident that we have all of the information that was requested at the meeting and while there is a lot of work still on the horizon, we are prepared to work together in an expedited fashion to bring an Arts, Sports and Entertainment District to downtown Utica.” Picente added, "I look forward to providing the urban renewal agency with all pertinent info over the next two weeks in order to begin taking the first steps to making The U District a reality."
The AUD Authority and Oneida County are optimistic that the next Utica Common Council meeting on July 18 will see the acquisition of Washington Courts and exist as a milestone in the creation of The U District.