$45 Million Cornhill Revitalization Projects

A multimillion-dollar, multi-site investment to revitalize Cornhill and connect it to other neighborhoods and a resurging Downtown Utica.

Google Translate 

$45 Million Cornhill Revitalization Projects Announced

City of Utica, Community Foundation, Mid-Utica Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, People First Commit to Long-term Strategy

The City of Utica, the Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties, the Mid-Utica Neighborhood Preservation Corporation (MUNPC), and People First today announced a multimillion-dollar, multi-site investment to revitalize Cornhill and connect it to other neighborhoods and a resurging Downtown Utica.

Groundbreaking is expected in spring 2023 for the $45-million-plus project, which will construct two new mixed-use structures, the Cornhill Renaissance Center on James Street and the Mid-Utica Neighborhood Impact Center on West Street. The centers will provide affordable housing, educational enrichment, entrepreneurial innovation and workforce development programs along with small business incubation and community recreation assets. Connected and enhanced by planned neighborhood improvements, such as an urban fitness trail, green spaces and infrastructure upgrades, the two centers are being developed with input and support from neighborhood leaders and residents. The larger revitalization strategy aims to improve the lives of residents and create opportunity for generations to come.

The City of Utica has committed more than $900,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funding toward the project to date and will transfer a number of City properties to the partner organizations at both sites. Further, the city has committed to providing additional funding as project development moves forward.

The Community Foundation, MUNPC and People First have signed agreements laying out terms for the development and future management of the centers, and the Community Foundation has committed to long-term operational support as part of its multimillion-dollar community equity initiative. The project follows years of neighborhood engagement that has clearly expressed the need for adequate housing, indoor recreational space and business opportunity among other needs to be addressed. The buildings have been designed by Carmina-Wood Design to be visually transformative as well.

Cornhill Renaissance Center

The Cornhill Renaissance Center will be a standout architectural structure at the forefront of historic James Street. It will turn blighted vacant lots into a new mixed-used center with 36 units of mixed-income housing, and it will change the neighborhood dynamic by:

  • Providing a quality urban grocery available for residents in a food desert
  • Creating a marketplace and commercial test kitchen for food vendors and start-up restaurateurs to further address a long-time food desert
  • Establishing flexible space for small retail and other microenterprise opportunities
  • Incubating small-scale programming to support business owners
  • Launching creative spaces, including a recording studio and multimedia lab

Mid-Utica Neighborhood Impact Center

The Mid-Utica Neighborhood Impact Center will be the centerpiece of an urban opportunity campus on property owned by the nonprofit Mid-Utica Neighborhood Preservation Corporation (aka Leisure Time Activity Center) and several adjacent properties that the City is contributing to the project. The new center will include:

  • 60 mixed-income housing units, offering modern apartments for Cornhill’s substantial senior population.
  • The 25,000 sq. ft. center will also provide accessible community programming, senior activities, workforce training, a multipurpose gym for youth activities and adult fitness, a co-working and flexible office space for a collection of nonprofits and a shared kitchen and storefront space.

The City of Utica initiated conversations regarding the James Street corridor after it demolished the former Cornhill Senior Center building last summer. The Community Foundation and MUNPC have been collaborating for more than two years, exploring ways to make the West Street site a critical part of a larger neighborhood revitalization strategy. Members of MUNPC leadership and the Collective Impact Network, a community advocacy group, worked with Carmina-Wood Designs to ensure the two centers will address resident priorities and neighborhood needs. Officials say today’s announcement represents years of work by both the City of Utica and the Community Foundation and its nonprofit partners to identify and meet the needs of residents in Utica’s most diverse and economically challenged neighborhoods.

Mayor Robert M. Palmieri said: “The revitalization of the City of Utica will touch all people and all parts of our great city. I grew up on James Street, so this particular project is among the ones I’m most proud of and excited to see. We will grow as a city and as a community as these state-of-the art facilities harness the talents, creativity and passion that we know lies within our residents. This is a truly transformative project and it will provide opportunity and progress that has been talked about for years, but never been delivered on this scale.”

Alicia Dicks, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties said: “The two centers are critical components of the Community Foundation’s strategy to couple essential human services with a strengthened education-to-workforce pipeline to provide a lifechanging spectrum of opportunity linked to regional and statewide growth strategies offered by New York’s growing innovation economy,” said Alicia Fernandez Dicks, president/CEO of the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties. “The City and People First’s partnership in developing both centers, Mid-Utica Neighborhood Corporation’s ownership role on West Street, and the Community Foundation’s continued commitment to build a vibrant region with opportunity for everyone are critical to this historic effort’s genuine, long-term success.”

Robert R. Calli, Executive Director of People First said: “From the perspective of People First, Impact Cornhill is a multi-dimensional neighborhood revitalization endeavor, spearheaded by leaders within the Cornhill community and truly representing an investment in people.”     

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said: “Safe, affordable, and reliable housing should be available for all New Yorkers regardless of their socioeconomic status. I am glad that the City of Utica has committed funds it received from the American Rescue Plan to this project, which will not only fill a critical housing need, but transform the neighborhood dynamic by introducing a grocery, restaurant marketplace, and flexible retail space in an urban food desert. I will continue to fight for federal programs and funding that our state needs to improve housing and food access for low-income individuals.”

Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, 119th Assembly District, said: “This is a significant revitalization project for Utica. It again shows the commitment and collaboration between government, not for profits and residents to ensure a brighter, safer future for everyone. The Cornhill Renaissance Center and the Mid-Utica Neighborhood Impact Center will be invaluable to the city and its residents in providing housing, recreation, workplace training and so much more. I am excited to watch the progress of this project and the positive impact it will have.”

Oneida County Legislator Evon Ervin said: “If we give the people in our community the tools to thrive, their talents will shine and their full potential will blow past all of our expectations. For too long, there has been insufficient investment and not enough opportunity. Today, with this announcement, we aim to reverse that and move into a future that supplies the very best for our children and neighbors. Entrepreneurs, children, musicians and families will all have more opportunity at their fingertips because of this project. There’s still a lot of work to do, but projects like these are the fruits of a lot of hard work done.”

Utica Fifth District Councilmember Venice Ervin said: “These are exciting times for Cornhill. The fifth district is in the middle of a resurgence and this project will be the anchor of that growth. As the city grows, so will opportunity, and so must the 5th District. This is an example of that growth and this will set the foundation to more growth in the future. These two buildings will stand as testaments to what you can do when people work with each other in partnership for a better future. Our future could not be brighter, and our present is improving every day.”

Delvin Moody, founder of the Collective Impact Network said: “This entire vision is proof not only of the viability of Cornhill’s future, but its powerful legacy. This will be a national model for smaller cities all across America. This is the perfect blend of community enterprise, equitable housing and innovation. I am proud to be one of the visionaries of this project.”

Attorney Oneka Roach-Campbell, President of the Mid Utica Neighborhood Preservation Corporation Board of Directors said: "It is the dawning of a new day in Utica, NY.  MUNPC is proud to partner with the Mayor, the City of Utica, the Community Foundation, People First and other stakeholders to enable this transformative work here in our community.  This is a conversation and work that has been dreamed of and worked on by elders in the Cornhill community for years.  It represents a dream delayed but not denied through the tireless work, voices and advocacy of persons such as Robbie Dancy, Jill Voss, Freddie Hamilton, Magistrate Jawaad Rasheed and the late but great Patrick Johnson, just to name a few.  Thankful for the Equity Conversations and the listening ear of the Community Foundation and the City of Utica, we stand here today at the brink of a project designed to bring what Cornhill needs and has asked for to Cornhill and environs.  The future for our youth and elderly looks bright."