News & INSIGHTS

Utica Housing Study Results


Utica Observer Dispatch, Steve Howe | Original Article

July 12, 2022


The Wynn Hospital under construction in downtown Utica represents a major opportunity for Mohawk Valley Health Systems and is already inspiring downtown development.

The former MVHS campuses represent an opportunity of a different sort, with the St. Elizabeth campus catching the eye of czb LLC in its draft Utica Housing Study. How the campus — built on two parcels totaling roughly 17 acres — is redeveloped could have a major impact on South Utica.

A MVHS study from January 2020 found the best redevelopment of the St. Elizabeth Campus was small retail or office space and housing. The study cited the frontage along Genesee Street and surrounding dense single-family neighborhoods in the finding.

The draft housing study took the conclusions from the MVHS study a step further, creating a mock-up of what housing mixture would work best in the hospital footprint.

What could St. Elizabeth redevelopment look like?

Part of the expansive Utica Housing Study was a look at opportunities for new single-family development. Demand for new single-family homes has primarily been met by communities outside of Utica over the past half century.

“New home development would help the city compete for existing housing demand in the region while strengthening existing neighborhoods,” the study said.

A significant limit to single-family housing development has been available space. Demoing the century-old hospital and freeing up acreage along the city’s main thoroughfare would address the need.

The study cautioned against converting most of the hospital property into multi-family housing due to per-unit costs and cannibalization of rental demand in the downtown market.

Instead, the draft housing study suggests a mixture of limited rental units, single-family homes and neighborhood-scale commercial. Specifically, creating 24 rental units and the commercial space along Genesee Street in the footprint of the current parking lots and St. Elizabeth College of Nursing.

The conceptual plan calls for construction of 40 single-family homes of approximately 1,800 square feet built on new streets in the footprint of the main hospital and parking garage.

The target rent for the multi-family housing would be $1,500, with the possibility of lower costs with subsidies. The homes would aim to hit a mid $300,000 price point, which the study deems “low enough to ensure absorption and with a high enough level of finish to appeal to households that Utica would like to retain or attract.”

How much would this kind of project cost?

In the draft study, czb LLC predicts the project would cost between $25 and $27 million. The total cost would include $6 million for demolition, $4 million for site preparation and $15-$17 million for residential property development.

The project would require subsidy, the study acknowledges, with private investment of $13-$15 million and a public/MVHS partnership providing the remaining $12 million.

The public share would cover demolition, site preparation and subsidies to meet rent levels in the multi-family development. The revenue to cover those costs would come from bond revenue, paid in part by future taxes, and the city’s capital investment plan for infrastructure.

One advantage to the city would be it returns the hospital site to the property tax rolls. Once redevelopment is complete, the land could generate between $300,000 to $400,000 in property taxes annually, the study said.

The housing study outlined three potential markets for the new South Utica housing: young families earning $125,000 looking to buy, young professional earning $55,000 looking for market-rate apartments and single earners with children earning $35,000 looking for an apartment, if the unit is deeply subsidized.

The draft Utica Housing Study can be found online at uticahousingstudy.org.