Company buys Utica parcel amid battle with OCIDA
UTICA — Amid a years-long battle over the property at 411 Columbia St. in Utica, Bowers Development has purchased the building.
Bryan Bowers, president of Syracuse-based development company Bowers Development, said the company purchased the property on Friday, March 29, with the intent to construct a medical office building. This comes after the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA) attempted to acquire the property with an eminent domain case, but was denied by a judge.
“We are thrilled to complete the purchase of the 411 Columbia St. parcel,” Bowers Development said in a statement. “Now that this acquisition has been formally completed, we will begin signing leases with multiple tenants and obtaining the pre-requisite approvals to start construction.”
The previous tenant of the building was JP O’Brien Plumbing and Heating. Representatives for Bowers Development have said that they will work with JP O’Brien Plumbing and Heating to transition the business to a new location. The property is in the close vicinity of the Wynn Hospital, and the OCIDA attempted to acquire the building on behalf of Mohawk Valley Health System and the Central Utica Builders (CUB).
CUB and MVHS planned to use the parcel of land for public parking for patients of its own medical office building and ambulatory surgery center, which broke ground in December 2022. The Central Utica Building project is located on the corner of State and Columbia streets and will house both MVHS and CNY Cardiology.
The CUB has previously stated that there is insufficient parking in the surrounding area, so the O’Brien parcel is essential to the project.
On Aug. 20, 2021, the OCIDA voted to explore the legality of using eminent domain to acquire the property.
Bowers had secured a contract to purchase the O’Brien parcel to build a medical office with more square footage than the CUB project.
On Feb. 23, 2022, the OCIDA held a public hearing, where representatives from Bowers, MVHS and CUB spoke. The open comment period lasted until March 30, 2022.
In April 2022, OCIDA voted to move forward with the process of condemning and obtaining the property using eminent domain.
In December 2022, the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department ruled that the OCIDA cannot take the property using eminent domain. OCIDA moved to appeal the ruling in January 2023.
On Feb. 27, the court denied a petition from Oneida County, which requested permission to submit an amicus curiae brief for the court to hear its opinion on the motion to reargue the case.
The court denied OCIDA’s motion to reargue the case at the Appellate Division on March 17, but decided that the case could move to the court of appeals. On March 22, attorneys for CUB and OCIDA submitted a preliminary appeal statement to Bowers’ attorneys, which is a first step in the appeals process.
According to OCIDA officials, the appeal is continuing at the request of CUB.
Now that the Appellate Division Fourth Department has granted the application and certified the legal question to the Court of Appeals, OCIDA and CUB will submit their briefs according to the scheduling order, OCIDA officials said.
“OCIDA believes that the issues presented in this appeal are of statewide importance and obvious merit because of the impact on all industrial development agencies and their constituent communities as well as the importance to the applicant,” OCIDA officials said. Any further comment will be handled by the agency’s attorneys.
MVHS did not respond to a request for comment. “Though OCIDA continues to try to steal this property from us by continuing to appeal a clear court decision, at the behest of MHVS, Central Utica Building, LLC, and Oneida County, we remain undeterred in our vision to complete our proposed development project,” Bowers Development stated.
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