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Investors bring new life to iconic buildings

Thomas Caputo
Staff writer
Posted 8/27/22

Iconic buildings around Utica that once housed influential businesses and notable residents are beginning to find new life.

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Investors bring new life to iconic buildings


UTICA — Iconic buildings around Utica that once housed influential businesses and notable residents are beginning to find new life. Investors have been making significant changes and renovations to buildings that have been dormant for a long time, giving them new potential as multipurpose facilities.

Commercial Travelers Insurance — 70 Genesee St.

Commercial Travelers Insurance Company established their presence in Utica by building an office at 70 Genesee St. back in 1904. In 1937, an addition was built to accommodate the growing company. The building has housed several insurance companies throughout its history.

In July 2021, the property was purchased by the Lahinch Group, a real estate and development company located in Syracuse. The group has invested around $10 million to turn it into commercial and residential space. It now offers 10,000 square feet of commercial space and 32 residential units, comprised of 28 one-bedroom apartments and four studio apartments.

The building is now home to their anchor tenant, Barton and Loguidice, as well as the Observer-Dispatch and other residential tenants.

The building is now called “The Sullivan,” after the architect Louis Sullivan, whose style helped shape the building’s design.

Olbiston Apartments — 1431 Genesee St.

The Olbiston Apartments, built from 1898 to 1900, were constructed at 1431 Genesee St. on the site of the Genesee Flats Apartments that were destroyed by a fire in 1896.

Considered a prestigious place to live at the time construction was completed, the Olbison Apartments accommodated the city’s wealthier residents and were, at one point, the largest apartment complex in upstate New York.

The apartment building dealt with transfers of ownership numerous times throughout its history and decades of neglect and dilapidation. The apartment building has been vacant since 2021 due to the unsafe conditions from extensive water damage and several code violations.

Liberty Affordable Housing, an affordable housing organization located in Rome, purchased the Olbiston Apartments in December 2021. With the financial assistance from federal, state, and local funding, $67 million was awarded to restore the Olbiston Apartments.

Upon completion of its restoration, the building will provide 34 studio apartments, 87 one-bedroom units, and 32 two-bedroom units to low-income households.

According to Liberty Affordable Housing, construction on the apartments is currently in the abatement phase of construction, noting that there is still a substantial amount of abatement to be done.

Renovations are expected to be completed by early 2024.

Utica Steam Cotton Factory — 600 State St.

The Mohawk Valley was once considered to be a thriving textile industry. Textile mills around Utica and Oneida County dominated the region during the mid-1800’s with the introduction of steam-powered looms.

The Utica Steam Cotton Factory, famous for their production of bed sheets and pillowcases, was built from 1867 to 1871 and consolidated older mills located on the corner of Court and State streets.

During the early to mid-1900’s, the textile industry experienced an economic decline in the Mohawk Valley, driving mill jobs to of the region and leaving the factories vacant.

Several businesses, like State Street Mill Bargain Center, Empire Kitchen and Bath, and Brodock Press, have lived in the building over the years.

In addition to the Sullivan building, Lahinch Group has also taken on the property at 600 State St., where construction is currently underway to provide 20,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. The building has 64 residential units, which are currently available for rent.

“Our niche is historic redevelopment, and seeing the opportunity here in Utica to rehab some of these beautiful iconic buildings, it’s a great way to preserve history,” said Joseph Gehm, managing member of Lahinch Group.

“We’re looking at other opportunities and we see a bright future in Utica and hopefully we play an important role in that,” he added.

The Lahinch Group and the city of Utica previously announced that Brooklyn Pickle, a Syracuse-based sandwich shop, will become the anchor tenant at 600 State St.

Renovations are expected to be completed by early 2023.


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