Parking garage

Wynn Hospital parking delays cause problems in Utica

Oneida County has released renderings and a site plan for the proposed Wynn Hospital parking garage in downtown Utica, but an assortment of delays will cause the structure to open several months after the hospital, causing its own parking problems.

According to information provided by the county, Wynn Hospital is scheduled to open in October 2023, but parking will not be completed until March 2024.

“It was always the intention…that the garage would open at the same time [as the hospital]Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said at a press conference outlining the plans for the garage.

Picente was joined by Darlene Stromstad, president and CEO of Mohawk Valley Health System, during Thursday’s reveal.

Stromstad said the hospital system is already considering plans to deal with the approximately five-month parking issues new hospital workers will face.

Other downtown parking lots and possibly shuttle employees from other areas belonging to the hospital system are in the mix.

“More to come on that,” Stromstad said. “It’s still months away.”

About the car park

The parking garage is planned to be located at Oriskany, Lafayette and Cornelia streets. All of the properties within the proposed footprint were acquired by the county, following prominent estate lawsuits.

Oneida County’s five-level parking lot will accommodate 1,330 vehicles, with approximately 1,050 spaces dedicated to hospital needs and 280 available for the general public, according to the county’s unveiling Thursday.

The site plan for the proposed parking garage for the Wynn Hospital in downtown Utica.

Stromstad said the hospital system would lease the county’s parking spaces, and Picente said there would be a cost for the general public to use the garage. Neither provided numbers.

The ground floor, along with approximately half of the second floor, will provide public parking for people visiting the hospital or other downtown destinations. Part of the ground floor will also be reserved for visitors to the emergency room.

The remainder of the second floor, as well as all parking lots on the third, fourth and fifth floors, will be reserved for hospital staff parking.

The 1,330 parking spaces include 45 handicap-accessible parking spaces and 69 electric vehicle charging spaces, according to the county.

The building’s electrical service is sized to accommodate a capacity of 280 EV charging stations in the future.

The parking garage will contain five elevators strategically located to serve the hospital’s main and emergency entrances, as well as the Adirondack Bank and Nexus Centers and other local destinations.

The exterior will be clad in precast concrete panels with lighting along Oriskany Street that can be programmed to coordinate with downtown events.

The garage will also feature an air-conditioned pedestrian corridor that connects the hospital’s main entrance to the ground floor parking lot.

A helipad that will service the emergency transportation needs of the hospital will be located above the final parking level at the top of the structure.

March Architects and Planners are managing the project, Picente said, noting that the firm has done other work for the city in the past.

“We think it complements the exceptional look of Wynn Hospital,” Picente said of the parking lot design.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. speaks during a press conference Thursday, Sept. 8 detailing the proposed Wynn Hospital parking lot in downtown Utica.  He is joined by Mohawk Valley Health System President and CEO Darlene Stromstad.

Cost increases and delays

The county saw the price associated with parking increase by $12 million this year alone. The garage will now cost $55.8 million, according to figures provided by the county.

The proposed project increased by $2 million in June due to higher than expected labor and product costs.

In February, the project received an additional $10 million increase as Utica canceled an original agreement to provide parking spaces in the Kennedy Garage, forcing the county to increase the size of the garage to accommodate an additional 350 spaces and a helicopter pad, according to correspondence between Picente and the Oneida County Board of Legislators.

Utica officials hit back in February, saying it had not backed out of providing space to Kennedy at the Mohawk Valley Health System and noted that the potential buyer of the Kennedy garage could even possibly build additional levels of parking in the garage that could be used.

The county is covering $30,900,000 of the total projected cost of the garage, with the rest covered by state and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, according to capital projects reports.

Breaking down the funding further, Picente said the county has guaranteed $30 million for the project, Empire State Development has contributed $10 million in funding from the state side, and the county will use $10 million in ARPA funding to the project.

The county has been viewing and working on plans for the proposed parking lot since 2016.

In 2018, Empire State Development awarded the $10 million award, which at the time was split into $7 million for the county and $3 million for Kennedy Garage.

The county went back and asked the state to change the award after it said Utica had opted out, Picente said.

Utica’s pushback and the need to go through the court system with eminent domain were the main issues that delayed the project, Picente said.

“We should have been in construction then,” Picente said.

Representatives from March Architects and Planners said construction at the site has technically begun, with various preliminary site works already underway.

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins