White Tower, Utica, NY (torn down mid-late 90's)
Walking around the Uptown area recently, I couldn't help but notice the way new businesses like Price Chopper and the hodgepodge of drug/convenience stores have "shoe horned" themselves into their locations. Little thought is placed on trying to retain the character and quaintness of the community, unless the community has the foresight and stringent controls to maintain them. We moved to Emerson Ave when I was a kid in the the 70's , and remember many of the small businesses that were local institutions then. Few of these businesses survive today. This seems all too typical in not just Utica but surrounding communities as well. Local government seems to sell out and give in all too quickly to attract a tax paying business without concern for maintaining the character, history and charm of an area. Planning is an afterthought.
The things that make an area special are often the first things given up when things get tough and the lure of immediate tax revenue outweighs long term planning and development.
Although Uptown South Utica will probably never be remembered for its landmark historic buildings, it nevertheless is remembered for the businesses that shaped this area for many years, and became landmarks for area residents as Utica annexed this area from New Hartford and grew in the early 1900's. Businesses like Dan Dee Donuts, Hemstoughts, Dave Hayes, Brian Barr, Uptown Theatre, Jean's Beans, Uptown Grill, White Tower, Last Unicorn and so many more, are names that most Uticans over 30 easily remember and can recount their own favorable experiences there. I doubt that many people years from now will reminisce about going to the Chopper or Rite Aid. My own great grand father even had a butcher business in between where the China Wok and Uptown Liquors is now sometime around the 1920-30's (if any body has anything they can share w/me about him..would appreciate it) .
I walk past a quaint aromatic coffee shop with tables in front of it. This is where the Village Toy Shop used to be I think to myself as I look across Genesee Street and see that the Uptown Theatre across the street seems to be holding it's own. I jump into my car and as I drive off, I look at a couple sitting at one of the tables in front of the coffee shop, and I think that this is what Utica needs to plan around, and encourage more of.