Many people will be back in Utica this weekend for the first time in a while for the city's 45th running of the Boilermaker Road Race, and some new changes downtown will open some eyes, and probably get some people driving the wrong way.

The first thing to notice is the new traffic pattern in the area of Oriskany Street and Genesee Street.

Let's start with the new roundabout near John Street and the Observer Dispatch. It took some people a while to get used to it, but traffic flows smoothly through there day and night.

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Oh, we should mention that the Observer Dispatch is no longer in that building on Oriskany. The OD has moved to a small office on Genesee Street and it's estimated they now have less than a dozen employees. A new owner is expected to move into that historic building sometime in the future.  Meanwhile, The Sentinel, which was formerly the Rome Sentinel, is expanding with new coverage into Utica and the Valley, and a new office expected sometime soon in Utica. Their coverage of Utica and Mohawk Valley news recently prompted the Utica City School District to make it "the new" official newspaper of the district.

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Oh yeah, if you're driving in from the east and you've passed the former OD building, you can now make a left hand turn onto Genesee Street. Finally!

Take the turn and head up Genny and you'll discover the HSBC building is now Ocean Blue with rooftop seating. In fact, to get to the restaurant, you'll need to take an elevator and pass by the many floors filled with high-end loft apartments.

Go further up Genny,  and there's no longer a Radisson Hotel, it's now completely remodeled as a 5-star Delta by Marriott.

Instead of turning left from Oriskany Street onto Genesee, continue straight on Oriskany and you'll drive into what is currently one of the largest construction sites ever in downtown Utica.

You'll begin by passing the newly remodeled Hotel Utica on the left, which is now a 5-star Doubletree Hotel featuring a steakhouse by Chesterfield.  Continue straight and you'll see the completely remodeled Utica Memorial Auditorium which is now the Adirondack Bank Center and home to the Utica Comets. Next to it on the west side is the 72 Tavern and Grill and new construction connected to the east end is the soon to be opened NEXUS Center, which will house nationwide youth sports tournaments for soccer, lacrosse, and hockey, year round. It must open in November because tournaments are already booked there.

Now, look left and you can't miss the enormous construction site, which just so happens to be the first new hospital construction in New York State in decades. The new Wynn Hospital is just more than a year from completion. It will change the way people in the Mohawk Valley receive healthcare. This is all just the beginning, local officials say.

Indeed, if you haven't been to Utica in four or five years, you are in for a surprise. Things have changed and there's much more underway with big plans for North Genesee Street, a new state of the art Cree/Wolfspeed nano high tech manufacturing facility just to the north in Marcy, and several private projects which are also underway or are almost ready to begin.

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So, we welcome you back and hope you're encouraged by the changes that are underway. If you come back next year for the road race, expect to see more progress with most of the new transformation anticipated for completion by the summer of 2024.

It's been a long laborious period to focus, plan, build, debate....debate some more...and ultimately, complete what has taken years to plan. Everybody here is hopeful that the people who have left and still call Utica home will be more than pleased with the city's improvements.

So please, pardon the dust and the mess and the steel, as we all work hard to make sure your next trip to "sin city" is more enjoyable than ever - just like the food we all know this city is already famous for.

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