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Old Shopping Complex Awaits Restortaion

A former shopping complex straddling two Central New York counties has been in limbo for years while owners, developers and nearby residents play a waiting game hoping to see some activity.

Decades ago, the CharlesTown outlet center along Utica’s  Turner Street, was a thriving shopping destination. The property is located in both Utica and the town of Frankfort. The line separating Oneida and Herkimer counties runs right through the middle of the building.

Utica attorney Michael Cancilla bought the old complex in 2007: working with developers, Cancilla had intended to bring the center back to life via funding from a Restore NY grant. Although plans entailed retail and residential possibilities, the project was sidetracked by environmental and safety issues.

In 2008, buildings on the eastern side of the complex were being demolished. A federal Environmental Protection Agency report revealed that process was halted because the wrecker did not possess the proper permits and hadn’t taken proper safety precautions.

An investigation determined the presence of PCBs and asbestos. The EPA ordered cleanup at the site. Once site clean-up was finished, all activity ceased.

Except for occasional queries from local media, Frankfort supervisor Joseph Kinney says he hasn't heard anything about CharlesTown for some time, although he welcomes development there.

Built in the early 1900's, the site served a variety of commercial uses. The CharlesTown center is perhaps best-remembered from the time it was an outlet center, a magnet for bargain-hunters. In the 1980's shoppers were bussed in from Syracuse, Albany and other cities. Neither Cancilla nor his partners, Massachusetts developers Kenneth Rockett and Richard DeRosas, were available for comment. Cancilla did tell the Utica Observer-Dispatch that no matter how long he has to wait, he still intends to turn the vacant property into a commercial and residential development.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.