Picente: Renovations Bring New Life to REA Building; Manager Named for Oneida County Public Market

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. today announced that Oneida County has completed months of renovation work at the REA (Railway Express Agency) Wing of Union Station on Bagg’s Square in Downtown Utica. The REA Wing will house the Oneida County Public Market and will also be developed for use for other potential community activities.

“What we have done is breathe new life into a piece of our region’s heritage, and also create a new venue for a thriving Public Market that can become a gathering place for people from across the county,” Picente said. “With the outstanding success of last year’s Market, which was held in the parking area, we expect that 2012 will be a bigger and better year with more farmers, more vendors and more customers.”

Picente noted that Oneida County government, which owns historic Union Station in downtown Utica, has been working in partnership with the city and with private sector developers to enhance activity in a section of the city that suffered years of decline, and in this project brings new activity to the Bagg’s Square area.

The REA Wing was built almost a century ago, and opened around 1914 as part of Union Station. The long, narrow structure extending to the east of the main station served as a transfer building from the rails to local delivery for over half a century. With the shift from rail to truck transport, use of the facility declined until it was closed in the 1960s. The REA Wing sat vacant until the county began renovations last year as part of Picente’s efforts to create the Oneida County Public Market.

Picente also announced that Elizabeth Irons will serve as Market Manager for the Oneida County Public Market, with funding supplied through a grant secured by Oneida County to provide management and marketing for the project. Beth brings years of non-profit administrative experience to the Public Market.

County Executive Anthony Picente said, “We are excited to have Beth on board with us as we look to grow and expand the Public Market. She’s picked everything up right away and has a plan in place to move on the success we experienced last year.”

“The Oneida County Public Market is an outstanding concept that is ready to take off,” Irons said. “Using the REA Wing opens up some new space and some exciting possibilities so that we can grow the Public Market and make this a multi-season project. I hope that our farmers, vendors, shoppers and those who want to see a local landmark being restored to life all come down to join in the excitement of the market.”

Picente said the market blends the needs of consumers with those of the region’s long-standing agribusiness sector. “A marketplace is an added opportunity for our local farmers to increase their revenue by selling directly to consumers,” he said. “Consumers benefit by being able to buy locally grown produce that is fresh and healthy at very, very reasonable prices. Health-conscious families, senior citizens and others can make the market their place to shop to add some great-tasting, healthy choices to the week’s menu.”

Picente said the market grew out of his commitment to explore all possible alternatives to increased economic activity. “My vision for the Oneida County Public Market is do develop it as a center of home-grown and home-made products, whether we are talking about vegetables and fruits or crafts and art. My goal is to build up the economic and community activity downtown, so that we can spur even more activity and, hopefully, more private investment in development. Union Station is a gem, and the entire site has outstanding potential. The Public Market is a way that we can capitalize on that potential, and also meet the needs of local consumers and farmers.”

The schedule is as follows:

Saturday May 19   9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Saturday May 26   9 a.m.-1 p.m.
June 16-September 29   Every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Fall and Winter Schedule to be determined at a later date.