Mohawk Valley Health System has announced a major step forward in the downtown Utica hospital project.

MVHS officials says if it becomes necessary, the City of Utica will acquire properties in the hospital footprint by means of eminent domain through its Urban Renewal Agency.

They say Oneida County will do the same for properties in the project parking garage footprint.

Officials say to date, three of the 35 property owners in the project footprint have indicated an unwillingness to sell.

More than a quarter of owners have come to agreements with MVHS, and a majority of the remaining property owners are in negotiations.

A few have received purchase-option agreements but are not in active discussion.

“We are pleased and appreciative that the County and City have reached this agreement,” said Scott H. Perra,President/CEO for MVHS. “This is a significant and important decision that allows the project to move forward. MVHS will continue to reach out and work with all property owners to reach an agreement. It is our desire to avoid the use of eminent domain if possible.”

Determination of eminent domain authority was a necessary step to allow for appropriate State review of the required Certificate of Need process, which is now moving forward.