The past year gave the Downtown Committee of Syracuse something to celebrate at its annual meeting yesterday. About 350 members of the group gathered at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown to review the district’s growth from a 9 to 5 office center into a community. Executive director Merike Treier told the crowd it’s been a busy year, with more to come.
"Right now, $200 million of investment activity is underway. In just the last few months, 800 jobs have been added. In the last year, 24 new retail businesses have opened, and plans for 300 news apartments are in the pipeline, with construction on 157 happening right now."
One of the most recent success stories is the $20 million transformation of the former vacant Blue Cross Blue Shield building on South Warren Street into Icon Tower. The project features 89 apartments, some office space, and a ground floor restaurant. Downtown committee chairman and president of Huber-Breuer construction Jim Breuer says his company was involved in renovating a building it constructed decades ago.
"These full-circle moments are just one thread in the fabric being woven throughout downtown Syracuse. Old office buildings that helped establish downtown Syracuse as a commercial center are now being re-imagined to meet the demand for the new downtown trend."
Now the challenge is meeting the needs of those living and staying downtown. Merike Treier says services and amenities aren’t just needed during day.
"Now with our increased number of visitors coming into our area with the our new hotels that have opened, but also the growing residential demographic, they have a different expectation for their neighborhood. Downtown does not shut down at 6 p.m. They're using downtown well into the nights and into the weekends as well."
She says new restaurants, retailers, and small deli-markets have been filling some of the gaps. Treier says they’ve also found the nature of business ownership is posing its own trials.
"We had a dry cleaner downtown close last year, not because of the lack of business, but one of the challenges downtowns face is that they are populated by independently run, owner-run businesses. So if someone wants to retire, and there's not a succession plan in place, that businesses closes."
Meanwhile, Treier says the committee is trying to stay engaged with residents. They conducted a survey and just started focus groups last fall to talk about what they’d like to see so the committee can attract the right mix of developers and business owners.