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The Downtown Living Tour Lets You Use Your Imagination

Mark Bialczak

  It's been a few years since my dear wife Karen and I joined the brigade of Lookie-Lou's partaking in the annual Downtown Living Tour.

It's not that my curiosity has ever waned about the spaces that are transitioned into apartments and condos in famous buildings every year throughout downtown Syracuse.

It's just that, well, we've been busy come this Saturday in May every year since the last time we poked around.

Besides, would we ever really decide to sell our cherished little house in Eastwood and move downtown, where there's no supermarket? (That's one of my go-to arguments against, along with high finances, anyway.)

This past year, though, Karen has noted how several of her co-workers in a Warren-and-Fayette building indeed have moved into refurbished downtown apartments, several in that very location. And, Merchants Commons was included in the eighth annual edition of the tour.

Saturday we joined the parade of people toting the green bags with "Downtown Living Tour" emblazoned on the side.

Nine complexes were open for inspection.

Some were barely deconstructed from the previous lives. I recognized the building at 214 West Jefferson Street, across from the MOST in Armory Square, as the location of several different music nightclubs. The big lobby still held remnants of that use. The building at 235 E. Water St. also was still down to the studs, with blueprints of what the apartments will look like tacked onto beams.  Karen and I spent few seconds at either of these spots. We agree that neither of us hold the sort of imagination needed to picture what these places may become someday for some tenants.

Credit Mark Bialczak

One was staged to the teeth. The Courier Building, former home to L'Adour Restaurant, housed a second-floor residence with an open kitchen-dining-room-living room space that featured a wall of windows with a view of City Hall. I wasn't bowled over by its one bedroom and bath, though. And walking between stops, Karen explained to me that it was staged because the main room was oddly shaped, and visitors likely needed the subtle mental props as to where they'd put their furniture.

Plenty were done and empty.

The Dey's Plaza apartment was big and airy with great views from the windows, two bedrooms and full bathrooms, and tons of closet space. Very, very nice indeed.

The Pike Building apartments were mirror images of each other, railroad-car-stretches, brick-walled, big windows.

The Merchant Commons apartment appeared to be the smallest with the least closet space. A worker did answer in the affirmative, though, that a big open room on that floor was a common social room. And Karen and I have eaten lunch together on the access-available roof, with a marvelous panoramic view of the city.
Creekwalk Commons was staged, too, quite nicely. But this new complex, in the former National 
Grid call center, will be for college student housing only. I commented how back in my SUNY days, three students were put in a cinder-block dorm room the size of one these suite's walk-in closets.

The condo open at Mission Landing was actually somebody's home, and it was without a doubt the most modern and stunning of any of the residences on the tour. Several stories of living space all contained openings to the center foyer. Only the kitchen, dining and living spaces below were open. Karen said she spotted a gym on one of the levels above. The outdoor, fenced-in patio was stupendous, too.

Yet my favorite was a condo that was halfway between started and finished.

443 Building
Credit Mark Bialczak

The 443 Building, between Warren and East Jefferson streets, holds two gorgeous spaces. The tour was directed up the stairs to the top floor. A wall of windows led to a balcony, which overlooked a parking lot out to the Diocesan Center. All of the rooms were huge. The bedrooms on the other side of the building both had windows that overlooked The Galleries.

Somehow I had no problem imagining how furniture would fit in these unfinished rooms.

I overhead talk of 2,800 square feet and $320,000 price tag. Surely, too big and rich for Karen and I.

But I'm glad I saw it, and envisioned how happy it will make somebody living in downtown Syracuse.

Have you ever taken the Downtown Living Tour? Have you ever visited apartments or condominiums in downtown Syracuse? Do you live in downtown Syracuse? What do you consider the advantages of living in a downtown center? Disadvantages? What would be your favorite location to live in downtown Syracuse? Share your views by commenting below.