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From Undergarments to Apartments; Crescent Commons Comes to Life in Cortland

National Park Service

Re-purposing  old factory or office buildings in Syracuse into mixed use residential and retail space is nothing new.  But in Cortland Wednesday, officials broke ground on one of the first developments of that kind…the $16 million Crescent Commons on Main street.  

Developer David Yaman says retail tenants and 47 apartments will fill some of the massive 150,000 square foot space that was once home to Crescent Corset when it opened in 1923.

"They made all of the undergarments...the bras and girdles for JC Penney at that time.  Of course, they evolved to more modern garments for women."

Yaman says the company was bought and sold a few times starting in the 1960’s, and eventually abandoned the building about 15 years ago.  He says it began to fall into disrepair, threatening recent efforts to turn around what he calls a neighborhood in transition.

"If this building were to be left to its own demise, it would be a blight on the neighborhood.  It takes up a block.  To see a building that large...if that were to happen, it would be devastating."

One of the partners in the project agrees.  Christopher Trevisani is director of development with Housing Visions, which assembled a package of grants, loans, and tax credits for Crescent Commons.  He says it seemed like a good opportunity after they developed 44 units of housing nearby a few years ago.  

"Across the street was this very large vacant building which could either transform the neighborhood or turn things in the opposite direction."

Developer David Yaman hopes the project will be one the Cortland community can be proud of.

"I think once people see how effective the conversion of a building like this can be, we'll see more of them.  It works from an economic model.  From a social model, it's a very strong stabilizer."

Trevisani with Housing Visions shares that optimism.  

"We're proud that we could put this together, but we also think there should be other opportunities in Cortland.  This project could ultimately trigger future investment either by us or others along Main Street."

Construction is underway, and retail and residential tenants could move in next summer.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at