Downtown Syracuse Progress Seen Going Past Residential and Retail Growth

Jun 20, 2019

The Salina Street Project that includes the Whitney Lofts, Oh My Darling restaurant and The Fitz Speakeasy was awarded by the Downtown Committee as one of the noteworthy investments.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Growth in the downtown Syracuse residential population and the number of new businesses continue to keep development officials optimistic about the city’s future.  The Downtown Committee held its annual meeting Thursday … and boasted of 20 new retail businesses in the past year. 

While the growing number of people are calling downtown home as well, Committee president Merike Treier says the energy is broader than that.

“One of the most anticipated projects on Salina Street is the Allyn Foundation’s Salt City Market Project.  And that’s something, having a private foundation form a non-profit, buy a parcel of land, do a redevelopment project.  You’re getting so many new partners involved in downtown’s energy, it continues to be a very exciting time.” 

Other highlights of the Downtown Committee’s annual report are: $233 Million in current investment; growth of downtown businesses such as T-G-C player, Sidearm Sports and others; and a current estimate of 4005 residents, a 70% increase since 2009.  Treier says the news of businesses moving back into downtown, such as insurance company Haylor, Fryer and Coon, is further good news.

“We want to have that mix of uses in downtown; it helps to keep everything balanced.  Certainly the residents help to provide that 24/7 feel and they provide the permanent market basis for those retails and restaurants that are looking to move downtown.  But certainly downtown continues to thrive as an office center.  So even though we’ve had that 70% growth in our residential population, downtown still is very much the center for employment.”

During it annual meeting Thursday, The committee honored a project on Salina street for its “Newsmaker”.  Ryan Benz is one of the developers behind a project that includes “Oh-My Darling” restaurant, The FITZ speakeasy and apartments.

“That’s why we made a long-term investment with not just the restaurant but the apartments as well.  I say all the time, ‘we’re building this for the city 5 years from now.’  My partner and I also own the old Jefferson Center Building, which we’re going to redevelop and put a restaurant there most likely, some new apartments, some new office.  There’s a lot of momentum.  For the first time in 30 years there’s a lot of momentum heading in the right direction.”


·         Urban Innovation Award: The Urban Innovation Award, given for a trailblazing activity that’s brought new attention – and energy – to a previously underdeveloped facet of Downtown Syracuse, highlighted TCGplayer. The tech company’s innovative, interactive office headquarters design activates South Warren Street, turning heads and inspiring the next generation. TCGplayer takes its interaction beyond its walls, too. It partners with Central Library to host “Dungeons and Dragons” game sessions for children and teens, and just two weeks ago, joined forces with the Marriott Syracuse Downtown to host a series of summer block parties. 

·         Heart of Downtown Award: The Heart of Downtown Award, given for efforts that positively impact the way people feel about Downtown Syracuse, was given to the Everson Museum of Art, an institution that has evolved along with Downtown Syracuse. In the midst of celebrating the 50th Anniversary of its building in Downtown Syracuse, the Everson constantly finds new ways to connect diverse audiences to modern and contemporary artwork. Earlier this year, the museum introduced the Danial Family Education Center and through creative programming including “Third Thursday” events and “Pay What You Wish” Wednesdays, it makes sure the museum is accessible to all. 

·         Perfect Partner: The Perfect Partner Award, given to an individual or business whose commitment positively influences Downtown Syracuse, was awarded to Michael Sgro, founder of Michael Sgro Leadership Coaching and co-founder of the newly-launched “Downtown Champions” group. As a Downtown business owner, resident and active participant in Downtown events, Michael’s enthusiasm is contagious, and his creativity continues to stir new engagement in Downtown activities. 

·         The Newsmaker Award: First introduced in 2016, the Newsmaker Award, highlights collaborative efforts that have generated a buzz throughout the community. This year, one of the most-talked about projects was the transformation of 321 and 323 South Salina Street into The Whitney Lofts. The $4.5 million project reinforces South Salina Street as Downtown’s “Main Street” through 16 luxury apartments, Oh My Darling restaurant, Clementine – a Grab-and-Go lunch and breakfast counter – and The FITZ, a basement speakeasy. 

(See other Downtown Committee Annual Report Details here)

Officials also noted the Community Grid option to replace I-81 through Syracuse will create more business and residential opportunities.  Though Treier knows once demolition and construction begin, there will be challenges in getting people to work, and letting people know downtown is open for business.