One of the officials closely tied to business development for the City of Syracuse during the past six years is taking a job in the private sector. Deputy Commissioner Ben Walsh has led the way on a number of important projects, but knows many challenges remain. He says things have taken shape since he was appointed in 2010 at the end of the recession.
"I think what we've seen around our downtown and our center city in terms of the development of underutilized and vacant properties, particularly historic properties, has been really exciting. There's a lot of positive development happening."
Walsh points to the renovation of the former Hotel Syracuse as one of the greatest accomplishments not just for the city, but for the community. Six years ago, though, the outlook was much different.
"When I started this job, I had more people telling me that I had to figure out how to get the Hotel Syracuse demolished than re-developed," Walsh said.
Knowing what the old hotel means to Syracuse and Central New York, he says it took awhile to find the right team.
"I've met with quite the cast of characters over the past six years through previous iterations, trying to re-develop that property."
Thankfully, Walsh says, local developer Ed Riley stepped up and the Mariott Syracuse Downtown is scheduled to open this summer. Walsh says one of his other priorities has been bringing healthy food to neighborhoods.
"Particularly in the valley when the P & C in Valley Plaza closed. For awhile, among our top priorities was getting that site filled up, and thankfully, we had a great partner in Tops that put a store in there."
Since then, Tops also landed in the former Wegmans on Pond Street, and most recently, PriceRite announced it will build a store on South Avenue. While these amenities can only help impoverished neighborhoods, Walsh acknowledges development is not the only indicator of success.
"We still have significant workforce misalignment in terms of people who are looking for jobs and the job opportunities that are available. So, we've got some systemic issues that we're still struggling with, but there's still plenty to be excited about. It's about finding that balance between celebrating the successes but also focusing on the challenges," Walsh said.