N ormally removing plywood from boarded up windows would not be considered too important, but to downtown developers in Syracuse, it's a big deal.
On Friday, dozens of construction workers took down the plywood, so for the first time, passersby could see inside the "Pike Block" project. VIP Structures is preparing to unveil its project to the general public for this weekend's Downtown Living Tour which will highlight a number of efforts to transform downtown Syracuse into a residential neighborhood.
Lisa Romeo is heading up the tour. She told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "Downtown used to be primarily a commercial district. Now it's really a 24 hour neighborhood because you have those residences. At night and on weekends, they're walking their dogs or grabbing a bite to eat, so it's really an active vibrant neighborhood."
The Pike Block project represents a $25 million effort to redevelop three turn-of-the-century buildings at the intersection on Fayette and Salina Streets in the heart of Syracuse. It's named after architect Henry Pike. One building, the Witherill Building dates back to 1855.
VIP Structures is constructing 67 apartments in the three buildings along with retail and commercial space on the ground levels. The Company's President Jim Herr says, "we had to work with historic preservation people to come up with what the buildings actually looked like when they were first constructed and try to do that over again with a combination of modern materials and some of the old."
The Pike Block is among a number of developments taking place in downtown Syracuse which amount to $269 million dollars in investments according to the Downtown Committee. Romeo says 2700 people currently reside in downtown Syracuse. That number will grow significantly as 400 more apartments and condos come on line within the next year. Sources say city planners are in touch with several supermarket chains in hopes of enticing one of them to locate a store in the neighborhood.
Romeo says existing downtown apartments already have a 99 percent occupancy rate. She says there are waiting lists for many of the apartments under construction.