M ary Catherine White recently moved to Central New York from New York City. She chose not to live in the suburbs, but in the very center of downtown Syracuse. Her apartment is in the newly renovated Deys building on Salina Street.
"I can walk to a hockey game, I can walk to the symphony, to Armory Square, Clinton Square. I'm from New York City and you walk there, that's what I like about being here." White told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
White's apartment with its high ceilings , marble bathrooms , walk in closets and other amenities is one of 45 units in the building that once housed the Dey Brothers department store. 35 units have already been rented. Proponents say downtown Syracuse is now transforming from a decaying city core into an upscale residential neighborhood.
B ob Doucette is one of the developers involved in the Dey building renovation. He was also one of the developers responsible for turning nearby Armory Square from industrial tenements into one of the city's most vibrant areas. Now he's setting his sights on Salina Street.
" P eople have talked about this for many many years and there's been many studies recommending residential development downtown. It's been slow to get started but I think we're seeing now that it works, that people like to be downtown." Doucette said.
According to the Downtown Committee, there is close to $300 million in development projects either planned or taking place in the heart of the city. The projects include the Landmark Theatre expansion, the Townsend and Harrison Towers apartment project for Upstate University Hospital, the Kirk Hotel renovation, Hurbson's Office Building, a new Marriott Hotel and the "Pike Block" project.
W hile some buildings in downtown Syracuse have been freshly renovated, others remain vacant eyesores. Many planners see the intersection of South Salina Street and West Fayette Street as an obstacle to development. It is the central location where Centro buses gather to transfer passengers. The intersection is loud and crowded with people and buses. That too is changing. Centro is now building a central enclosed transfer station several blocks south on the edge of downtown so people would no longer wait in the cold for a bus.
As Centro moves its transfer hub south, the $25 million "Pike Block" project is about to start. Named after the turn of the century architect Henry Pike, the idea is to turn the former Witherills department store building and three adjacent buildings into what many envision will be typical Syracuse. Developers plan to have condominiums, apartments and offices on the upper floors, with retail shops, grocery stores and restaurants on the street level.
According to the Executive Director of the Downtown Committee, David Mankiewicz, the heart of Syracuse is already becoming the areas fastest growing residential neighborhood.
" W e have ambitions of being one the larger neighborhoods by the end of the decade."