Syracuse's Little Italy at a tipping point

Syracuse TMs Little Italy district has received millions of dollars of public and private investment in new sidewalks, streetscapes, landscaping, lighting and more. The work was done in hopes of starting a thriving mix of residential and commercial business but the growth seems to have stalled.

Oliver Luisi from the Northside Collaboratory said that their Green Train program, which trains men to work in green construction and renovation industries, was the sort of program that would help business come along. 14 men graduated from that program today and Luisi said that with good employees in the area, the jobs will come.

"Our approach is really one of small victories and chipping away, said Luisi. How do we get people employed while improving the physical infrastructure of the neighborhood?"

Recently, several business owners have described Little Italy as being at a tipping point. Vacant commercial real estate seems to be everywhere and many wonder if the area is still heading in the right direction.

"It all looks real pretty but you've got the same demographics to the neighborhood, said local business owner Dan Hodgins. There hasn't been a huge influx of young people, new tenants or commercial and residential."

Frank Caliva from the Metropolitan Development Assosociation says the rising vacancies are a serious issue, but also believes the area is in a great position to build on the work already done.

"It's a very important concern, it's a great opportunity, it's one we need to spend some time and resources on, no question, said Caliva.

One bright spot is that St. Joseph's hospital has started a major renovation of the neighborhoods around their campus and the city believes that will create a positive spillover. Experts say the vacancy rate is still the issue. Empty storefronts and buildings are only an opportunity for a certain period of time before they become a problem.

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