Making Franklin Square a Developer's Success
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Dick Case, Post-Standard
Doug Sutherland jokes he's "made a career out of Franklin Square." We
need to thank him for that.
Running at low profile, without many news releases or photo
opportunities, our man's helped to transform a grimy factory district on the
edge of downtown Syracuse into a gem of a city neighborhood.
Doug's been on the job at Franklin, Plum and Solar streets since 1987,
when Pyramid Cos. hired him from a developer in Harrisburg, Pa., to manage a
project in Syracuse.
The project turned out to be inventing Franklin Square as the south
anchor of the lakefront about to be developed. This was before Bob Congel
and his partners shared the news of Carousel Center with us. Doug worked for
Pyramid until five years ago, when he set up his own development company,
Now, he's well into his first project - rehabilitating the old O.M.
Edwards factory on Plum Street for apartments, offices and shops. He's
almost finished with the second, a like transformation of the old Bradley
foundry on Franklin Street.
Meanwhile, the triangular neighborhood - bordered by Interstates 690 and
81 and Spencer Street at the north - changed before our eyes as we drove
around the north edge of downtown toward Bob Congel's mall, which opened in
Doug and his helpers were working over the district two years before
that. By the time we walked through Carousel Center for the first time,
Franklin Square had been created with a tax abatement investment by Pyramid.
We got newly paved streets and sidewalks, a park with a bronze statue of Ben
Franklin and a Victorian fountain; trees, street lamps, mini-parks and
utilities hidden under the ground.
Not to forget the start of a creek walk.
The first major work by Pyramid was to make over the huge and derelict
New Process Gear building as the stunning new office building we call
Bridgewater Place. "The perfect billboard" for the neighborhood, according
to Doug Sutherland.
The gear company, a partner of Chrysler when it left the city for DeWitt,
had three plants in the square. All have been rescued.
The others are the 1910 Monarch Typewriter factory, a New Process Gear
plant after 1915, now Mission Landing apartments; and the building at Plum
and North Franklin, most recently a Hurbson furniture warehouse. That's
being converted by Hueber-Breuer Construction Co. into Franklin Center
The 1906 building used most of the century by O.M. Edwards is now Plum
Court apartments, across the street from the old windows and doors factory.
Pyramid also raised a new senior apartment residence at Plum and Franklin
where an ugly natural gas tank once stood. One Franklin Square rents 136
The activity by Bob Congel and his partners brought in other developers.
The Falcone family's Pioneer Cos. built two new office buildings on vacant
land at the end of Division Street, including the one occupied by Unity
Mutual Life, and rehabilitated the former Allen Tool plant across the creek.
Pioneer later brought in a developer for a new post office branch in the
same lot, at the same time that the Border Co. was encouraged to improve its
research center in the former Merrell-Soule factory (None-Such Mincemeat) on
This week, we figure, about 200 citizens live in Franklin Square. About
2,000 work there. And they keep coming.
Doug Sutherland says he got comfortable with the idea of reusing
architectural gems of the past after he restored an 1870s house, his first,
"If we do this well," he continued, "and don't lose sight of the history,
we'll have a better neighborhood."
There's history to spare thereabouts. This is an area our ancestors
called "The Bog" because it was a drainage field for the lake. Later, it
held salt-drying sheds, and after the Barge Canal came to town, Oil City.
As the city's salt industry died at the turn of the 20th century,
Franklin Square became a modest factory district, making everything from
women's handbags, to textiles, to typewriters, to gears for cars and
telephone booths and dried milk. Most of the plants were built just after
The West Shore Railroad had tracks and a yard there.
Doug had these images in his head as he moved into the projects of the
last 16 years. When we walked the neighborhood the other day, he talked
about all the "ghosts" of industry, some of them deliberately preserved.
For instance: the water tank on top of the tower behind Franklin Center;
the reproduced truss bridge over the creek; the foundry chimney; the water
pump hub from the salt works; the O.M. Edwards compressor that now decorates
the north entrance to the building, along with the steps of limestone blocks
on the Plum Street side of the factory.
I got a close look at another ghost in the lobby of what soon will be the
offices of Testone, Marshall & Discenza accountants in the factory most
recently used by Glomac Plastics. The building on North Franklin was built
for C.C. Bradley & Sons, a company that started out in Syracuse making
kettles to boil salt in. Three years ago, it was marked for demolition.
We check out a Bradley forging hammer made at the company's Cortland
plant and once used at the blacksmith shop in the county highway garage at
Jamesville. With help from W.F. Saunders in Nedrow, collector Ron Wolf and
historian Dennis Connors at the Onondaga Historical Association, the
orphaned giant is back on the Bradley floor. "We got it in 20 pieces," Doug
is saying. "We cleaned it and put it back together. It looks neat out here."
He points two stories above our heads, to the old Bradley traveling crane
that's been preserved as part of the project also.
Later, I see two of the 40 apartments ready to rent in the Edwards' west
wing, aka The Lofts at Franklin Square. Fifty more will be ready in a year.
© 2004 The Post-Standard.