Vacant, 3-story Hulk on Butternut Street Predated Art Deco

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

By John Mariani,
Staff writer, Syraucse Post-Standard

It's not considered one of his gems, but renowned Syracuse architect Archimedes Russell was on to something when he designed the Conrad Loos Building at 836 Butternut St. Rounded red brick columns rise to third-story arched windows, foreshadowing the art deco style that would come into fashion 25 years later. The 109-year-old structure was an early mixed-use commercial building, too, housing a succession of drugstores on the first floor and residences on the top two.

The last tenant, Kacey's Drug & Variety, was burned out by a fire in 1996. Today, the Conrad Loos Building sits vacant and scarred on the southeast corner of Butternut and Park streets.

What do neighbors say? "It makes the neighborhood look bad, like it's run-down and business can't survive here," said Mat Scalzo, a North Side resident and shift supervisor at the KFC restaurant across Butternut Street. "It makes it look like the modern business world can't survive in Syracuse."

The building seems fated to "demolition by neglect," said Jae Evangelisti, past president of the Preservation Association of Central New York, which joined other critics in opposing owner Tino Marcoccia's plans to tear down the building. "By refusing to maintain upkeep he denies potential and he contributes to serious decline in the neighborhood as the building becomes an eyesore," Evangelisti said.

What does the owner say? "The building cannot be fixed. It's so far gone, it economically cannot be restored," said Marcoccia, who bought the building for $80,000 in 1999, according to city tax records. The last rehabilitation estimate was $1.3 million or $1.4 million, he said.

Marcoccia said he wanted to replace the building with a Wilson Farms convenience store. The Syracuse Planning Commission gave its OK in March 2000, to the dismay of the Preservation Association.

The association sued Marcoccia and the commission, contending Marcoccia knew before he finished buying the structure that the Common Council had made it a "protected site." That meant he brought upon himself any economic hardship he would suffer from not being able to tear it down, the group said.

The state Supreme Court and the Appellate Division sided with Marcoccia and the commission in June 2001. By then, Wilson Farms backed out of the deal, Marcoccia said.

"Hopefully I can find a tenant where we can tear it down and get rid of it, or have the city help us out help us find a tenant, or help us maybe tear the building down," Marcoccia said. The last he checked, he said, demolition would cost $70,000.

What can be done? As with other vacant structures, Syracuse's Code Enforcement office is monitoring the building for litter and to make sure vagrants aren't getting in, said Jim Blakeman, director of code enforcement.

"We have had to address litter and debris on a couple of occasions," Blakeman said. Marcoccia "did come over and take care of it."

"We were under the impression it would be coming down, hopefully this season," Blakeman said.

The Post-Standard's "Clean Sweep" campaign targets community eyesores. Call NewsLine at 472-2111 and enter category 4019 to suggest a location. You also can send e-mail to

2004 The Post-Standard.