New building to go up downtown

Seven-story, $30 million structure will transform city center,
Mayor Driscoll says.

August 10, 2003

By Rick Moriarty, Staff writer

The biggest construction project in downtown Syracuse in more than a decade will kick off next year and, by the time it is completed 18 months later, it will have transformed the core of the city's center, Mayor Matt Driscoll said.







Only the narrow facade at the center is to become part of the new building. The others will be demolished. Click picture for enlargement.

A preliminary drawing released by the city shows a seven-story building containing 40 apartments, 20 condominiums, 40,000 square feet of retail space and a 950- to 1,000-car parking garage to be built on the east side of the 300 block of South Salina Street.

The $30 million structure will replace a hodgepodge of six buildings of varying heights that have retail space on their first floors but are mostly vacant on their upper levels.

A seventh building, the former Syracuse Trust Co. building now housing First Interstate Data Services, will be saved because of its architectural and historical significance, and will be incorporated into the new structure, the mayor said.

It will be the largest building project downtown since the AT&T building at 250 S. Clinton St. went up in 1990 and the biggest on South Salina Street since the Galleries of Syracuse retail and office center was built in 1987.

Driscoll said he wants demolition work to begin in March. Discussions are being held with the owners of the existing buildings about acquiring them for the development, he said. The city - through its industrial development agency - could also acquire the buildings through eminent domain, he said.

Syracuse Economic Development Director Bart Feinberg said the city plans to issue a request for proposals to private developers in the fall and to pick one in time to begin the project in the spring. The developer would own the residential and retail section of the building, and the Syracuse Parking Authority would own and operate the garage, he said.

The proposed new building would feature a facade made of red brick, grayish stone, a green metal roof and colored first-floor window awnings.

"We want to use colors," said Driscoll. "We're not just going to do downtown gray like others do. Colors are very important to us."

Driscoll said details of the exterior, including its height, are subject to additional planning but probably will not change a lot.

"It's just a concept," he said. "But frankly, it's a concept we really want to move on."

The project is part of the Driscoll administration's plan to rejuvenate downtown's core, retain and attract new jobs in the area, draw residents back to the city and provide greater parking for downtown workers and visitors.

Eight hundred of the approximately 1,000 parking spaces at the garage that will be built in the rear of the new building, between South Salina and South Warren streets, will be reserved for employees of the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield health insurance firm. Entrances to the garage will be on East Fayette and South Salina streets.

Excellus agreed to keep its regional headquarters downtown in exchange for the city's construction of the parking garage. Excellus employs 1,000 on South Warren Street and plans to begin building a 40,000-square-foot addition, costing $6 million to $7 million, in June.

Retail space in the new building will be on the first floor and should include a grocery store among its tenants, Driscoll said.

Floors 2 through 5 will contain one- and two-bedroom apartments, each with 900 to 1,400 square feet of space. Driscoll said they will be rented at market rates, which could be in the $900 to $1,200 a month range for one-bedroom units.

Floors 6 and 7 will contain condominiums. Prices for those units could range from $180,000 to $350,000, he said.

Garage spaces not used by Excellus will be available to residents and the general public. In the evening, the garage could be used by people attending shows at the Landmark Theatre across the street and other events downtown, officials said.

In a related effort, Driscoll said the city is seeking a way to create a pedestrian promenade that directly connects Armory Square to the 300 block of South Salina Street. Armory Square is a district of former warehouses that were converted into trendy restaurants, bars and shops in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

City officials have been looking for ways to spread some of Armory Square's popularity to South Salina Street, which has struggled to find an identity since its traditional anchors - department stores - moved out years ago.

Driscoll is hoping the reconstruction of the 300 block of South Salina Street will encourage other development downtown and make the city-owned Dey's Centennial Plaza office building a block to the south more marketable.

The city is holding discussions with the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority about moving its Centro bus hub from South Salina Street to a yet-to-be-determined location downtown.

The hub will have to move during the building's construction, but the city wants it permanently relocated because the buses take up on-street parking spaces and cause congestion. Driscoll said bus passengers would benefit from the move because a new site could include an indoor waiting area.

Frank Kobliski, the transportation authority's chief operating officer, said the authority would be willing to move the hub, but only if a convenient and central location can be found.

2003 The Post-Standard.