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Redhouse construction continues as more tenants are sought for former Sibley’s building

Progress is mixed on some redevelopment projects in downtown Syracuse. The Redhouse Arts Center is moving forward with construction in the old Sibley’s department store as part of a larger restoration of the building.

Workers are closing off a wall with cinder block tiles in what will be the Redhouse’s new 350-seat main stage theater in what used to be the Sibley’s warehouse. A concrete ceiling was cut out to raise the room’s height to 25 feet so rigging equipment can drop in set pieces.

“Some shows like Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, everybody just expects there’s flying, right? You’ve got to be able to have that flexibility as well,” Hannah said.

Redhouse Executive Director Samara Hannah showed off the back loading dock.

“Watch where you’re going, it’s a live construction site,” Hannah said.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
The elevators where the new dressing rooms will be.

She walked in between two out-of-order elevator shafts tagged with obscenities and graffiti. This space will be turned into dressing rooms.

“We had a lot of talk with the designers and engineers about how much of the architectural coolness, you look at the numbers, the old brass metal numbers for the elevator, can we retain some of that? I think it would be fun to have some of that look and feel of the old building,” Hannah said.

Hannah said it’s been a learning experience figuring out how much time it would take to prep the building for construction. This is a $10 million project that will include classrooms, offices and rehearsal space. It was originally slated to be completed at the end of last year. Plans to include two movie theaters have been delayed.

“We would rather be completely successful on things that are core to our mission than be moderately successful on 100 different things,” Hannah said. 

Redhouse has partnered with construction company Hayner Hoyt on the entire redevelopment of Sibley's known as City Center. CEO Gary Thurston said they are actively looking for other tenants. An agreement with Aspen Dental to rent office space fell through in December.

The hope is for retail space, a bar or a restaurant to come in. Thurston said more news could be coming soon. Redhouse is selling its old property and wants to move in around the end of 2017 for a soft opening in March and grand opening in June.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.