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Downtown Syracuse's boom is led by residential development

Ellen Abbott
A view of South Salina Street in downtown Syracuse.

Downtown Syracuse is in the midst of a multi-million dollar development boom. Much of this development is fueled by people who want to live downtown.

There are signs of construction all along the 300 block of South Salina Street in Syracuse. Downtown Committee executive director Merike Treier says today’s downtown has changed a lot in the last decade.

“Ten years ago, we were excited about $160 million of investment happening downtown," Treier said. "Today we’re at over $353 million, so downtown is definitely being reenergized. There’s a lot of visionaries that we’re able to work with that are reimagining uses for former office buildings and converting them to housing, apartments and retail space, so downtown is continuing to be reborn.”

She says residential development is responsible for half of that growth.

"We’re at about 3,000 residents in the central business district right now," Treier explained. "This past year alone with the number of apartments that have come online, we’ve had an 11 percent increase in the residential population.”

Treier says the biggest source of downtown residents comes from the "eds and Mmds" sector of the local economy.
“Whether it’s the educational institutions, the hospitals, the medical residents, 40 percent of our downtown population can be attributed to what’s happening on the hill," Treier said. "So for us, the hill is a huge economic generator. It helps to define what’s happening in the downtown district.”

Treier says two projects come to mind when discussing downtown improvements.

“A great example is SUNY Upstate built Geneva Tower two years ago to house medical residents, faculty and staff that are associated with there," Treier said. "We’ve got the $17 million Creekwalk Commons project underway, and that’s being built to serve the student population that craves that urban experience.”

She says the increased residential population ultimately fuels the business expansion that’s also happening downtown.

Treier also says empty nesters are starting to make the jump to downtown living. Right now there is a more than 99 percent occupancy rate in rental units downtown. To meet demand, Treier expects almost 200 new apartments to open up in the next year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.