December 13, 2016
By Rick Moriarty
Syracuse, N.Y. — A nearly $20 million redevelopment is turning the former R.E. Dietz Co. lantern factory in Syracuse's Park Avenue neighborhood into apartments and offices.
Work on the $19.2 million project at 225-303 Wilkinson St. began this fall. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy by Aug. 1.
The developers — Larry Losty Jr. and his son-in-law, Matthew Paulus — are putting 92 apartments into the old factory's top three floors and 37,500 square feet of commercial space on the first floor.
"The Dietz" will have 68 one-bedroom, 21 two-bedroom and three three-bedroom units, with monthly rents ranging from $1,000 to $2,300. Each will have large windows, high ceilings, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and in-unit washers and dryers.
In addition, the 208,000-square-foot building will have a fitness center and a conference room for tenants, as well as 108 indoor parking spaces and 98 outdoor parking spaces.
Losty and Paulus said they plan to leave the building's brick walls and its many wooden ceiling beams and support posts exposed as a reminder of the building's past.
"People are going to like the industrial look," Losty said. "They made things here."
The Steam Gauge and Lantern Co. operated on the site from 1888 to 1897. Prior to that, it was home to a cabinet maker's shop.
The Dietz company took it over in 1897. It built a large addition in 1904 when it obtained a major contract to supply lanterns for the construction of the Panama Canal. The building was expanded again in 1913, 1915 and in the 1930s. By 1969, the company employed 545 people at the factory.
Dietz shut down in 1992 following a labor dispute. The Dietz family sold the building to Losty for $35,000 in 1992. Losty spent $500,000 for roof repairs, a new sprinkler system and other needed upgrades soon after the purchase and until recently ran his office furniture business, Superior Office Interiors, out of it.
Paulus said he expects the apartments to attract young professionals, empty nesters and graduate students. The building's location across the street from Leavenworth Park, its proximity to downtown Syracuse and its easy access to Interstates 690 and 81 are all major draws, he said.
"There are a lot of people who want to be downtown without being downtown," he said.
The project is the latest sign of a revival of the Westside neighborhood. The former C.G. Meaker Food Co. warehouse at 538 Erie Blvd. W., a block from the Dietz, recently reopened as an apartment and office building. And the former Marsellus Casket factory nearby was recently redeveloped as the local headquarters of the American Medical Response ambulance service.
The Community Preservation Corp. and its lending partners Pathfinder Bank and NBT Bank are providing a $19.2 million construction loan for the Dietz project. CPC also is providing a $16.2 million permanent loan funded through its agreement with the state Common Retirement Fund.
"It's part of the revitalization of a neighborhood," said Nicholas Petragnani Jr., senior vice president and regional director of CPC. "That's how we look at this, not so much as a one-off loan for a project."
The state has agreed to provide a $900,000 grant through its Regional Economic Development Council initiative. In addition, Onondaga County is providing a $517,000 grant through its Save the Rain program. The project also will be eligible for state and federal historic preservation tax credits.