Century-old Syracuse office building to be converted into apartments

Syracuse Post Standard
September 26, 2016
By Rick Moriarty

Syracuse, N.Y. — A contractor is planning a $10 million redevelopment that will convert the upper floors of the 105-year-old Empire Building in downtown Syracuse into apartments.

Derek Persse, owner of Persse Construction Associates Inc., of Clay, said the first floor of the seven-story building will remain commercial space. The top seven floors, which now contain office space, and a one-and-a-half-story addition he plans to build on top will contain 52 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Five of the apartments are to be loft-style penthouse suites on the new top floor.

The project continues a trend toward the conversion of the upper floors of many vacant or underutilized office buildings in downtown Syracuse being converted into high-end apartments, often geared toward millennials.

Opened in 1911 at 472 S. Salina St., the Empire Building contained a movie theater, the Empire Theatre. It was located in the back of the building, though the front of the building contained the movie theater’s marquee.

The theater, one of the earliest in Syracuse, was demolished in 1961, likely because it was no longer financially feasible, said Dennis Connors, curator of history for the Onondaga Historical Association. At the time, a parking garage was planned for the space the theater occupied, but it was never built. A parking lot now occupies space.

Persse said the project will cost about $10 million. However, he said the project will be eligible for $2.4 million in state and federal historic tax credits. He has applied to the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency for a $320,000 exemption from sales taxes on construction materials and a $69,000 exemption from the state mortgage recording tax.

Community Preservation Corp. and Pathfinder Bank are providing the financing for the project, he said.

The apartments will range in size from 945 square feet to 2,150 square feet, and rents will range from $1,300 to $2,800 a month, including heat but not cable TV or electricity. Tenants will have reserved spaces in the fenced parking lot with electronic access behind the building.

Persse said he expects to begin construction in late October. The work will include the installation of new mechanical and electrical systems, and replacement of all windows with energy-efficient windows that look the same as the building’s original ones, he said.

Both current first-floor tenants, H&R Block and a nonprofit housing agency, will remain.

Persse is a former vice president of Syracuse contractor C.W. Rich Inc. For the past four years, he was director of construction for Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC’s business makeover show “The Profit” and CEO of Camping World.