A new flavor: Restaurants open on Westcott Street, look to revive neighborhood

Luke Rafferty | Design Editor

Brandon Roe is co-owner of Beer Belly Deli, one of three new restuarants to open on Westcott Street. Developers, business owners and residents of the Westcott neighborhood hope the new eateries will spark more interest and a stronger sense of community in the area.

Developers, residents and business owners hope three additional Westcott Street restaurants will help revitalize a dreary corner of the popular stretch of businesses.

The eateries, which are located in the north end of Westcott Street, feature elements that promote a stronger sense of community, including a shared courtyard, pedestrian-friendly walkway and environmentally friendly elements, said Doug Roth, a project manager with University Hill Realty, the company that owns the properties and is helping construct and renovate the spaces.

“It’s a community way of revitalizing an urban center,” he said.

Gastropub Beer Belly Deli opened on Oct. 31, and two additional restaurant openings are scheduled to follow. The deli will share the space previously occupied by Seven Rays bookstore with Asahi, a Japanese restaurant. A juice bar is also in the works on the second floor above Taste of India, though it is still in its beginning stages, Roth said.

While the restaurants have separate owners, a few features unify the businesses. A T-shaped pedestrian walkway links the Taste of India parking lot, which is located behind Beer Belly Deli, to the main stretch of Westcott Street businesses. Electric car charging stations will also be available at three spaces in the parking lot shared by Beer Belly Deli, Asahi and Papa John’s Pizza.

As part of Onondaga County’s Save the Rain program, permeable pavers were recently installed in the parking lot and the back patio shared by Beer Belly Deli and Asahi. Water seeps through cracks, collects into a catch basin below the paver and absorbs rainwater back into the earth.

The sustainable qualities introduced in the north end corner of the street will help enhance the Westcott Street experience, said Roth, the developer with University Hill Reality.

“It reduces pollution. It makes it a better place to live,” he said.

Taste of India, which opened last year, was one of the first restaurants to participate in the earth-friendly revitalization of the corner, turning a converted automobile garage into a full-functioning restaurant.

“This restaurant used to be like nothing,” said Gagan Singh, owner and manager.

A year after moving from downtown, Singh described the Westcott Street relocation as a positive business move that will likely improve Westcott’s commerciality.

Roth said reusing old buildings — like a converted automobile garage — is a more environmentally conscious ways of creating a new business.

Barbara Humphrey, president of the Westcott East Neighborhood Association, said the new restaurants will bring an added — and needed — presence to an otherwise dim and dreary end of the street.

“I think getting new, young business owners is great,” said Humphrey, a Westcott neighborhood resident of 22 years. “I think the light and activity at the end of the street is great. It’s a win-win situation.”

Many of the businesses at Westcott’s north end operate on regular business hours and close before the evening rush. The addition of restaurants may attract more evening patrons, she said.

The overall spirit of the Westcott neighborhood attracted Lauren Monforte, co-manager and owner of Beer Belly Deli, to the area.

Monforte shopped for possible locations in Buffalo, N.Y., and downtown Syracuse, among others, but eventually settled on Beer Belly Deli’s Westcott Street location to start the business she dreamed of owning since she was 16 years old.

The area offers a space to “celebrate being weird and different,” she said, and the Westcott neighborhood was the perfect atmosphere for her restaurant.

“It’s one of those weird neighborhoods that attract people that are open-minded,” Monforte said.

Beer Belly Deli’s interior also communicates the same homey, inviting space. A wooden bench lines one side of the restaurant and wraps into an L shape at the end, creating an intimate space that helps facilitate conversation, she said.

The 13-foot-high ceilings are coupled with an eclectic mix of decor, including an armoire Monforte transported from her personal bedroom. Her mother’s prized antique school desk sits near the front entrance, opposite a chest owned by her stepmother.

The spirit that encourages the revitalization of Westcott’s north corner as a comfortable community space carries over to Monforte’s business. She plans on incorporating elements in her business that encourage community involvement, including featuring customers’ sandwich creations and playing their playlists.

Said Monforte: “I want people to come over and eat and drink and be merry.”


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