How small businesses on South Crouse Avenue will be affected by pending construction project
Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor
A string of small businesses located on South Crouse Avenue are currently planning their last days of business on the Hill.
The city’s Planning Commission recently approved a proposal from BLVD Equities, a real estate development firm based in New Jersey, to demolish the structures on the street and construct an eight-story “mixed use building.” The first floor will remain retail space, and the rest will be residences.
Project developers still need to acquire a construction permit and a demolition permit from the city’s code enforcement division. If the permits and abatements are approved, construction could begin as early as next month. Several businesses have already announced their last days of business.
In paperwork filed with the city last month, the developers listed March 1 as the “approximate” start date for construction and Aug. 1, 2018, as the first date of occupation. Those involved with the project have previously been reluctant to share a strict timeline.
Hungry Chuck’s, the popular student bar, has received much of the initial attention regarding the effects of the project, but here’s a look at the other small businesses on South Crouse Avenue that will be affected.
Orange Crate Brewing Co., formerly Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar
Just before Orange Crate Brewing Co. opened for the night, a few student employees sat in the front room. They joked about the Duke game, made bets they quickly backed out of and gave each other a hard time.
It felt normal.
A patchwork family — Orange Crate employees pride themselves on a strong family culture and surely act like one — was ready for another normal work night. And that’s how owner R.C. Faigle likes it.
But soon that family, made-up of almost 50 student-employees annually, will be torn apart as the demolition of the space looms.
Faigle was approached about the project in August by the Dellas Family, the property owners. The Dellas Family, owners of Faegan’s Cafe & Pub and Varsity Pizza, recently sold the Orange Crate building to BLVD Equities.
Faigle was at the end of a five-year lease that would not be renewed. He’s happy for his friends, the Dellas Family, but is crushed to see a place he started working at 27 years ago as an SU student approaching its end.
He has been in contact with the Dellas family but has not talked to BLVD Equities. Faigle would be willing to move into the new space, he said.
Chris Bradish has worked part-time at the bar for 18 years, and said he doesn’t understand why the construction has to happen now. He said he hopes that construction doesn’t start until the end of the school year, so that the businesses can benefit from one of the busiest parts of the academic year.
“Even if it’s part-time, money is money. I got three kids to take care of. I do look forward to these 20-30 hours that I get up here, I need those 20-30 hours, and I will be looking for other employment,” Bradish said. “It just sucks the way this place is going out.”
Faigle said the demolition not only affects the lives of the employees, but the entire SU community.
He talked about the campus culture and how South Crouse Avenue businesses have been a cornerstone to thousands of students’ experiences.
“It’s really sad to the redevelopment of the properties here, and it will really change the entire experience of Syracuse University, and I was a part of that, and I took pride in that,” Faigle said. “It’s an overwhelming, depressing feeling knowing the end is near.”
Hair Trends owner Antonio Pinti isn’t going anywhere until he knows his business is protected.
There’s more than a year left on his lease, and he won’t close shop until he receives the commercial buyout he thinks he deserves.
He has been engaged in negotiations with BLVD Equities, and said he “got some numbers” but has been unsatisfied with its offers so far.
Pinti has owned the salon on the corner of the alley for 23 years and used to own all of Campus Plaza, before selling it to the last owner, The Woodbine Group.
He declined to go into details about the buyout, but said he has more than a year left on his lease.
He plans to stay “within a one block radius” of his current location, and has been looking at several vacant locations in the area.
In a January interview, Pinti said he wanted set up shop in a new location by March 15 and he didn’t intend on holding up demolition of the project in any way. But since then, that timeline has shifted. He hopes to reach an agreement with BLVD Equities this week but is willing to sit on his lease until that happens.
He said he sees the complex as a chance to clean up the area, and that he believes it will enhance the student and business experience “an awful lot.”
Funk ’n Waffles
Adam Gold pulled down South Crouse Avenue like he had thousands of times in the past decade.
It’s a decade that catapulted his basement waffle and music venue to national lore – attracting the attention of the Food Network – and capturing the hearts of generations of Orange faithful.
It’s a drive that has become less frequent as his business has expanded, last year to downtown, and later this year to Rochester.
It’s a decade that was filled with rumors and whispers of new owners looking to tear down Campus Plaza. Whispers that always ended with Funk staying just where it is.
So when the rumors started up again in the last few months, Gold didn’t spend too much time thinking about them. His mind was elsewhere — in Rochester and downtown.
But on this day, the commute was different. Gold, a graduate of SU, pulled down the familiar alley, its bright graffiti welcoming him, but he couldn’t pull into his normal parking spot.
“I think it became more real to me when I saw them drilling core samples in our parking lot, and I couldn’t pull into my normal spot,” Gold said. “It wasn’t until then that I took it seriously.”
Funk ’n Waffles on the Hill closed its location Wednesday. The rumors became reality, and Gold has to look to the future.
He wants to maintain a presence in the area and would be open to moving into the new retail space, but he said he hasn’t received enough information to commit to returning.
Gold said he often thinks it’s the worst location he could have found. It’s located in a leaky basement underneath Chuck’s, down the alley behind Marshall Street. Over the years, he’s looked at other locations on the Hill as they have come available. Recently, he considered Bruegger’s Bagels’ old location, but none of the potential new spaces matched his criteria.
“It’s pretty hard to talk about, I got to say,” Gold said. “It’s pretty heavy to think about the space being demolished.”
Joe Jittaratlert was blindsided by the news.
“I didn’t know what to think. I still had lease here for a long time, and we want to stay,” Jittaratlert said.
He learned about the demolition “just after the new year,” and a few weeks later he would be closing appeThaizing’s Hill location forever.
AppeThaizing recently reached a commercial buyout agreement with BLVD Equities. Jittaratlert declined to go into details about the agreement.
There’s another appeThaizing location in Liverpool, and the owners also own Khao Gaeng, a Thai-street food joint in downtown near Clinton Square. The owners are considering changing their downtown property into another appeThaizing as a result of their Hill location closing and because of the restaurant’s brand recognition.
The owner’s downtown restaurants will deliver appeThaizing dishes via GrubHub to the Hill as soon as the South Crouse Avenue location closes Friday at 2 p.m.
Several members of the kitchen staff will continue to work at the downtown restaurant and Liverpool location, but most of the front of house workers will be laid off.
He echoed what several business owners have said about the deterioration of the building. He said whenever there’s a lot of rain, the basement restaurant floods with several inches of water.
Jittaratlert said online delivery has changed how appeThaizing has done business in recent years, and so a physical location on the Hill isn’t necessary to serve students. Business at the Hill restaurant has increased since the announcement of the demolition, he said.
He said they have talked “a little” to BLVD Equities about moving back into the new space, but are going to focus on their other two restaurant spaces for now.
“Another ending creates another opportunity,” Jittaratlert said.
Several Komachi employees and the owners declined multiple requests to comment on this story.
There are no other Komachi restaurants in Syracuse.
SEFCU Credit Union
Nicole Stein, a senior vice president in marketing, wrote in an email statement that “absolutely” would like to maintain a presence on the Hill. There is no current timeline for the eviction of the property.
“We are in active discussions with our current landlord, the project developers, and other property representatives on options for continuing service to our existing members as well as a facility to attract more of the Syracuse market. Unfortunately, we can’t comment on any specifics yet,” Stein wrote in the statement.
—Asst. News Editor Sam Ogozalek contributed reporting to this article.
Published on February 22, 2017 at 10:18 pm
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