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CenterState CEO plans to move to Pike Block by late summer

By Kevin Tampone


SYRACUSE — CenterState CEO, the area’s major business and economic-development group, says it will relocate to the Pike Block project in downtown Syracuse by late summer.

The group, which has more than 2,000 members, is currently housed at the former Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce building at 572 S. Salina St. The chamber and the Metropolitan Development Association of Syracuse and Central New York (MDA) merged to form CenterState CEO in 2010.

 “We’ve been contemplating the possibility of relocating since we merged the two organizations,” CenterState CEO President Robert Simpson says. “We knew that we had more space than we needed in that building. It’s been on our radar screen.”

The 130,000-square-foot Pike Block project involves four adjacent structures: the Chamberlin Building, Witherill Building, Wilson Building, and Bond Building. The $25 million development is located at the corner of South Salina and West Fayette streets.

VIP Development Associates, the development arm of VIP Structures of Syracuse, is Pike Block’s developer. The company is transforming the buildings into a combination of apartments, offices, and ground-floor retail space. Work began in 2011.

CenterState CEO was able to start working more aggressively toward a move when it started seeing interest in the former chamber building. The group spoke with several interested buyers and the South Salina Street building is now under contract for sale, Simpson says.

The organization hasn’t disclosed the buyer yet, but Simpson says that will happen in the next few weeks.

When it came time to find a new home, there was no shortage of options. CenterState CEO considered sites including the Merchant Commons project at 220 S. Warren St. and the Onondaga Tower, the former HSBC building, at 125 E. Jefferson St., Simpson says.

But Pike Block is at the historic heart of downtown Syracuse and developers have spoken of it as an effort to extend the success of Armory Square into a new area of the city.

“At the end of the day, this project, it met our needs from a size standpoint and I think speaks to what we stand for as an organization,” Simpson says. “I think it was really important to us as we thought about making a move to be part of a project that was part of the renaissance of the city and in our downtown area in particular.”

The project takes advantage of the New York State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, which CenterState CEO pushed for strongly, he adds. Beyond that, the group has a long history with the Pike Block buildings.

The project itself began in 2005 when Adapt CNY, Inc., a nonprofit entity spun out of the 40 Below young professionals organization, secured control of the Wilson Building from the city of Syracuse. Adapt CNY eventually raised more than $1 million toward redevelopment. 40 Below is now sponsored by CenterState CEO.

The former MDA eventually acquired three of the Pike Block buildings, packaged the properties together, and negotiated the redevelopment as one project.

CenterState CEO will serve as an anchor tenant at Pike Block and occupy 12,000 square feet on the second floor of the Witherill Building and the first floor of the Chamberlin Building. The first floor space will be a reception area and include information for visitors.

CenterState CEO affiliates, including the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, and Benefit Specialists of New York, will also relocate to Pike Block.

The MDA-chamber merger left CenterState CEO with 21,000 square feet of space at the former chamber building, which is more than it needs, the group said. Office areas are divided tightly and the space includes several large common areas the chamber used in the past for events.

CenterState CEO has been holding most of those functions at member businesses in recent years, Simpson says. It’s a move that allows local companies to showcase their work.

“We were hearing more and more from folks that they wanted to do that,” he says.

CenterState CEO employs about 70 people. All of the organization’s staff members, except those at the Syracuse Tech Garden, will be housed at Pike Block after the move.

VIP announced Pike Block’s first retail tenant, Tim Hortons Cafe & Bake Shop, earlier this month.

“We were not in the market for office tenants,” VIP Chairman and CEO David Nutting says. “We want the lights to be on. At 11 o’clock, we want the lights to be burning.”

But if there is one office tenant VIP would want for Pike Block, it would be CenterState CEO, he adds. Given the group’s history with the project and its role in downtown’s redevelopment, it’s a great fit, he says.

CenterState CEO is taking some space originally meant for residential units, Nutting says. The finished project will now have 68 apartments instead of 78. Between Tim Horton’s and CenterState CEO’s ground-floor space, about 20 percent of the development’s 25,000-square-foot retail area is spoken for, he adds.

VIP is in close to signing a lease with another tenant for 7,000 square feet and is in talks with four or five others, Nutting says. The company expects to wrap up all of the work on the project by the end of September.

Pike Block is set to host the Downtown Living Tour in May so much of the residential areas will be finished by then, he says.

VIP has the rights to the building adjacent to Pike Block to the south and expects to redevelop that structure next, Nutting adds.


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