9:13am

Fri October 5, 2012
Business

Following the people, more stores call downtown Syracuse home

Empty storefronts used to be a common site in downtown Syracuse, but now more are being leased out thanks in part to a growing demand from people to live in the city's urban center.

Downtown Syracuse's population rose about a quarter in the past decade. Now businesses are following the young people and "empty nesters" (older couples without kids living at home anymore) downtown.

Twenty-four new businesses opened downtown from October 2011 to October 2012, according to the Downtown Committee. That's up from 13 the year before and from just nine in 2009-2010.

"Everywhere we've seen the residential component developed, retail has followed," says Merike Treier, director of the Downtown Committee.

To keep up with a growing population, developers are quickly buying up and renovating old department stores and office buildings. Often part of a developer's plans is street-level retail space.

"In downtown, actually, you’re able to put residential units in any of the buildings as long as it’s above first-floor commercial space," says Treier.

Restaurants and bars are leading the charge to open up the downtown precinct, according to Treier.

Many of the businesses are second locations - like Om Boys Juice Bar, which first had a location in the suburb of Liverpool - or relocations.

One much desired business is still missing from downtown: a grocery store. The core's population needs to hit about 5,000 - it's currently around 2,700 - for that to become a possibility, developers say.

You can follow reporter Ryan Delaney on Twitter @RyanWRVO