Discover CNY Day

By Jamie King, Discover CNY Design Team Member

It was a beautiful spring day in Central New York, despite what the weather forecast predicted, when a group of 50 LGSers (from the best class*) gathered to kick off Discover CNY Day the only way we deemed fitting and proper – with an 8 a.m. parking lot party. If the coffee and pastries weren’t enough to wake everyone up, the portable loud speaker certainly was. Reminiscent of a tailgate party before an SU game, the scene in the parking lot on the corner of West and Fayette streets that Wednesday morning was not a typical sight for the regular downtown commuter. And so it began… our Date with Downtown Syracuse.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

For the first stretch of our journey, Dennis Connors, curator of history at the Onondaga Historical Association, took our group on a walking tour of the Onondaga Creekwalk. From the Inner Harbor to Franklin Square to the SU Warehouse, Dennis amazed us with his limitless knowledge of Syracuse history. As we walked along the Creekwalk, we learned the significance of various locations – how they existed in past generations, their cultural impact, their plans for the future, and numerous fun facts and anecdotes about each. Furthermore, we learned what a great asset the Creekwalk is for our community.

An Engaging Relationship

Once we ended the Creekwalk at the SU Warehouse, we went inside to explore and to hear from Marilyn Higgins, vice president of community engagement and economic development at Syracuse University. Marilyn’s discussion was interactive and lively as she showed our group all the changes that are being made to connect the campus with the community – and we could see it all looking out the window of the Warehouse. We learned about the Connective Corridor project that is currently underway and the benefits that are to come upon its completion. After our chat with Marilyn, we enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by The Mission Restaurant. Located on East Onondaga Street in a former church, the location was previously a stop on the Underground Railroad. If the authentic Mexican cuisine they serve isn’t enough to get you there, the historical significance alone is worth a trip.

Developing a Deeper Connection

Whether you’ve lived in Central New York for two years or all your life, you’ve likely heard several stories on the various developments that are happening in the downtown area. Our group was lucky to hear from Ben Walsh, deputy commissioner of neighborhood and business development for the City of Syracuse, who discussed in detail some of the more recent developments and what’s on the horizon for the future. Ben described some of the main projects, including Pike Block, and explained how the investment in downtown revitalization today will create a solid foundation and spur economic growth for future generations to come.

At Home in the Heart of Syracuse

Following Ben’s presentation, we heard from Merike Treier, executive director for the Downtown Committee of Syracuse. Merike echoed Ben’s sentiments on the importance of the downtown revitalization and further discussed numerous activities that occur year round for CNY residents to enjoy. Whether it’s the Farmers’ Market, the Living Tour, or Dining Week, there is never a shortage of fun things to do in downtown Syracuse. Merike’s discussion highlighted how downtown is not only an attractive place to start a business, but it’s also a great place to live for both families and young professionals.

Paint the Town Red

As we continued on our journey, we made our way from the Warehouse to The Red House. We all took our seats in the theater, where we heard from Rachel Boucher, marketing director at the Red House, and her colleague Stephanie on the various programs and initiatives that the Red House supports. In addition to driving culture and the arts in our community, the nonprofit organization hosts a summer Rock Camp for children and has ongoing partnerships with the Arc of Onondaga and several other community organizations. We split into groups to take tours of the Red House facility and its neighbor, SubCat Studios, where we learned how these organizations impact the arts and music scene in Syracuse. If you haven’t had a chance to catch a play at the Red House or record your latest single at SubCat, we highly recommend you check them out. Keep an eye out for the stuffed weasel and the T-Rex head.

It’s All Here, Let’s Have a Beer
Nearing the final hours of our date with downtown, we made our way from the Red House to Empire Brewing Company. Before we entered our last location, we made a quick pit stop at the
24 Second Shot Clock to meet up with Kate Gillen, founder of Sampling Syracuse Food Tours, who told us about her walking food tours through downtown Syracuse. One word… yum. Then it was time for the beverages. Kevin Griffin, general manager at Empire Brewing Company, greeted us and explained the story of Empire before he took our groups on tours of the brewery. Empire was the first business in CNY to use renewable energy that was produced 100% in New York State and it uses locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. What a good representation of leading by example. Once we wrapped up the day, the class dug through their swag bags, filled with items donated by several generous local businesses.** As the perfect ending to our day, we enjoyed happy hour with LGS alumni who came out to join us and hear about our experiences.

Our Date with Downtown flew by quickly as we moved from place to place, and after months of planning it was over before we knew it. While we learned so much and met some amazing people on our journey, we were only able to explore a small piece of downtown Syracuse during our class day.

There are so many other places to go and things to do in downtown Syracuse – and throughout Central New York – that showcase what makes our community a great place to live and work. If you find yourself complaining about living in CNY (We’re lookin’ at you, comments section), you may want to look around and take note of all the good in our community. Take a stroll down the Creekwalk; try a new local restaurant; relax in Franklin Square. Explore… you may be surprised at what you find.


To end with our class day quote:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust


*While it is an ongoing debate amongst past and present classes of LGSers, as it will surely continue to be in the future, let it be known that the Leadership Greater Syracuse Class of 2014 truly is the best class. It’s now written in stone on the Internet; therefore, it must be true. 

**Our Date with Downtown would not have been nearly as awesome without contributions from the following local businesses – big thanks to all: Cheeky Monkey, Speach Family Candy Shoppe, Liehs and Steigerwald, CXtec, Provisions Bakery, Recess Coffee, Syracuse City Dining Cards, Key Bank, Ultimate Arrival, 83 and Company, Giovanni Food Company, and Sean Ptak with Fill Your Life Up.


To the Discover CNY Design Team – the best experience with the best people – you all rock: Kirsten Cerro, C&S Companies; DJ Isereau, SRC, Inc.; Lisa Lippoldt, Rural Metro, Jamey Lloyd, Key Bank; Ross MacGarvey (have fun in Virginia; we miss you!); Kim Powell, Anchor QEA; Ed Prue, LP&M Advertising; Amy Rood, Brown & Sanford Consulting; Heather Schroeder, Housing Visions; Maureen Wierzbicki, Bristol-Myers Squibb; and Robin Macaluso, LGS Wonder Woman.