A part of the revenues from the sale of the Liverpool Golf & Country Club to Amazon was used to breathe new life into a neglected commercial property in downtown Syracuse.
The investment completes a circle in the family’s business existence in Syracuse. Archie Ajemian financed the creation of the Liverpool golf course by taking out a mortgage on the building on South Warren Street decades ago. His family is using the proceeds from the sale of the golf course to renovate the identical building seventy-three years later.
Stephen Schmitt, Ajemian’s grandson, has renovated the second floor of 413-417 S. Warren St. has been divided into four upmarket apartments: three one-bedroom flats and one studio.
Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, hardwood flooring, and tiled bathrooms are included in each apartment. The two front units feature balconies with views of Warren Street, while the two rear units have balconies and entrances to a private courtyard.
The one-bedroom flat in front will be rented for $2,000 per month at market rate, while the studio will be used as an Airbnb.
The two one-bedroom units in the back will be rented at a below-market cost of $1,358 per month and will be targeted at families earning less than 90% of the area’s typical family income. The lower rent is mandated by the terms of a $100,000 state grant Schmitt received with the aid of the Syracuse Downtown Committee through the New York Main Street program.
The project is the most recent example of unused downtown real estate being transformed to residential usage. According to the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, developers have erected 1,365 apartments downtown since 2007, increasing the total number of housing units downtown to 2,633 as of March 1 this year. The population of downtown is currently at 4,300 people, more than double what it was 15 years ago.
The South Warren Street structure was constructed in 1920. Schmitt claimed his grandpa acquired the building in 1940 to serve as the location for their hair salon, Archie & Ella’s Salon, which ultimately became Archie’s House of Beauty.
Ajemian took out a loan to build the Liverpool Golf & Country Club on Morgan Road in Clay in 1949. After 72 years of operation, his family sold the golf club and accompanying land to Amazon in 2020 for $5.2 million. (The money was divided among Ajemian’s three children’s households.)
On the location, Amazon has developed one of the world’s largest distribution hubs. The $350 million complex, which will employ 1,500 people, is set to open later this winter.
Over the years, the South Warren Street building held a photo studio and a bagel business, among other things. The first level of the building has been inhabited by the Tang Flavor Chinese restaurant since 2013, however, the second floor has been primarily unoccupied for years.
Over the years, Warren Street has had its ups and downs. When the Hotel Syracuse closed and Blue Cross Blue Shield moved its operations to DeWitt in the early 2000s, business vacancy rates on the street skyrocketed.
Roberta Schmitt, Schmitt’s mother, was hesitant to sell the building because of its link to her father, who died in 1978.
The wait was really worth it. In recent years, Warren Street has become more active.
After a $76 million renovation, the Hotel Syracuse reopened in 2016 as a full-service Marriott. The Icon Corporation is a company that specializes in the creation of iconic products. The old Blue Cross Blue Shield building was rebuilt and reopened in 2017 as Icon Tower, which has 89 apartments as well as office and retail space. TCGplayer, a fast-growing startup, has set up shop in the adjacent Galleries of Syracuse.
“It’s been a terrific Syracuse story,” Schmitt remarked. “We’ve experienced both good and horrible times.”
Following the sale of the golf club, the Schmitts chose to contribute to the street’s revival by reinvesting a portion of the revenues in the Warren Street building’s renovation. Schmitt wouldn’t specify how much the family spent on the project, but he did claim it cost more than the $400,000 budget.
The leasing process is set to begin later this month. According to Schmitt, the flats will appeal to residents who want to be a part of the downtown atmosphere. Armory Square, Hanover Square, and the Salt City Market are all within walking distance of the apartments.
The upgrades included removing the building’s unattractive 1970s-era brown metal panels and replacing them with windows.
The structure was one of the ugliest in downtown Syracuse before it was renovated, according to Heather Schroeder, director of economic development for the Downtown Committee.
She added, “It’s gone from being the ugly duckling to the swan.”