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Developer tackles Montgomery's Temple

Monahan creates mixed use for circa 1910 building:

By Peter de Montmollin

The Masonic Temple on Montgomery Street in downtown Syracuse was home to the Masons until 1985, when it was purchased by the Metropolitan School of the Arts.

The school planned to use the temple as an art center. Those plans fell through, however, and the temple, built in the late 1910s, has been vacant since 1996.

But now a project by the Monahan Development Corporation is building lofts there that will double as apartments and workspaces. The project, which Monahan Development President Jim Monahan said will be ready by July 1, is but one of several downtown buildings that are used for both residential and commercial purposes.

City officials and county said they are encouraging this type of development.

"We have a decent amount of commercial activity downtown, but we need to maintain that activity after five o'clock, when people get out of work," said Megan Costa, administrator for special projects in the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency.

"The more people you have living downtown, the more likely you'll be able to keep your business open serving a downtown (crowd)," she said.

Mixed-use developments, as these buildings are often called, use up vacant space on the upper floors of buildings and are consistent with national trends favoring urban living, said Dave Michael, director of the city's Economic Development Office. A typical mixed-use building in Syracuse contains space for apartments and some sort of business or retailer. For example, a building may have a drug store on the bottom floor and apartments above it.

Mixed-use buildings can also help consolidate electricity, plumbing and other services.

"Obviously, if you have 100 units in one building instead of 100 individual units, it's easier to manage," said Bill Reilly, a broker associate at Prudential First Properties.

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