I got set to write an update about The Gear Factory and after thinking for a long while about what and how to write. I realized my thoughts kept coming back to all the things I’ve seen and heard happening to the people I’m surrounded by at the building and in the community. So, there’s two different things going on here, the physical environment that’s been improving in and around and people’s lives that are growing in these city spaces.
A lot happened this year!
Since 2013 up until just a year ago, I still had no heat, concrete blocked up the window in my office/studio and I had barely any sunlight. With the help of a concrete boring drill I borrowed from one of the construction crews I now have heat, and with the removal of several concrete blocks (that I felt the need to remove myself) I have a 14-foot-wide by 9-foot-tall operable window! This is my little space in the larger part of the Gear Factory’s interior neighborhood.
Throughout the building there have been tons of improvements and tons of losses.
The losses calculate out to about 1,000,000 pounds of weight (or 500 tons of stuff) that has been removed and or given away. Just the concrete floor cut out from each floor for the new stairwell was about a dumpster and a half alone. A total of about 14,500 concrete blocks were removed from old window openings and about 12,000 of those were given away to people who have reused them. Uses ranging from gardens, to building garages, repairing home foundations, and many other things. Last the 5th and 4th floors of the Gear had most debris, unusable materials, and stuff removed to make way for new things to come!
Syracuse has been in an incredibly sad state of affairs concerning places for musicians to practice. The first time I asked musicians what people needed for rehearsal space they said that a door that locks would be great, heat and water optional and we have extension cords. But after digging a lot deeper this is what I got out of people. Let’s start with the most ideal situation and see how close we can get to that.
- Flexible hours
- Variety of sizes
- A bathroom
- Heat would be great
Here’s what we ended up building. Rehearsal studios that are:
- Safe and Secure
- No time constraints
- Variety of studio sizes
- New men’s and lady’s bathrooms
- Heat/ventilation/humidity control, Electric, and Wi-Fi all included
- Pricing is affordable
- Rooms are designed to be sound “deadened” from room to room. (Not sound proof!)
- All new construction
- New elevator - you push this button and it comes to you! It’s also better than carrying your stuff up and down stairs!
- New sprinkler system, interconnected fire detection system, and the building’s “structure” is made of 100% fireproof reinforced concrete
- Neutral Location for group members so anyone at any time can stop by with or without the whole group.
- You can be loud and no one will call the police, pound on the ceiling, yell at you, or kick you out.
- All 100% legit with city and fire code requirements!
And just to be clear, I like for musicians to know - everything these new rehearsal studios are, came from musicians telling me what they wanted! The Gear Factory just put it together.
The goal here was basically to cut all the bullshit out so that area musicians have a place to come to and focus on what it is you really want to do!
To the Musicians, thank you for being there for everyone’s best, worst, and all the in-between moments of all people’s lives! I’m excited to see how the community of well over 100 new musicians here progresses!
The best time to contact me about renting a studio space is towards the end of the month, this is usually when I find out about 30 day notices and if a studio will be opening up over the course of the next month.
We are prepared for future growth! Not everyone realizes this but we have a long way to go. Aside from the build out of all the rehearsal studios, we still have 4 more upper floors to go! This phase of construction was also largely about making the big improvements that were needed to make all the upper floors of the building development ready.
- Creating a ground level entrance in the front, making the building ADA accessible. People also like being able to wheel things around on it for loading/unloading things.
- A new passenger elevator big enough for a stretcher! The stretcher thing is for safety reasons, but this is also another component of ADA and making me gain weight by not taking the stairs every time now.
- The new stairwell and it's fire rated shaft way is amazing! This stairwell was not just a want. It was needed for creating a second means of egress, which is another code and fire safety requirement for buildings. However, building the stairwell right as you walk in the front door equates to making the most out of the things you have to do. While many people would try to hide a stairwell, I really wanted people to be compelled to use it - helping to create an active and healthy building. Each time you reach a new floor level you’re greeted with a new view of downtown. And the concrete sections cut out of each floor have revealed a literal cross section of the building's historic Kahn System of Reinforced Concrete.
- All new 480 high voltage 3 phase electric service from the street! This ensures an updated system with clean electricity in the building that will support the demand of just about any new tenant, build out or use in the future.
- New sprinkler and interconnected fire alarm systems have been installed that not only satisfy city and fire codes but, most importantly, you can feel confident people and their property will be safe here.
- With the help of Onondaga County’s Save the Rain grant program a new Green Roof was installed on top of the building, the parking lot was redone with permeable concrete, and the shared back alley was redone with permeable asphalt. Parking is now awesome, rainwater just drains right into the ground, and the green roof makes the building invisible to Google earth. (Hoping to make the roof accessible to the public at some point in the future!)
- And the most notable thing from the street - the windows! This transformed the corner of a major intersection in the city of Syracuse where thousands pass by every day, these windows are a return to the “human” component of the building's structure as was originally intended. These kinds of buildings were known as “day light factories.” The building's original architect, Albert Kahn, had the vision in the early 1900’s to sway factory owners from the typical brick and wood sweat shops to wide open, healthy work areas flooded with natural light and ventilation.
- Empire State Development’s reimbursement grant of $680,000 towards the project.
- And National Grid is kicking in a reimbursement grant of $100,000 as well.
I sincerely thank the public for these public dollars for which we all work so hard for and pay into, and to the organizations mentioned above thank you for working with The Gear Factory and granting these funds to help make this long-awaited project a reality! There are lots and lots of happy people inside and outside of the building!! While it is certainly a blessing, I’d also like people to know these grant processes are not easy and take a long time. We are currently still in the process of acquiring these grant reimbursement funds to pay down the loan from Home Headquarters that was needed up front to do the work. (THANK YOU HOME HEADQUARTERS!) So these funds, while not received for the project yet, are still there and we’re hoping we close these things out sooner rather than later. There will be little forward movement with future build out plans until these grants are received and closed out. But not to worry, that doesn’t stop me from making those future plans!
- A new photography studio on the first floor
- More art studios and live/work units on floors 2 and 3
- 4th floor dedicated to film, photography, video, and visual communications with a unique combination of private offices, co-working space, photography/video studios, and pro gear availability.
- 5th Floor, the entire thing…. Kick ass event space with nearly 360 degree views!
- Roof, we will find some way to make that green roof accessible to people!!
Nobody has to try to break into Syracuse. Much of the past here will gladly just about throw it at you.
Nobody has to say, “Gee I hope I can afford to live here someday.” We paid a dollar for the home we live in and paid less for this 65,000sf Gear Factory building than you’d pay for a house in the suburbs.
For those who have stayed here, for the new pioneers who have settled in this city and the many more to come over the next 5 to 10 years - we don’t have to worry about growing out of the area, we get to grow with the area. This reality is my favorite thing to have witnessed this year at The Gear Factory, the surrounding Near West Side Neighborhood and in Syracuse as a whole.
I see fire in a generation’s eyes - a sense of hope and a positive “we can do anything” attitude. Most of the things people used to complain about here are now considered opportunities and reasons to stay or come and live here for!
Since happening upon Syracuse and becoming part of this welcoming community in 2001'ish, I’ve seen a lot of single people who have found their significant others here. They have had kids, become new families and have stayed in the city. I’ve met many people who've graduated college, secured good jobs here and are busy building careers. I’ve seen a lot of new small businesses start up and existing businesses expand. I’ve seen hundreds of homes rehabbed or built new. I’ve seen crime in areas plummet. I’ve seen trick or treaters returning to areas once deserted. So many more homes decorated with Christmas lights. I’ve seen dozens of awesome new restaurants open up. I’ve seen people quit their “day jobs”, able to do the things they’ve always really wanted to do here. I've seen boarded up windows re-exposed, I’ve seen shitty attitudes fade away. I’ve seen the population increase. I’ve seen empty fields become art parks, parking lots become buildings and neighborhoods reborn. It is amazing to see and feel so much positive change.
And to be in this place... I actually get to live here! This place, this city. The people here inspire me to do more every day!
My goal for each new year is to make it better than the last, for all of us.
Thank you all for working together with me on these things (and your patience) helping make what we want this city to be our reality!