City

Chuck’s plans to move back onto South Crouse Avenue pending development vote

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

The owners of Hungry Chuck's, pictured here, have said they would be willing to move into a new space if their current location was demolished.

The student-favorite bar Hungry Chuck’s is likely to remain in the Syracuse University area in the long-term, even if the city approves a proposal to demolish it.

BLVD Equities, a real estate development firm based in New Jersey and managed by SU alumni Jared Hutter and Brian Rosen, has proposed demolishing the structures at 727 S. Crouse Ave. — where Hungry Chuck’s and a string of local businesses are located — and constructing an eight-story “mixed use building.”

The Syracuse Planning Commission tabled a vote on the proposal after a lengthy public hearing in January. The commission will review and vote on the proposal Monday night. A timeline for the project, if approved, is currently unknown.

News of the proposal circulated in January and made waves on social media, where SU community members expressed dismay over the potential demolition.

But Stephen Theobald, owner of Chuck’s, has been in constant communication with the project leaders and plans to move into the new space if the proposal is approved.

The project, currently being called Campus Plaza, would include 20,000 square feet of retail on the first floor in addition to residential apartments on the upper floors.

The major point of contention with the project is a zoning law that requires a set number of parking spots to be available for parking and retail spaces. The proposed project would normally require 227 total parking spots in the immediate area, but the developers asked the commission to wave that number to zero.

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Hutter said his company has secured a “significant amount” of off-site parking spaces that would be available to residents if they want that option. He declined to go into further detail.

The project aims to help revitalize the area, he added.

“There might be a little pain in the short term, but we aren’t just thinking about this over a year or two. We are thinking about the next five years, 10 years, 20 years,” Hutter said. “How does this building fit into the landscape of Syracuse?”

When Theobald bought Chuck’s in 2012, there were talks that the current property owner, The Woodbine Group, would be embarking on a similar project as BLVD Equities. That plan, though, never came to fruition.

Chuck’s had been left in a space of limbo, with Theobald not knowing whether he should put more money into a space that could be demolished. But he said Hutter contacted him about a year ago and that they have worked closely throughout the process.

Theobald said the next phase of Chuck’s, if the proposal is approved, will be a “historic preservation project,” as he will try to replicate the room as much as possible through its layout, furniture and decor.

He is also considering rehanging sections of the walls to help preserve the decades of signatures splattered on the bar’s surface.

“At the end of the day, it’s the students that make the room what it is. We are here, we make the beer cold, we make the ice machines work, we hire security, but we are just hosts,” Theobald said. “This place is nothing without students.”

Not every business owner on South Crouse Avenue, though, has been in close communication with the developers.

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Funk ’n Waffles owner Adam Gold just celebrated the restaurant’s 10-year anniversary serving breakfast and music on the Hill, but its future there is unknown. Gold said he wants to maintain a presence in the area and would be open to moving into the new retail space.

Gold said the structure has a laundry list of problems: Its roof leaks, and it’s not wheelchair accessible, he said. He also said the proposal would positively change “the scariest part of the Marshall Street area,” but that it would still be hard to see the space be demolished.

“It’s definitely a sentimental thing, and I have a hard time even conceptualizing that at some point we might have to leave, and get moving trucks, and gut the place,” Gold said. “That’s going to be a pretty tough thing to do.”

Hutter, BLVD Equities partner, plans to attract local businesses, but also said he is looking to add a national restaurant to the retail’s first floor. Because of the location’s slow season, national chains have had mixed results in the Marshall Street area. Fast food giants including Burger King and McDonald’s only survived short stints, but there are a few nationals currently in business, including Chipotle and Jimmy John’s.

Jerry Dellas, owner of Varsity Pizza and Faegan’s Pub, said he and his family have seen many businesses come and go during their 90-plus years on the Hill.

“I think now that there’s residential above these commercial spaces, they’ll be more apt to survive,” said Dellas, president of the Crouse-Marshall Business Association.

Dellas also owns the property that is currently rented by Orange Crate Brewing Company and SEFCU, a credit union, and that would be sold to BLVD Equities in the proposal.

He said the proposal “sets the tone” for the future development of the region, and that his family has been in early talks with BLVD Equities about a possible development plan on the family’s other Marshall Street properties.

Dellas and Hutter said the development lines up with infrastructure and improvement efforts in SU’s Campus Framework plan. The overall mission of the framework influenced the current proposal, Hutter said.

Kevin Quinn, senior vice president for public affairs at SU, said in a statement to The Daily Orange that the university monitors and assesses developments close to campus.

“The University continues to believe a vibrant University Hill and East neighborhood are important for our city and region. Given this importance, both neighborhoods will benefit from balanced, sustained, and carefully planned new development,” he said in the statement.

Hutter said he was not comfortable giving a potential timeline for the demolition and construction of the project but said the project would “elevate Syracuse University dramatically, because other people will come and make more investments.”

“The area will get cleaned up, and that trickles down to the students,” he said.

—Editor in Chief Justin Mattingly, jmatting@syr.edu, contributed reporting to this article.

Disclaimer: The Daily Orange leases a house on Ostrom Avenue owned by Syracuse University. As part of the long-term Campus Framework implementation, the university has proposed building student housing on Ostrom Avenue where The Daily Orange currently operates.

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