Gear Factory owner Rick Destito received more media attention earlier this month after posting a blog on his company website that answered many questions about the next phase of his neighborhood-revitalization project. After getting a $680,000 grant to renovate the factory two years ago, people have started to wonder about its progress.
Destito finally has answers. Last week, he met with potential investor, Home Headquarters, to see whether or not his plans to build rehearsal studio spaces and replace the exterior windows would be approved.
We should be hearing from him soon if the matchup was a success.
Since purchasing the building that sits on the corner of West Fayette and South Geddes Streets in 2005, he’s been dealing with the five-story remains of a major Syracuse landmark.
The Gear Factory is a 100-year-old former auto parts and mortar shell production house, designed and built by Detroit architect Albert Kahn. The design allowed for the building to be flooded with light, so as not to resemble a dark factory. It was a revolutionary concept in factory design.
Today, those great windows are replaced with cinderblocks for protection purposes. But soon under Destito’s plan, they will be bright windows once again.
Now that the Gear Factory could have financial backing, Destito could be one step closer to introducing Syracuse to his new and improved local space for artists and entrepreneurs – a setting where they can inspire and inform one another’s creations.
The factory sits in the Near West Side neighborhood, but Destito says his goal is to invigorate all of the city through this collaborative arts project.
“It’s about the city as a whole,” he said, “and being welcoming to people. Of all the places I’ve traveled to around the country, the places I really liked were the ones where there was music everywhere, arts everywhere and people outside walking around doing all sorts of stuff for no special occasion. That’s what I’m trying to create here. This is the type of community I would like to live in.”
Destito’s factory now houses about three dozen tenants who use the space for special projects and their own businesses. By the time he’s done with the studio renovations, he thinks he’ll have well over 100 people using the facility.
His urgency in remodeling the space stems from his passion for communing with innovative people. He says his work is all about the artists his building serves.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s all about them and providing a place where people can be around each other and inspire one another to go out and do things. All these people do a tremendous amount for keeping me going. I love being around people that are ridiculously excited about what they are doing.”
Destito believes that Syracuse, because it’s an affordable and ever-changing city, is perfect for his plans. He’s lived in Nashville and Charleston where, though both vibrant cities, everything is too expensive and the arts world is too solidified for young people to get into.
“It feels like you’re almost trying to break into somebody else’s scene,” he said. “It’s already done up. But the best thing about being in Syracuse right now is that every person, regardless of their age or how much money they have, can help make this city in Central New York into almost whatever they want it to be.”
Destito loves being around by people who live their work daily. He wants those people to have a space where they feel at home. While helping maintain his family restaurant business growing up, Destito discovered his passion for hospitality.
“The attitude I have is that there is my business and the things I can do,” he said, “but if I do good for the community and the community does better, then I’m going to do better. It’s a total back and forth.”
Follow updates on the Gear Factory at thegearfactorysyr.com.
Check back later this week to learn more about one of Destito’s artists in residence, Cosmo Fanizzi and his work on Lower Onondaga Park.