Rich & Gardner’s Partnership with OIP’s Founders to Revitalize Historic Building

In 2018, the founders of the Original Italian Pizza (OIP) chain, Joe Crabbe and Rosario Amato, decided to invest in a beautiful historic building built in 1879. Wanting to maintain as much of the building’s original integrity and historical value, the OIP founders decided to partner up with Rich & Gardner to transform the upper floors into upscale apartments. Rich & Gardner was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Crabbe and Amato.

The history-rich building, located at 123 East Willow Street in Syracuse, NY, concluded its transformation in 2019. From the beginning, Crabbe felt that it was essential to ensure the space had a modern feel while retaining much of its original beauty, which is reflected in the project’s final results. The four high-end apartments have since been rented out and feature impressive 12-foot ceilings, quartz counters and windowsills, full-size washers and dryers, solid-wood closet systems, and private on-site parking.

The Building’s History

Built in 1879, the building is believed to have been Charles E. Colton’s first design, preceding his designs for the Gere Bank Building and City Hall. The building, which Howard and Jennings Pump Factory had first occupied, was known for its beautiful front, contradicting its original function as a pump factory.

The design was inspired by the High Victorian Gothic stylings, evidenced in the building’s ornamental front. Looking at the structural components, a city engineer had claimed it to be one of the strongest structures in Syracuse.

Initially, the building had 30-inch vertical supports, heavy supporting beams (ten inches on center), and 18-inch exterior brick walls. In 1972, the building was bought by Peter Esposito and Louis Harrolds, who performed a major exterior restoration after part of the structure’s front walls fell into the street, which also resulted in the loss of one of the three gargoyles.

After Collela Galleries bought the building, they made a few minor changes to the building’s interior. Unfortunately, in 1975 there was an explosive fire destroying several adjacent buildings and causing the building to require additional renovations due to the overall damage.

The renovation led to the removal of the rear portion of the fourth floor while creating a Roman garden and a six-foot wall in the back. The family then transformed the second and third floors into an apartment for their family to live in and used the first floor’s commercial space for their Gallery.

Present Day: Honoring the Rich History

Thanks to the relocation of Colella Galleries, the building was listed for sale, which prompted Crabbe and Amato to purchase the building. Crabbe described the property as unique and cited his love for the original building as the driving force behind his and Amato’s investment in the property.

The building now features four upscale apartments, each of which is 1,400 square feet and includes two bedrooms. The space maintains some of the building’s original features, such as the 12-foot ceilings. The first floor, made up of approximately 3000 square feet of space, has remained a commercial space. 

The Partnership

Together, the two parties played to their strengths, designing and reimagining the building into a beautiful piece of history available to rent. Crabbe and Amato had a vision, and they aimed to maintain the original integrity and overall feel of the historic building, working with Rich & Gardner to modernize the space in a minimally invasive way to preserve the rich history associated with the look and feel of the structure.

Getting to work on this project was an honor for Rich & Gardner and a testament to their partnership with OIP, as it’s not every day that the opportunity to restore, redesign, and construct a historic building arises. The partnership not only resulted in a beautiful space that still maintains its historical value but a strong relationship between Rich & Gardner and Crabbe and Amato.

What’s Next?

The entirety of the Rich & Gardner family is looking forward to future collaborations with Crabbe, Amato, and the rest of their team! Because partnering with them means working with partners who value the community and making a difference locally, two of Rich & Gardner’s fundamental values.

Partnerships like these are the foundation of Rich & Gardner, and working alongside long-time partners is always an event worth celebrating. While future projects together may not always hold such a rich history and roots within the Syracuse community, it is always a wonderful experience to work with Crabbe and Amato.

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