SUNY Canton

Rick Destito

Syracuse's Renaissance Man

Rick Destito '98

Richard A. Destito '98 is leading a crusade to revitalize one of the poorest neighborhoods in Syracuse.

It all began in 2005 when he purchased an abandoned manufacturing building in the Near West Side neighborhood. He named it “The Gear Factory” and dreamed of refurbishing the property and renting spaces to artists and musicians. “I wanted to create a place where artists could work together,” he said. Since then, he has been remodeling the spaces a little at a time. His tenants now include a company that makes cast-iron cookware by hand, a furniture designer, photographers, screen printers, painters, graphic designers and musicians.

After purchasing the Gear Factory, Destito wanted to do something more. He bought a run-down Victorian home not far from the Gear Factory for $1 through a program sponsored by Home Headquarters Inc. The nonprofit group purchases vacant properties and either renovates them or sells them to entrepreneurs like Destito, who have the ability to refurbish the homes themselves.

Rick Destito

He used the many skills he learned while earning his associate degree in Construction Tech: Management at SUNY Canton to restore the house to its former grandeur. A native of Sherrill, Destito left New York soon after completing his studies. After traveling around the country for three years, he began to realize that the Central New York area had more to offer than he once thought.

“Syracuse’s low cost of living and proximity to major metropolitan areas is unique,” he said. Destito has been trying to get others to see the benefits of living and working in the city and hopes his projects are the start of a full-scale renaissance of downtown Syracuse.

So far his efforts have caught the attention of local legislators and the media. The New York Times ran a feature story applauding his vision, and Albany recently awarded Destito $680,000 in the form of a state grant for improvements to the Gear Factory.

He admits there is still a long way to go but is optimistic about the future and wants more people to get involved in transforming the city.

“Everyone has ideas,” he said. “What’s rare is when people get together and make those ideas a reality.”