Gettin' Bizzy

Square Deals For Rock Climbing and Easy Lounging

Central rock gym
Michael Davis photo

Central Rock Gym

Climbing enthusiasts may have a new mecca at downtown’s Franklin Square. Central Rock Gym, featuring more than 16,000 square feet of climbing space, is the largest climbing facility north of New York City.

Michael Davis photo

Unlike some gyms where a rock wall is considered a bonus, it’s the main attraction at Central Rock. The gym walls are covered with colored grips. On the first floor is a bouldering island and wall, with spaces about 10- to 16-feet high where climbers move about freely without a rope. There are 25-foot walls for top-rope climbing, where people work in pairs — one as the climber and the other as the belayer — to climb the wall one at a time. The second-floor mezzanine has 45-foot-high rock walls for lead climbing.

There has been much interest in Central Rock since its Dec. 23 opening, according to general manager Joe Gehm and climbing manager Nate Farrington. The facility has notched more than 200 customers on certain days, including a group that regularly drives in from Rochester.

The managers also voiced their excitement about being in the city, especially the scenic yet underutilized Franklin Square area. “Syracuse is a very active community,” Gehm said, and having another indoor option for fitness during Central New York’s often harsh winter could be a draw for people across the state.

Central Rock has eight locations nationwide. The Syracuse venue is the first in New York state, with the company planning to open a smaller facility in Manhattan this spring.

Michael Davis photo

The building at 600 N. Franklin St. was once a meat packing factory in the 1800s. Gymgoers can see old grayscale and sepia-toned photos of the factory along the hallway between Central Rock’s main climbing space and its weight room and yoga studio. The business currently has two yoga instructors.

Central Rock caters to all experience levels and ages. Farrington has a wealth of climbing experience at other facilities; he has helped toddlers learn to climb and once belayed for a climber in her 90s.

The walls are color-coded and have numeral rankings on them, but Farrington said that shouldn’t necessarily deter people. “I’d never want someone to look at a grade and think, ‘That’s above me,’” he said.

Central Rock has pricing for day use and membership packages. It also hosts birthday parties and group team building events.

Central Rock Gym is open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information, call (315) 671-4450 or visit centralrock

Orbis Lounge

Martija Popovic isn’t new to the bar scene: He worked as a bouncer and doorman while in college to make extra money. But Orbis Lounge, his new bar in downtown’s Hanover Square, is his first foray into business ownership.

Michael Davis Photo

Popovic admitted he was impulsive when he decided to open the bar. But after previous tenant World Lounge and Martini Bar closed last summer, he said opening a new place in the same location just made sense.

Customers familiar with World will see homages to the original sprinkled throughout Orbis. World map motifs dot the inside of the bar, on throw pillows and as a large light display. Popovic said he wanted to promote the sense of international inclusivity that the owners of World originally envisioned.

Yet there are new flourishes, too. Deep, electric-blue accent lighting under the bar and on the liquor shelves adds modern-looking visuals to Orbis.

It took about five months for Popovic to get the business up and running in time for its Dec. 15 debut. Some behind-the-scenes work had to be done, such as getting and installing the repurposed wood that now lines the bottom of the walls and bar.

The lounge and bar has 20 draft beers, more than a dozen wines and a wide selection of liquors. A custom cocktail menu includes four different types of mules featuring ginger beer and citrus juice.

Popovic noted Hanover Square’s calmer atmosphere, especially when compared to bustling Armory Square, which tends to attract a louder, younger crowd. Orbis Lounge, with its mix of nightlife identities (it can easily transform from a lounge space to a dance hall), was meant to be a relaxed place.

Yet Popovic said he will still bring in live deejays for more traditional dance parties whenever the mood strikes him. “It’ll be something I’ll always be working on,” Popovic said about the ongoing Orbis aesthetic.

Orbis Lounge, 134 E. Genesee St., is open Mondays through Wednesdays, 4:30 p.m. to midnight; and Thursdays through Saturdays, 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Center of Grace

Renee McLain said she felt like she had been destined to open a wellness center for most of her life. She suffered from juvenile arthritis and thyroid cancer, and credits nontraditional medicine for her recovery.

In 2015 when she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, a disease that caused inflamed tissue to grow on her lungs and heart, she was faced with heart surgery.

“I just kept thinking, ‘I want to live, I want to live, I want to live,’” she recalled. “I heard that voice in my head say, ‘Well, then do what you came here to do.’”

McLain had been teaching wellness practices and therapy work through word-of-mouth for more than 20 years. In mid-November, two years after the surgery, she opened Center of Grace along Market Place in Manlius, off Enders Road.

With Crouse Hospital’s Manlius extension and the Synergy Center both near Center of Grace, a blending of medical care and natural healing options now exists in one area, McLain said. She hopes people will find their way to Center of Grace, whether they’re seeking aid to overcome previous trauma, chronic pain or illness, or just want a fun stress reliever.

“An emotion gets suppressed in the body and festers and turns into disease,” she said. She has met people who never had luck with traditional medicines, but felt better after a few sessions of natural wellness practices that paid attention to their body’s inner needs. These practices can help people overcome the negative energies or emotional blocks stopping them from living fulfilling lives, McLain said.

The center offers several types of yoga, from gentle yoga to Kundalini yoga to “Buddahful Bellies” yoga for pregnant women, as well as massages and Reiki, a Japanese technique that taps into the body’s energy to promote healing. There is also wellness and life coaching, counseling and psychotherapy. McLain also wants to open a small café inside to promote nutrition. “I tried to cover all the bases to support people in their wholeness,” she said.

McLain intends to create talking circles for teens and children so younger generations can cope with their own emotions, which could help lower rates of depression and suicide. She also said she’d love to take her teachings to the local jail population.

Center of Grace is located at 8219 Market Place, Building 10, in Manlius. For a schedule of sessions and workshops, visit


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By Michael Davis


Central rock gym


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