Meet two of Central New York’s power influencers, creators of The Castle 603 and The Ingram Castle Foundation, The Ingrams. Let’s see what they had to say about their non-profit, transforming a Syracuse landmark, and more!

Could you share a bit about your backgrounds and what inspired you to venture into the project of transforming The Castle.

The Castle project is very personal for us. Chino was born two doors down from the church and played in its parking lot as a young child. I have been in Syracuse since college graduation and have made Syracuse my home. Both Chino and I feel a strong sense of belonging to the Southside and are passionate about improving the community by reviving this abandoned landmark that played such an important role in the history of the Southside.

We have complementary backgrounds that couldn’t be better suited for The Castle. I have a marketing, human resources, and business background. For the last several years, I have served as Director of Community Relations for the Syracuse Region of Wegmans Food Markets, overseeing activities in the community investment and media relations arenas and serving as the company’s regional spokesperson. Chino’s career has been in retail management with oversight of store operations, sales targets, and personnel management for national retail chains including Saks Fifth Avenue and Men’s Warehouse. Currently, he is the General Manager of a custom men’s clothing store called Mr. Shop at Turning Stone. Chino attended Cheyney State University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of both Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications and Le Moyne College’s Madden School of Business. I also received an honorary degree from Onondaga Community College to recognize accomplishments in the community. Both Chino and I are very active with many initiatives and nonprofits in the community. Together we founded Simply Ingram, LLC in 2020 for the purpose of restoring and transforming the South Presbyterian Church into The Castle as a successful and sustainable business venture. I will oversee event planning and Chino will manage all operations. The Ingram Castle Foundation was also established as a 501c3 entity with the vision of being a regional training center.

What drew you to the historic church in Syracuse as the location for The Castle?

This is a great story! It all started when Chino and I were looking for a unique venue in which to stage my birthday party. During the planning process, we decided to get married at the birthday party. The wedding was a complete surprise to all guests (including our families and the minister). We looked at event spaces that would be well suited for both the birthday party and the wedding. We found a location about 30 minutes from Syracuse. It was a church that was renovated into event space. During that process, both Chino and I wished there was a venue with this uniqueness in Syracuse. A few months after our nuptials, we saw a television story that mentioned a church, formerly known as the South Presbyterian church was for sale by the Greater Syracuse Land Bank. We instinctively looked into each other’s eyes and knew they needed to buy and develop this eloquent building. In July 2020, we signed a contingent purchase agreement with the Land Bank and renamed it ‘The Castle’ because of its regal appearance.

Can you describe your vision for The Castle and its role in bringing the community together?

Our vision is to restore and transform this grand, 30,000 square foot building into a multi- purpose event and training center that will sustain a successful, Black-owned business while creating new jobs for people where they live, helping lift the Southside’ economy, and serving as a resource for local nonprofits and residents. Like the church did in the past, The Castle will be a meeting place for people of all backgrounds from across and beyond the Central New York region. It will fill an event space gap in the market with an inviting, historic building that will draw interest from individuals, organizations, and from individuals, organizations, and businesses that have never patronized the Southside, bringing renewed attention to the community and local businesses.

A vision should build upon the experiences of the past, so let’s talk about The Castle’s history. During the Civil Rights era, the church was a safe haven and spiritual retreat for Blacks migrating from the south. Later, it served as a sanctuary where individuals of all religions and backgrounds were welcomed and came together. In the 1960’s, although many buildings on the Southside were razed as part of what was called ‘urban renewal,’ this grand church survived. Over time, the church could not be sustained by a declining, impoverished Black congregation. In an effort to save the building, it was sold to a treasure hunter whose sole interest was to remove and sell its Tiffany stained glass windows and chandeliers. This church, which once was a landmark in the hearts of generations of people who lived in the area was shattered and left to deteriorate for nearly 20 years. Thankfully, the church was purchased by the Greater Syracuse Land Bank in 2015, which successfully advocated for its placement on the National Registry of Historic Places. That’s where Chino and I came in. We entered into a purchase agreement with the Land Bank and, fast forward, have been able to raised several millions in grants, contracts, and contributions toward The Castle’s restoration costs.

We understand The Castle is a multi-use facility; could you elaborate on the various community-centered activities it will host?

The Castle business will consist of elegant event space in what was the church sanctuary, a sophisticated public lounge, and a community training and development center called The Ingram Castle Foundation (TICF). The 9,000 square foot event space will host a variety of events including receptions, galas, conferences, plays, and concerts. The lounge will occupy 5,200 square feet and offer entertainment options in a casual yet classy atmosphere, providing opportunities to network, relax, be entertained, and socialize in an ultra-lounge atmosphere. The Ingram Castle Foundation (TICF), will occupy the entire lower level of the building and will have eight fully equipped conference rooms for use by nonprofit organizations to provide job and personal health and training programs for area residents. The purpose of The Ingram Castle Foundation is to provide education, training and community outreach initiatives that directly impact the residents of the South Side of Syracuse and other community members. The Ingram Castle Foundation is to be a regional training center that will offer training courses aligned with many of the skills needed for employment at The Castle including customer service skills, culinary skills, bartender techniques, project management, event planning etc. Other courses offered will be CPR training, Fire Safety and Security skills. TICF will be known for offering value added training courses that community members can use to enhance their personal and professional lives. The Ingram Castle Foundation is an avenue for health and wellness initiatives with emphasis on diseases that disproportionately affect people of color.

When do you anticipate The Castle will realistically be up and running and available to the community?

The current schedule is to begin construction in the second quarter of 2024 and to open The Castle’s doors for business in the summer of 2025.

What fundraising initiatives do you have in place or plan to implement to support The Castle’s development?

I’m so glad you asked! We invite everyone to join us on New Year’s Eve at 8:00 pm for a “A Royal Met Gala.” Come in your Met Gala inspired attire and let’s bringing in the New Year with style and sophistication. We are thrilled that celebrity host Trina Braxton of WE tv’s “Braxton Family Values” will serve as celebrity host for the gala. The gala will be at the Oncenter Convention Center in Syracuse. Visit the event website for event information and to purchase tickets “A Royal Met Gala” | December 31, 2023 – January 01, 2024 (

Can you explain the concept of the Founder’s Circle and how it’s related to The Castle?

The Founders Circle is an exclusive sponsorship package designed to foster a collaborative spirit of giving for The Castle project. It provides an opportunity for those who want to financially support the building’s renovation. Sponsorship benefits are exclusive to donors providing gifts at three associated levels, each with distinct elements of recognition. Givers at each level will be classified as Founders Circle members and have access to different levels and types of membership privileges. I encourage your readers to learn more about the Founders Circle by visiting our website at .

What inspired the idea for The Castle, and how did you decide on its unique concept?

It is our desire to give back to the community and build a successful event business all came together when we saw the article about the Land Bank’s sale of the South Presbyterian Church. It was as if a path has been laid out for us. Just walking through this grand building, we knew we wanted to create a space and offer opportunities fit for royalty and equal in elegance to the historic structure itself. Hence the name, The Castle.

In the long term, what is your vision for The Castle and its impact on the community?

We view The Castle project as a place-based economic and community development project that will build a sustainable business, create high quality jobs, support the Southside’s economic revitalization, and be a resource for local nonprofits and residents. All while bringing back to life a prominent, highly visible historic building that will celebrate and help preserve the community’s history and sense of self-renewal.

What motivated you to create a space that’s specifically centered around minority ownership and community engagement?

As African Americans, we feel strongly that what makes Black history so powerful is that at any point, you can be part of that history by making a difference in your community. To us, making a difference means removing barriers and creating opportunities to move our community forward. It means creating opportunities for other Black residents to pursue their goals and create generational wealth. It also means lifting visible examples of success like The Castle to spur others to embrace opportunities that build wealth and benefit the community. We also feel strongly that it is important to create opportunities for people to come together to enjoy one another and discover their commonalties regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or ideology.

How will The Castle engage with local artists, performers, and creative talents in the Syracuse area?

The lounge will feature live entertainment on a consistent basis. This will provide opportunities for local, regional and national talent to perform in an elegant and sophisticated atmosphere. The event space will also provide the capacity for larger events in which performers can showcase their talent to a larger audience.

Are there any collaborations or partnerships you’re planning with local businesses or organizations?

We have multiple community collaborators and are continually fostering others. The Greater Syracuse Land Bank has been an essential and welcome collaborator in moving The Castle project toward groundbreaking. CenterState CEO has been a great resource for business guidance. We are working with Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College to create student training opportunities at The Castle in marketing and communications and culinary arts respectively. SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Center is collaborating with us in developing workforce training and development programs. And, the Syracuse Community Health Center, American Heart Association, and American Diabetes Association are all collaborators in developing education programs to improve the health of Southside residents.

What challenges have you faced in the process of transforming the historic church into The Castle?

The most significant challenges revolved around the COVID pandemic. We embarked on our journey with The Castle project right at the onset of the pandemic. There were many unknown factors that stalled the project. State and federal governments halted new grant opportunities. Foundations and corporations redirected giving programs to pandemic-related priorities and individual giving was suppressed for months. Regardless, we remained committed to moving forward and took the time to put together a development team and increased our marketing, community outreach and grant development efforts.

Because of these efforts and the team we put together, we were able to complete the schematic designs for the project 2022. A little over a year later, we are entering the final architectural design phase.
Could you share some key features or unique aspects of The Castle that set it apart from other venues?
First and foremost, The Castle is a grand and stately structure. There’s a tall, 60 square foot tower entrance and three large and stunning stained glass rose windows and an eloquent balcony in the main event space. The building also houses a large pipe organ, one of the first built by the Austin Organ Company in 1905. For any readers who are architecture enthusiasts, the building is a late 19th and 20th century revival/Romanesque church of high style religious architecture with a mix of Picturesque English Romanesque massing, stepped Flemish gables, and rough-cut masonry in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.
The Castle is a national historic designation and has a rich history spanning more than twelve decades.
Finally, and importantly, The Castle will offer its patrons an event space unlike any other in size and elegance in the region and a unique upscale lounge featuring local, regional, and national entertainers from a wide variety of genres. From soul to hip hop and from big band to jazz, the lounge will appeal to adults with widely diverse entertainment interests.
What are your plans for sustainability and environmentally conscious practices at The Castle?
We plan to ensure we are environmentally conscious in all aspects. We will explore ways to demonstrate this commitment when construction starts.
Are there specific cultural or educational programs that you intend to offer at The Castle?
We have a plethora of ideas for programming. We will continue to generate ideas throughout the design and construction process. We will reveal these ideas at the appropriate time. Be assured we will offer impactful programs that will appeal to a diverse audience.
How can the community get involved in supporting or participating in The Castle’s activities?   
Chino and I have been very intentional about engaging the larger community in our vision and plans. We held early meetings with the mayor and other local politicians, CenterState CEO leadership, regional bank presidents, local foundations, and many other community and civic groups and leaders. We also met with the Southside’s Neighborhood Collaborative about the project and are constantly engaging in one-on-one discussions with community residents. Our media and social media efforts and special events like the gala are intended to educate the community about the project and engender the sense that The Castle is for and of the community. We welcome and encourage new collaborations with organizations and individuals. Of course, we strongly encourage participation through financial contributions to our capital campaign.
Are there plans to host events or programs that celebrate the rich history of the church building itself?
What role does technology play in enhancing the experience at The Castle, if any?
The role of technology is critical to this project. We are already in discussion with companies that can assist us to ensure we have the best technology available. From the conference rooms being equipped with the latest audio-visual equipment to the event space having the best sound system available, technology is key.
What do the Ingrams do when they aren’t working on this massive project?

This project is a “side gig.” Quite a massive side gig I’ll add. We both have full-time careers which we find rewarding. We also spend time with our son and we enjoy travelling.

Could you tell us about any specific upcoming events or milestones for The Castle that the community can look forward to?

We invite everyone to the New Year’s Eve Royal Met Gala at the Oncenter starting at 8 pm. In terms of milestones, we look forward to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Castle when construction begins; now scheduled for the 2nd quarter in 2024.