City plans to take over Hotel Syracuse on hold for now

May 13, 2013

For the second time in less than two years, back taxes have been paid on the Hotel Syracuse, effectively scuttling plans for the city of Syracuse to take control of the property, and sell it to a developer. So, city officials are now looking at a "Plan B."

It took a check for over $360,000 last week from Financitech, one of the lien holders on the Hotel Syracuse, to stop the plan for the city to seize the property because of a delinquent tax bill.  Syracuse Common Council was prepared to authorize on Monday a sale  to a developer who would renovate the property as a hotel. That's off the agenda, and leaves the city two options according to Ben Walsh, who's the city's deputy director of neighborhood and business development.  

"We can either continue to sit and wait for the current owners to do something, which based on their track record, we don't believe will happen," he said. "Or we can pursue what we believe is the last available option, which is to use eminent domain to take the property."

Walsh says the Syracuse Industrial  Development Agency would be the logical choice to take that on. The city will  investigate the possibility in the coming weeks. Walsh says, while the hotel has deep nostalgic roots in the community, it's development is key to another downtown entity that's been struggling.

"It provides a unique opportunity to serve as the Convention Center hotel with the Convention Center just a block away.  The city and county have been working together to position that as the Convention Center hotel," said Walsh.

The Hotel Syracuse  has been vacant for almost a decade, with new plans for redevelopment turning up every couple of years or so. The latest plan by the Pyramid Hotel Group would have pumped $60 million into the property.  Pyramid senior vice president Ed Riley says the company intended to start work this fall, because the longer the property sits, the more more dilapidated it becomes.

"There's a lot of concerns about the increase with moisture getting in, the freeze-thaw cycle. There are no utilities in the billing per say, so another rough winter and it's going to hurt that building quite a bit," said Riley.

The hotel was built in 1924, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.