Syracuse economic development officials have taken “the first step” toward taking ownership of the old Hotel Syracuse so it can be re-opened, in hopes this will be the last winter it sits dormant.
The construction that will re-open the shuttered building is still months away, though, as bureaucracy has to work its course first.
The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency named its “preferred developer” Tuesday, which will trigger an environmental review and a public hearing. The city’s Ben Walsh says that will allow them to exercise eminent domain if need be – the state’s power to take over private property -- after two years of other attempts.
"Between the urgency associated with the property and the fact that we feel like we have the right developer and vision for the project, the timing is right to move," said Walsh.
Edward Riley is the principal of that preferred developer, the Syracuse Community Restoration Company, LLC. He hopes to have the hotel designated the county’s official convention center hotel and bring in a national hotel chain to put its logo on the hotel, both measures would boost marketing.
"The hotel has always well done very, very good local social catering. It’s always had a lot of events there. It was the center of a lot of activity for a lot of years," he said. "We want to bring that back."
The city has tried several times to seize the hotel over back taxes, but its efforts were blocked. Riley was born and raised in Syracuse and used to work for a Boston-based developer that has tried to purchase the hotel through foreclosures. He's since formed his own attempt to see the hotel opened back up.
Riley says he wants to restore the hotel’s role as the center point it was when first built in the 1920s.
"Most people that have been here their entire lives can speak to three or four major occurrences and major events in their life that occurred there," Riley said, "and it’s just sad to see it sit there and deteriorate when it still have enough life in it and it’s still in good enough shape to be salvaged."