August 24, 2014

Hotel Syracuse: Another Step Forward

Hotel developer Ed Riley got more good news this week, and so did the City of Syracuse, when the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) approved a PILOT agreement for Riley's project to redevelop the empty and aging Hotel Syracuse, a cornerstone of 'south downtown' and Warren Street.

The deal approved by SIDA gives Riley's project a tax break of roughly $4.7 million over 14 years, and according to reports, requires him to create at least 100 jobs within three years, use all local labor on the project, and make a significant financial contribution. He still needs to secure additional financing on top of the state grants that he's already received to get the project going. The projected reopening is about two years out, but Riley has promised to make some incremental repairs to prevent further degradation of the structure this winter.

This is just one more stop along the way in the move to rehabilitate and reopen the hotel, which has been closed for a decade. Riley's company, the aptly-named Syracuse Community Hotel Restoration Co., was named the preferred developer back in February, and eminent domain proceedings  in July finally freed the hotel from our years-long waiting for or fighting with the foreign investors who owned her. Another step yet to be completed includes an agreement with the county for a guaranteed number of rooms to be available for conventions.

Regular readers may wonder why I'm not complaining about yet another corporate welfare handout; they know that I'm not a fan of many economic development practices, nor of overly-generous tax deals like the 30-year package offered to a developer to build Syracuse University a new bookstore.

And I'll admit to a hint of confliction on this one -- but just a hint.

As I've noted before, I would love one of the old gargoyles for my garden, but I would much rather we had the Hotel Syracuse restored and reopened, not only for sentimental value, or for the bump this will give our convention business, but also because it's another move towards extending 'downtown' outside the boundaries of Armory Square.

Projects like this one and the new City Center project planned for the old Sibley's building, the Merchants Commons building and others that flex and stretch our center-city neighborhood just a little bit each time, and which offer more than just apartments and condos, are good for the city and the greater metro Syracuse area.

Why?  Because, through projects like these, Syracuse has more to offer, which leads to attracting more visitors, which could lead to new companies wanting to come here, which means more people working downtown who are exposed to what we have to offer, which maybe means more people wanting to live in the city, which gives us a chance to extend our vibrant boundaries even further...

Now, if could just get someone to jump on my Parade of Homes in the City project...