Long vacant downtown Syracuse building attracting attention from developers

NYNEX building,Syracuse

For 18 years, the world around the NYNEX building in downtown Syracuse has moved forward. Inside 300 East Washington Street, little has changed. It is a world still run by punch card machines, bulky computers and film projectors. New York Telephone vacated the building in 1995 and many of the desks still look like they're waiting for someone to come back from a lunch break.

"When a business leaves, sometimes they just pick up and leave," said realtor Martin McDermott who represents the current owner.

On a recent tour, McDermott had to lead us through with a flashlight. The building doesn't have heat or electricity and McDermott knows many Central New Yorkers want to know when the lights will turn back on.

The ten story, 300,000 square foot building is one of the larger ones in downtown Syracuse and most glaring vacant properties. It is assessed at more than $3.6 million and sits right across the street from Syracuse City Hall. For the past 18 years the city has been working to find a buyer to fill the space.

"That's one that's certainly high on the priority list to get back into active use and the fact that it's right across from City Hall is a kind of a constant reminder of that for us," said Ben Walsh from the City of Syracuse's Department of Neighborhood and Business Development.

Downtown Syracuse has seen a renaissance of older buildings transformed into high end apartments. McDermott says the long abandoned space would be perfect for a mix of retail shops on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors. The building already has an underground parking garage that can hold more than 100 cars - and McDermott says the site just needs the right developer's vision.

"Any developer will have to come in and do a complete renovation of the structure but the structure itself is not compromised at all. They built this thing as a fortress," said McDermott. "I think there is definitely interest here as people look to see what buildings can be converted and they see this as a prime example of what can be changed into a new multi-use facility."

That dream may not be that far off. While CNYCentral was touring the ground level, a potential developer was looking over the upper floors.

"Just in the last couple weeks we've had two developers walk through which is more activity than we've had in a long while," said McDermott.

More than $1.8 million in back taxes are owed on the building right now. It is likely a potential buyer will ask the city to forgive some of that debt in exchange for giving this building new life.