On August 16, the Hotel Syracuse will turn 90 years old. But after decades of neglect, the one-time jewel of downtown Syracuse is showing her age.
Paint cracks and peels from walls and ceilings, rain water pools on the floors of rooms and old kitchens, ornate plaster dÃ©cor in the hotelâ??s grandiose ballrooms crumbles and falls after years without maintenance.
Several have attempted to restore the historic property, but one by one those projects have come to a halt. The renovation materials of those would-be rescuers, dated tiles and bags of popcorn ceiling mix left behind long ago, offer clues into the various points at which renovations began, but were never completed.
Earlier this month, Syracuse native and hotel consultant Ed Riley took ownership of the iconic Hotel Syracuse.
â??I would say that from a business and financial standpoint this is the most challenging project that Iâ??ve been involved in. From a technical standpoint, itâ??s pretty far up the ladder but itâ??s not the most deteriorated building that Iâ??ve worked on,â?? Riley said of the 590-room hotel.
Unlike those who have attempted to take on the 11- story behemoth in the past, Riley brings years of hotel renovation experience to the table. He built his resume while working with Pyramid Hotel Group in Boston. Riley has overseen the restoration of historic properties across the country, including the 1920â??s-era Fairfax on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., the Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced Arizona Biltmore and the historic Claremont Hotel on the San Francisco Bay.
He not only understands what must be done to physically restore aging properties, Riley also understands what it will take to secure the appropriate financial backing for the project.
â??The success of this hotel will hinge on having the convention center hotel designation so that we can sell into them and they can sell into us,â?? explained Riley. â??Also having the communityâ??s response and acceptance is crucial. If the community doesnâ??t come back to hold events and fill the ballrooms and guest rooms up in soft times as well, then we have a problem.â??
Riley is in the process of becoming the designated hotel for the Nicholas J. Pirro Convenention Center, situated just across Warren Street from the Hotel Syracuse. Riley estimates that his newly renovated full-service luxury hotel, featuring 260 guest rooms, three ballrooms, a bar and separate restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, will create more than 300 new jobs at his property alone. He also believes the propertyâ??s restored prominence will create a ripple through downtown Syracuse.
â??There will be a spinoff to this between new businesses in the bottom of this hotel and those connecting to Armory Square,â?? said Riley. â??Our guests wonâ??t just spend all of their time here and at the convention center. Theyâ??re going to go out and explore,â?? said Riley.
Though guest rooms will be completely renovated and updated, Riley plans to restore many of the iconic original details throughout the grand lobby, ballrooms and hotel corridors to their 1920â??s splendor. A 1980â??s brick addition that attaches the hotel to another building on East Onondaga Street will be removed and the hotelâ??s third ballroom, which reflects the same unsightly style of that era will undergo a complete transformation as well.
Riley plans to begin much-needed roof and foundation repairs this fall before launching his aggressive 18-month renovation. In addition to securing a partnership with the convention center, Riley will partner with a national hotel brand to ensure the financial success and longevity of the project. Riley hopes the hotel, under a new name, will welcome its first guests in the spring of 2016.