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Hotel Syracuse selected as Onondaga County convention center's official hotel

Ellen Abbott
The main lobby of the Hotel Syracuse. The site was selected as the official hotel of the Onondaga County convention center. (file photo)

An officially designated convention center hotel in Syracuse has been a goal of Onondaga County officials for decades. It looks like they’ve found it in the soon-to-be renovated Hotel Syracuse.

Onondaga County lawmakers Tuesday designated the Hotel Syracuse as the convention center’s official hotel. It’s a key move in rehabilitation of the hotel, which has been shuttered for a decade.

Legislator Kathy Rapp says the county legislature’s move ultimately unlocks some state money developer Ed Riley will be able to use, as he plans to bring the landmark back to life.

"Way back when, we got a total of $15 million from the state in grants to put a hotel up next to the convention center," Rapp said. "We never used it. They never spent it. So it’s still sitting there, and it’s fortunately still there and it will go to help induce this project.”

Rapp says having an official hotel help draw convention business to Syracuse.

“It’s an obstacle when we look to sell conventions," Rapp explained. "So now we will have one. It will be a brand new first-class flagged hotel that has all the beauty and ambiance of the original Hotel Syracuse, combined with all the amenities of a brand new first-class, big room hotel.”

The Hotel Syracuse on Warren Street is a few blocks from the convention center that fronts on State street. But Rapp says that was a non-issue when it came to making the designation.

"What you give up in convenience, you gain in ambiance," Rapp said. "To have that beautiful lobby, and the beautiful Persian terrace and the ballroom, absolutely irreplaceable today.”

This designation means Riley must operate the hotel as a nationally branded upscale hotel and reserve a block of rooms for convention business. It's also contingent on him getting all the funding in place by the end of January.

If he can’t do that, Rapp says the county would probably go back to earlier plans that involved building a new hotel across the street from the convention center.

“If for some reason, with all of these inducements, he cannot, then we have the right to terminate, and then I think the county will go forward and find another developer and build on our site," Rapp explained.

Riley expects to start renovations next spring on the hotel that’s been closed for a decade.