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Hotel development in Syracuse follows nationwide trend

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo
The one that started it all: A Marriott hotel under construction in downtown Syracuse's Armory Square back in 2012.

There are six hotels currently under construction in the Syracuse area and one in Cazenovia, some of which are receiving or could soon start receiving tax breaks. The hotel building boom in Syracuse is part of a trend happening in cities across the state and nationwide.  

Financing for hotels dried up following the 2008 recession, but since then the economy has improved and funding is flowing once again. Hotels are popping up or being redeveloped in downtown Syracuse, off the Thruway and Interstate 81, attracting conventions and catering to business and families traveling for youth sports competitions. David Holder, the president of Visit Syracuse, credits Destiny USA with bringing entirely new customer bases to the area; leisure and international travelers.

“Indoor, high-end luxury brand outlet stores," Holder said. "That’s a product that the international traveler is looking for. That international traveler is already going from New York City to Niagara Falls. Why not grab them for a little bit of time here in Syracuse?”

The Inner Harbor, close to where Destiny is located, has one hotel by COR Development nearing completion. Destiny is seeking tax breaks to build another hotel not too far away.  Holder says hotels work better in clusters because guests need the same level of services such as food and activities. And at some point, every hotel reaches maximum occupancy and will refer customers to other hotels.

“When that neighbor property is in eyesight versus three miles down the road and you have to get back into your car and you have to literally drive across town to get there, it’s a whole lot better customer experience,” Holder said.   

So lots of hotels are great but when does it become too many? When are there too many rooms and not enough travelers to fill them?

“At the point where we’re not able to create a new market out there, or draw in a new level of visitation associated with that new development, does it become saturated,” Holder said.

Holder said as long as they can find new customers, there will never be too many rooms. Hotels along Syracuse’s Carrier Circle just off the Thruway have also seen a rise in development. Engineering firms, air traffic control systems and research and development companies are located in Carrier Circle.

"There's a lot of business travel that takes place in that area," Holder said. "There's also a lot of smaller, state conventions that come through. They love those locations just off the Thruway because it's very easy for their attendees to get on and off."

Holder said a former Howard Johnson's on Carrier Circle could soon be demolished to make way for one or possibly two new hotels.  

He also said most of the hotels in the area have raised concerns about how the decision regarding Interstate 81 that runs through downtown Syracuse will affect business. The portion of the highway will most likely either be torn down or made larger, but whatever the decision, the most immediate challenge will be a 4-8 year construction cycle that has some worried how travelers will access the hotels.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.