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Syracuse Council approves Symphony Tower tax agreement

Tom Magnarelli
The Syracuse Common Council.

The Syracuse Common Council has approved a tax settlement agreement with the developers of Symphony Tower in downtown Syracuse. The deal brings developers one step closer to turning the property into a Hyatt Hotel across from the Marriott Downtown Syracuse.

Councilor Nader Maroun was the only one who voted against the agreement. He said it is not good policy to be giving Symphony Tower what he describes as a precedent setting deal.

“The good news, there may be tax deals for others but it has to be codified in law," Maroun said. "Because otherwise, if the city arbitrarily decides that you get one but someone over here doesn’t get one, then it puts the city in harm’s way.”

The agreement forgives $500,000 in fees and penalties and gives developers the option of paying a remaining balance of back taxes over 15 years. Maroun, as the council’s finance chairman, said he was left out of discussions between Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner's administration, the hotel developers and some councilors. Miner’s Chief of Staff Bill Ryan said he thinks Maroun’s feelings were hurt by being left out of the deal.

“We had a press conference after we talked with the councilors to see if they were on board and they were very much on board with seeing this come into fruition," Ryan said. "That was not something the administration did without the buy-in from the council. If the fact is we left Councilor Maroun out, we left Councilor Maroun out.”

Ryan said the administration is open to discussions on development which is happening all over downtown.

"It was a very unique situation, we came up with a unique solution to it where I think everybody wins," Ryan said. "We put this building back online, we put people back to work. This will have no impact on the bottom line to the city of Syracuse in its entirety when we look at what's going to happen here."

Hotel developer Ed Riley, of Symphony Tower, said he respects Maroun's objection but is grateful the deal went through.

"We think we have a very different set of circumstances here with the age of the building, the fight that went on for a long time, the amount of jobs that we'll be putting back into the marketplace downtown and our commitment that those jobs are local and to the city," Riley said.

The tax agreement also has to be approved by Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Developers hope to begin construction next month to open the hotel in the summer.

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.