© 2023 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Potential buyer wants to turn Mizpah Tower into luxury apartments

CORRECTION March 4: Current Mizpah Tower owner Syracuse Bangkok, LLC. is $115,646.31 delinquent on taxes, according to the Onondaga County property tax database.

A potential new owner of the long-vacant Mizpah Tower in downtown Syracuse is hoping to satisfy a certain kind of rental market. 

To hear Syracuse attorney Thomas Cerio talk, he seems quite smitten with the rundown former First Baptist Church on the corner of Montgomery and Jefferson Streets.

"I like the architecture, the stature, the location of it - everything. The surrounding parts that encompass it. Even being next to the Y," said Cerio.

That's why he's offering the city $30,000 for the Gothic Style building. His vision is to create luxury-style apartments that appeal to renters who want to live  large and still be downtown.

"There's a little bit of a market for larger families or empty nesters that want to come downtown but don't want to live in a 15-hundred square foot apartment," said Cerio.

So he's ready to supply apartments on the scale of 3,500 or 4,000-square feet. He doesn't know if he's going to be more successful that other developers who have tried and failed.

"I'm not going into this as a developer. My heart is in it. My heart is in downtown. My heart is in Syracuse so I think with that recipe and with the people involved it's gonna work."

The only thing that could stop the plan is if the current owner of the building, Syracuse Bangkok, LLC., of Bellevue, Wash., pays more than $150,000 $115,000 in back taxes, which means the city wouldn't be able to seize the building and then sell it to Cerio.

The Mizpah is nearly 100 years old and already has residential space above the sanctuary that has been used as a hotel or living quarters over its history.

The city sold the property, on the corner of Montgomery and Jefferson Streets, to Syracuse-Bangkok in 2005 after a controversial bidding process.

Syracuse-Bangkok last paid its back taxes in 2008, which was the last time Syracuse had contact with the owner.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.