More steps toward saving Mizpah Tower
Syracuse Common Councilors have given tentative approval to the sale of a landmark building in Syracuse's Columbus Circle. The city is proceeding with efforts to seize the building. YNN's Bill Carey says it is not the first time that a new future was promised for Syracuse's Mizpah Tower.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was almost eight years ago that the city of Syracuse unveiled a new plan to save a former church building on Columbus Circle. The building, now known as Mizpah Tower, had been abandoned and was falling into disrepair.
A west coast developer, Ben Errez, spoke of a project to turn the building into a hotel and condominium complex. But nothing happened.
Three years later, Errez was back to say there had been some setbacks but he was now ready to move ahead. He talked of an overhaul of the building's auditorium and the fact that Christmas concerts could be staged there that year. The first step he said was to shore up the aging structure.
“While we work on a plan, or finalize the plan, for Phase 2, which is the towers. And we expect that to take approximately a year to a year and a half,” said Errez said in 2007.
But, again, nothing happened.
Now, a new sign of hope for the building as Common Councilors study a plan by attorney Tom Cerio to buy the tax-delinquent property and develop luxury apartments.
“We're certainly anxious to get it into the hands of a willing partner and a new owner that we can work with to get it back up and running, but we're not there yet. We're hopefully moving in the right direction,” said Ben Walsh, Deputy City Commissioner of Business Development.
The city has begun the process of seizing the property for unpaid taxes, and then selling to Cerio. Councilors say there were lessons learned in the previous failed project.
“We can take a chance on this new owner. Potential owner. Of course, the back taxes could be paid and we'd be right back where we started. But I think, whoever the owner is, they have to have a realistic sense of what it's going to cost, and what we would like to see for that corner,” said Kathleen Joy, (D) Syracuse Common Councilor.
“It's a very difficult project. There's a reason why it's been vacant for as long as it has been. And, unfortunately, for every additional year it sits vacant, it becomes a more difficult task,” said Walsh.
It could be several months before a clear answer about Mizpah's future.
Attorney Tom Cerio, who is in line to buy the Mizpah building once it's formally seized by the city, says he plans to spend as much as $25 million to renovate the structure.