Local Developer Has Big Makeover Plan for Mitzpah Tower

Abandoned building may be renovated into 100-room boutique hotel

by Renee Lucas
Syracuse City Eagle

With the review and approval of the city, the vacant Mitzpah Tower in Columbus Circle may soon be renovated into a boutique hotel.

Project Manager Alan lsserlis is proposing to renovate the six-story building at the intersection of Montgomery and East Jefferson streets known as the Mitzpah Towers into a five-star hotel. The renovated structure would have 100 rooms, facilities for conferences and a business center. The existing symphony hall will be renovated into a ballroom for weddings, corporate functions or dinner theater and an on-premises gym would be contracted out to a known gym facility. A four-star restaurant with an upscale lounge and billiard room would also be built.

"We want to return the building to the way that it should look," Isserlis said.

Built in 1914, the Mitzpah Tower is modeled after the Canterbury Cathedral in England, and was home to a Baptist church for many years.

Isserlis, a Syracuse University graduate, presented his plan at the Common Council's Economic Development and Environmental Committee meeting on March 29 to Third District Councilor Patricia Waelder, Councilor-at-Large Beth Brownson and Commissioner of Economic Development Bart Feinberg.

According to the Mitzpah Tower initial report, the project will create over 225 full- and part-time jobs, most of which would be salaried positions.

"We want to be able to create jobs, and bring something here, bottom line," Isserlis said.

Reinstating color and history to the area, most of the original stained glass windows designed by Henry Keck are missing [some, not most] and would be replaced by a local stained-glass restoration professional, John Dobbs of Dobbs Glass Works. Mo-Jo Sturmer Associated, P.C, of Greenvale, NY would design the project.

"We'll do something to mold the modern and the old together through the stained-glass medium," Isserlis said.

Waelder was impressed by Isserlis's proposal and was surprised he did not come to the council asking for money, or breaks from the city.

"I was particularly struck that he was not asking for any special consideration and is ready to take advantage of the options that are already in place/' Waelder said.

The building is in the Columbus Circle National Register District which entitles it to a 20 percent preservation tax credit, along with Empowerment and Empire Zone tax cuts.

According to Isserlis, if the city approves the project the hotel can be completed within 15 months.

"We are lucky to have this building that is so unique to Syracuse," Isserlis said.

The hotel hopes to draw an upscale client base, and build a hotel in the city that is walking distance from downtown attractions.

"This is certainly a beautiful building and the encouragement of development downtown is a wonderful idea," Waelder said. "I would love to see this happen. It is a viable, active part of downtown. The whole idea of a choice of hotels in downtown is a very nice thing."

Waelder thinks that another hotel in Syracuse is a good idea, regardless of the many hotels that have just undergone recent restorations, like the Marx and the Genesee Inn.

"I think that this hotel has different market interests," Waelder said. "Certainly with the lovely downtown churches, it would be a perfect venue for wedding receptions and have other church related connections. I would truly see it as a nice asset to downtown."

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