Mizpah Tower back on market


City of Syracuse rejects a bid by the Wesleyan Church to renovate vacant property.

November 18, 2004

By Frederic Pierce, staff writer

The city of Syracuse has rejected the Wesleyan Church's proposal to renovate Mizpah Tower, knocking out the only valid response to the city's second attempt to find a developer for the long-vacant property.

The city's rejection puts the century-old downtown landmark back on the market, and reopens the door for two other proposals that were dismissed in September.

"They really had no financing plan, and the proposed reuse of the building was really vague beyond its use as a church," said city Economic Development Director David Michel about the rejected proposal.

The Wesleyan group was notified by mail and notified an official involved with the project by phone, Michel said.

The group's plan to reopen Mizpah as a church and social service center would also have delayed the transfer of the building from the city to the church until September 2005, Michel said.

The city had hoped to get Mizpah into the hands of a responsible owner in time to have the owner secure the deteriorating, nearly century-old structure before harsh weather sets in. A city engineering report this summer said the building needs about $500,000 worth of work to get through another winter.

That time frame is going to be difficult now, although the city hopes to transfer ownership by the first of the year, Michel said.

City officials are working on a procedure that would give interested developers a chance to air their proposals in a condensed time frame and allow the city to review them and decide quickly, he said. They hope to announce the new process within a few days.

The two other groups that submitted sealed proposals at the end of September hoped to turn the Gothic former church on Columbus Circle into a hotel and restaurant.

A $19 million plan by a team spearheaded by Syracuse businessman Alan Isserlis was rejected without being considered by the city's review committee because Isserlis did not submit a $5,000 deposit check.

A $10 million plan by a group led by Jacob Ohayon, a business partner of Miami investor Eli Hadad, was rejected without being opened because it arrived about 20 minutes after the advertised deadline for proposals.

2004 The Post-Standard.

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