Thursday, October 14, 2004
City new owner of Wilson Building
Mayor hopes site will offer walkway between Armory Square, S. Salina
By Frederic Pierce, Staff writer
The city of Syracuse on Wednesday took title to a troubled downtown
building that officials hope will eventually serve as a pedestrian
connection from vibrant Armory Square to a stretch of South Salina Street
that's hoping for rebirth.
The Wilson Building, at 306 S. Salina St., was sold to the city for the
$736,000 it was owed in unpaid property taxes and about $3,000 to cover the
costs of the building's bankruptcy trustee, city officials said.
City officials said they have been trying to foreclose on the seven-
story, stone structure for years because they see its redevelopment as a way
to transfer some of the action of Armory Square to the city's traditional
"It has always been the mayor's goal to create a pedestrian walkway that
would link Armory Square to Salina Street," said Christine Fix, Mayor Matt
Driscoll's director of intergovernmental affairs. "This is part of his
vision, and it sends a clear signal that the mayor is committed to the 300
block (of South Salina Street.)
The building has three arched storefronts that contain an Indian
restaurant, a tattoo parlor and a nail salon. The rear of the structure
opens into a courtyard and an alley connecting to Clinton Street and Armory
With some imagination and investment, a developer could create an
attractive passageway that could funnel pedestrian traffic between the two
downtown business areas, city Economic Development Director David Michel
"It's going to take some creative work by an architect to figure out how
to do it, but I think the opportunity is there," Michel said. "It's an
interesting building, and I think it has a lot of potential."
The city has not yet decided how it will try to put the building in the
hands of a developer with similar vision, said Charles Everett, city
In January, Driscoll told staffers he wanted all valuable, city-owned
buildings to go through a formal request for proposals instead of simply
being sold to the first interested buyer.
But the first building the city tried to sell through that process -
Columbus Circle's nearly century-old Mizpah Towers - needed to be put
through the bidding process twice.
The first time through, a mingling of different procedures led to
confusion and a staged bid opening in front of local television cameras.
Eventually, both proposals submitted were tossed out and two top city
officials lost their jobs.
The second time, only one of the three interested developers made a
proposal that met the city's criteria. That potential buyer, a church group,
does not appear to have the money needed to renovate - or even winterize -
The Wilson Building, however, should be a much easier building to market
than the Mizpah, a unique combination of church and hotel that has been
vacant and neglected for more than a decade, Michel said.
The Wilson Building has been neglected, too, but it appears structurally
sound, and the roof seems to be solid, Michel said.
City officials plan to do more detailed assessments of the building and
begin securing it for winter as soon as possible, Everett said. City workers
will board up broken windows in the vacant upper floors and begin clearing
out junk, he said.
The city was the only bidder for the Wilson Building, Michel said.
Syracuse officials figured they would make out better selling the structure
than trying to wring back taxes out of a new owner, Everett said.
The city's tax woes with the Wilson Building began in 1991.
The building's former owner, Onondaga Plaza Maintenance, went to court
and declared bankruptcy twice to keep the city from taking their property
for nonpayment of taxes, said John Stone, a city attorney.
In late May, the company finally lost its deed to a bankruptcy court
trustee. By that time, the elevator was inoperable and everything from the
furnace to the plumbing had been in a state of disrepair for years, former
Tenants renting office space in the building's upper floors were evicted.
The three businesses on the street level went to court and were allowed to
Driscoll visited those tenants Wednesday and assured them that the city
would let them continue to operate there, Fix said.
© 2004 The Post-Standard.