Wednesday, August 31, 2004

City rejects only offer for Wilson Building

It came from company linked to Eli Hadad, who owes back taxes to Syracuse.

By Frederic Pierce, Staff writer

Last October, the city of Syracuse took possession of downtown's troubled Wilson Building, partly to thwart Miami investor Eli Hadad's efforts to buy the building from its bankruptcy trustee.

Tuesday, after months of searching for potential developers and asking several seemingly interest parties to submit proposals, city officials opened their only purchase offer for the century-old building.

It was from Hadad.

Actually, the proposal came from Paramount Development, the company created by former city business consultant Charlie Vinal that manages many of Hadad's downtown buildings, city Economic Development Director David Michel said.

Since Hadad owes more than $300,000 in delinquent taxes on his city properties, a long-standing city policy would prohibit the building's sale to a company connected to Hadad, Michel said. Because of that, city officials Tuesday decided not to review the proposal.

"It's very disappointing," Michel said. "We'll continue to review where we are with the building; at some time we'll probably seek bids again."

Meanwhile, the seven-story, ornately designed structure at 305 S. Salina St. stands almost completely vacant and in dire need of repair.

"By no means is this over," Vinal said Tuesday. "I've asked for their decision in writing, and the time the decision was made, and I'm going to take it to my lawyer."

The reason nobody else bid on the structure is that it needs to be combined with the adjacent Witherill Building for any redevelopment into apartments to make economic sense, Vinal said. Hadad owns the Witherill, which cannot be feasibly reconfigured without the Wilson Building.

Hadad had offered $200,000 to buy the building out of bankruptcy court last year. The city vetoed that and took the building in exchange for $736,000 in taxes owed by its previous owner.

This summer, the city asked for development proposals that would use the first floor for commercial tenants and renovate the upper floors into offices and residential units.

The city also required developers to come up with a pedestrian walkway through the structure that would connect South Salina Street to an alley in the back of the Wilson Building that leads to Armory Square.

2005 The Post-Standard.