Aug 07, 2008 ellen leahy Uncategorized
The city of Syracuse’s economic development committee chair, Councilor at Large Kathleen Joy found the process of dealing with developer Richard H. Sykes Jr. of RHS Holdings refreshing. There doesn’t appear to be a hidden agenda in the $31million proposal.
For two years RHS has been planning to construct two Marriott Hotels – a Courtyard and a Residence Inn in Syracuse’s historic Armory Square district. Joy said the developer really did its homework resulting in a well thought out, viable plan.
“We can really get excited about the potential here,” she said. Are there parking issues? Yes, Joy said, but also this is always a hurdle with any development project. And the committee was told there is under-utilized space in the Washington Street Garage and the Atrium Garage.
Where is the project and what will it look like?
The hotel project, which will also include first floor retail space, a pool and fitness facility, will be erected on the parking lot that sits on the northwest corner of Fayette and Franklins Streets – at 300 Fayette St.
David Schlosser of Schopfer Architects outlined the building plans for the city’s economic development committee in City Hall’s common council chambers on Wednesday, Aug. 6. Keep in mind that Schlosser’s firm also designed Center Armory that was also once a parking lot. Schopfer also designed the renovations for Science Museum The MOST and the former Gray Brothers Shoe Factory at 200-202 Walton St. on the northwest corner of Franklin and Walton in Armory Square, where the nightclub OHM is located (the former Styleens Rhythm Palace). He said his company recently worked on a Marriott in Lake Placid and will be renovating the Hilton in that mountain resort village as well.
Schlosser said the Syracuse project will be two buildings, 366 linear feet, with six stories scaled down to blend with the historic district of Armory Square.
“Taking elements of the historic district,” he said, “The use of brick, scale and other details that are indigenous to the area.”
He also said they met with Pioneer, who is the developer on the neighboring O’Brien & Gere office building project, in order to coordinate an overall look.
After two years of planning, construction could start as early as this fall and will take 18 months to complete. Councilor Ed Ryan asked about the number of union versus non union jobs during the building and operating phases.
Sykes said they thought it would be 60 percent union on construction, and they are still speaking with Marriott in regards to the hospitality workers. Ryan said he would like to see more of the jobs go to union workers, but that he was very much in support of the overall project.
The economic impact to the city is twofold.
First, 200 jobs over the 18 month construction period; then a projected 100 hospitality jobs and 20 to 40 additional retail jobs. Joy commented that it is estimated the project would bring $17 million in revenue into the city each year.
Who are the retailers? There are no done deals at this point, but RHS is speaking with national retailers that often follow Marriott developments. Sykes said he has spoken with local independent business operators in Armory Square and they are open to the addition of a chain retailer operation coming into the district.
Is the project a go?
It’s a case of the developers needing the city’s okay to lock up the purchase of the property and the financing arrangements. Anthony Dannible, who heads up Dannible & McKee, LLP, is the point person on the financing for the project. He said they were speaking with institutional lenders out of Atlanta that specialize in hospitality projects. Marriott referred them. But also they would consider local lenders if they wanted to step up.
He said the state has committed $2 million in low cost loans. The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency is talking about a $500,000 grant if the project goes through and Mayor Driscoll is trying to arrange for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. The Common Council and SIDA still must vote on the in-lieu-of-taxes.
Dannible has worked with Marriott before and is excited to see the company coming to Armory Square. Their market research projects a 74 percent occupancy rate for the two hotels (with a total of 175 rooms). He said the Jefferson Clinton (corner of Clinton and Washington Streets in Armory Square) is extremely successful. In addition, he reported that Marriott didn’t consider this project in competition with their existing hotels in the area — which includes the Renaissance Hotel on Genesee Street and two hotels off Carrier Circle.
Commitment to Syracuse
It is interesting to note that Dannible & McKee has been in downtown Syracuse for 30 years, RHS is located on Jefferson Street and Schopfer Architects is located just up James Street on the edge of the historic Sedgewick District. All of the players are interested and committed to a positive development in downtown Syracuse.
For more information on this story — pick up next weeks’ City Eagle on Aug. 14. Ellen Leahy is the editor of the City Eagle. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 434-8889 x319.