Syracuse, NY . Mizpah Tower. The building boldly holds the corner of an important intersection. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011.
Syracuse, NY. Mizpah Tower in the 1920s from monograph on work of Gordon Wright.
Another Plan for Mizpah Tower
by Samuel D. Gruber
According to the Post-Standard, Downtown's Mizpah Towers may soon be seized by the city for back taxes, then sold to a new owner for development. The future of the historic building at the corner of West Jefferson and Montgomery Streets has been uncertain for years, as various projects have been floated and failed. You can read about some of these at Syracusethenandnow.
The Gothic style building was designed by local architect Gordon Wright and opened in 1914. It served as a church until 1988 and has been vacant for most of the time since. The building is covered with a tile skin and has notable stained glass windows on the lower floors - some of these were stolen after the building was closed. Pinnacles and other architectural features at the roof level have been removed for safety. Mizpah's location and massing is somewhat better than its somewhat brittle Gothic design. Combined, the tall building and its even taller corner tower boldly mark the intersection and nicely complements the other monumental public buildings around Columbus Circle.
Syracuse, NY . Mizpah Tower. The building boldly holds the corner of an important intersection. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011
Syracuse lawyer Thomas Cerio has offered the city $30,000 for the building which will cost millions to adapt for new use. Cerio wants to redevelop the first two floors as commercial space, the upper floors into apartments, and the top floor for his personal residence.
The building is remarkable for its once-magnificent auditorium on the ground floor that served as the sanctuary for the Baptist Church, but has also been eyed for decades as a potential performance space. You can see beautiful pictures by David Bridges and more the building history here.
Syracuse, NY. Mizpah Tower sanctuary/auditorium in the 1920s from monograph on work of Gordon Wright.
The current owner, Syracuse Bangkok LLC, of Bellevue, Wash., [which] owes more than $115,000 in taxes and interest dating back to 2008. If Syracuse Bangkok sought to block a sale to Cerio, the company could pay part of the delinquent taxes any time before the city seizes it. The property is assessed for $550,000, but developers who have looked at the interior say it needs millions in repairs and renovations. Cerio has said he is prepared to spend millions, Ashkin said.
The vacant, Gothic-style building at Montgomery and Jefferson streets, erected in 1914, has deteriorated since its Baptist congregation sold it in 1988 and moved to the suburbs. Two groups of developers have tried and failed since then to undertake renovations.
The city seized the Mizpah for back taxes in 1998, anticipating a public "Avenue of the Arts" that never materialized. In 2005, the city sold it for $27,500 to Syracuse Bangkok. Read the full story here.
Syracuse, NY. Jefferson Street facade of Mizpah Tower. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011.
The revitalization of this building (using Historic Preservation tax credits) would be a major shot in the arm for this part of Downtown. Who knows? First the Mizpah, then the Hotel Syracuse?