Syracuse, N.Y. — Demolition crews are knocking down walls and stripping rooms to their steel girders as a $57 million renovation of the historic Hotel Syracuse gets underway.
"We're moving this old lady forward into the 21st century," said owner Ed Riley.
About 50 workers are removing asbestos from three floors, demolishing guest rooms on two other floors and performing preparation work on all other floors of the 93-year-old downtown Syracuse hotel.
Crews performed temporary roof repairs in the late fall and will be begin installing an entirely new roof soon, Riley said.
The grand lady of Syracuse hotels closed in 2004 after years of financial troubles under various owners. Riley, of Camillus, acquired it with the help of the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency last year. He quickly announced plans for an extensive renovation, followed by a reopening in early 2016.
Nearly all of the approximately 500 guest rooms at the hotel will be demolished and replaced with 261 larger, modern rooms. But before workers with Environmental Remediation Services Inc., of East Syracuse, can demolish the rooms, they have to remove asbestos from pipes and ducts.
Riley said some suites on each floor will be restored to their original appearance for guests who want to experience what the hotel was like when it opened in 1924.
Workers were surprised to find marble trim when they ripped up carpeting on hallway floors. Previous owners probably covered the marble with carpeting to make housekeeping easier, but Riley said he may leave the marble exposed.
Riley also is planning to restore the hotel's function rooms, including the once popular Grand Ballroom and Persian Terrace. Workers have already removed a bar in the lobby as part of a plan to enlarge the lobby to its original dimensions.
The project is the first major renovation of the hotel since its opening. In the years leading up to its closing, guests frequently complained that the hotel's rooms, which had changed little since 1924, were small and outdated. Riley said the renovation will address both of those complaints.
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