Friday, May 6, 2011

USA: Former Syracuse Synagogue Opens as a Hotel

Syracuse, NY. Hotel Skyler, former Temple Adath Yeshurun. Gordon Wright, architect, 1922.
Photos: Samuel Gruber, May 2011.

USA: Former Syracuse Synagogue Opens as a "Green" Hotel
by Samuel Gruber

(ISJM) In August 2009 I wrote (and posted photos) about plans to transform the former Temple Adath Yeshurun in Syracuse, into a new "boutique" hotel. This week the hotel opened. The building is still an impressive presence on Syracuse's University Hill, though inside nothing of the old sanctuary remains. The project includes many green elements and itsi s a LEED certified building. The "greenest" element, of all, however, is the reuse of the structure. The embedded energy and labor in the old materials and construction have not gone to waste, nor to a landfill.

In antiquity synagogue was places where visitors to a community could find refuge, a meal and sometime a bed. I'm thinking, of course, of the famous Theodotus inscription found in Jerusalem:

Theodotos, son of Vettenos the priest and synagogue leader [archisynagogos], son of a synagogue leader and grandson of a synagogue leader, built the synagogue for the reading of the Torah, and studying the commandments, and as a hostel with chambers and water installations for the accommodation of those who, coming form abroad, have need of it, which [that is, the synagogue] his fathers, the elders and Simonides founded.

-- translation from Meyers, in Fine, Sacred Realm, p 9 (after Levine’s translation)

The Syracuse transformation, however, is the first I can think of where a former synagogue has been turned into a commercial hotel, though many synagogues have made into apartments and private houses.

This was a compromise solution. It left a good building and city landmark and it has made an empty site useful, and into one what will eventually pay much-needed city taxes. Any residual "holiness" of the place had long since been lost, and its Jewish identity largely forgotten since for many years the Salt City theater group which occupied the space hung a large "Jesus Christ Superstar: sigh out front. the group was promoting its annual musical production - not a religion. Still, I am sure many former congregants winced when they drove by the old building and saw this adorning the site of so community many weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Here is the article form the local paper:

Syracuse's newest hotel has grand opening
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
By Rick Moriarty/The Post-Standard

Syracuse, N.Y. -- Syracuse’s newest hotel held its grand opening today in the former Temple Adath Yeshurun near Syracuse University. Developer Norm Swanson’s Hotel Skyler features 58 rooms on three floors at the former synagogue at 601 S. Crouse Ave.

The Skyler — named after Swanson’s 1-year-old grandson — is the developer’s third hotel. The others are the Genesee Grande, which he renovated in 2003, and the boutique Parkview Hotel, which he opened in 2005, both on East Genesee Street not far from the Skyler.

Like the other two hotels, the Skyler is close to SU and the hospitals and medical offices on University Hill. Tom Fernandez, director of marketing for Swanson, said he expects the Skyler to draw heavily from the traffic generated by those facilities.

“We feel we’re in the heart of the ‘meds and eds’ district,” he said. Standard room rates at the hotel are $199 a night.

Swanson spent $6.7 million turning the vacant building into a hotel. The work included constructing two floors that didn’t previously exist. Some of the temple’s interior architectural moldings and other features have been retained.

Fernandez said the Skyler is only the third hotel in the United States to seek platinum certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Green Building Council. Green
design features of the hotel include a geothermal heat pump, countertops made of recycled glass, and a system that automatically turns off the lights and lowers or raises room temperatures when
guests come and go.

The hotel’s lobby features stained glass saved from the former St. John’s Church in Oswego. The hotel also features two loft-style “tree house” suites. Fifty percent of the revenues from the two suites will be donated to the nearby Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, Fernandez said.

Though the grand opening took place today, the hotel actually opened or business on Friday.

Built in 1922, the 35,000-square-foot building housed Temple Adath until its congregation moved to DeWitt in 1968. It later housed Salt City Center for the Performing Arts.

Swanson bought the building from the city in 2007 for $352,500. The Common Council last year approved a 14-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Swanson. Under that deal, the developer could receive a 100 percent exemption from taxes on the increase in his property
assessment for three years, a 75 percent exemption in the fourth year, a 50 percent exemption the fifth year and an exemption that drops by 5 percentage points each of the next nine years.

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