When it demolished Midtown Plaza, the city left the steel skeletons of the Seneca Building and Midtown Tower standing. Steel and foundations are expensive and the city bet developers would reuse those structures.
The mayor admirably salvaged the PAETEC/Windstream deal and construction on the Seneca Building is expected in the spring.
The future of Midtown Tower, however, still looks iffy. The city selected a proposal from Christa Development Corporation and Morgan Management to turn Midtown Tower into luxury condos and apartments.
When City Council approved the project in September 2010, Christa’s Brian McKinnon made it clear what would prevent construction. “Financing. At the end of the day as you well know without access to credit, especially today, projects don’t happen.”
A lack of financing is precisely why construction didn’t start on the $73.5 million project in July 2011, as expected. This fall, the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council applied to the state for $2 million to help pay for the tower renovation. The state rejected the request.
In addition, the funding application indicates the developers still have to close on other financing, including $13.5 million in new market tax credits, $24 million mortgage, $16.5 million federal HUD loan, and $19 million in state bonding. The project has already gotten $6.9 million in state funding.
It’s clear this is one super-complicated project with a lot of moving parts.
When the city left the tower standing, all I could think about was the Hyatt fiasco of the late 1980s. Who doesn’t remember the scar on the skyline – the abandoned, half-built hotel? It was the era’s fast ferry. Midtown Tower is a similar eyesore.
But the tower can’t stand forever exposed to the elements. This will be the structure’s second winter stripped of its exterior. The city still owns the property and can tear down the tower if it must. Let’s all hope that’s not the ending to this story.