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Former Hotel Syracuse Wins One of Industry's Highest Awards

Scott Willis

The Marriott Syracuse Downtown has been open a little over a year, and it’s already earned one of the most meaningful awards in the industry.  It was recently recognized as the Best City Center Historic Hotel in the nation by historic Hotels of America.

“When we were putting this old girl back together there was never a thought that this would be an award or an honor that this hotel would have any time soon, so it really is a great surprise.”

Ed Riley is the managing member of the Hotel Syracuse Restoration. He says it was up against some tough competition: well-known hotels in San Francisco and Washington D.C. Riley says many things stood out to jury members, including the care taken to restore old ceilings, artwork and chandeliers.  But they also looked at the impact on the community.

“The way the community has embraced it and come back. Also what this has meant to the community was also part of the application in terms of the amount of jobs we’ve created. The way it’s become a major gathering point for the city.”

A sign welcoming Syracuse University alumni into the hotel.

Riley says the award will generate business and buzz, and is a strong marketing tool. 

“Coupled with the other awards that we’ve had, it doesn’t hurt. And it’s definitely gonna help. At the end of the day the most important thing to keep business here is how our associates treat guests, how people refer us, and how they embrace us on social media. And all those things have been very positive.”

These days, Riley has shifted his attention to restoring a similar old hotel in Niagara Falls that shares many parallels with the former Hotel Syracuse. He says success hinges partly on the trend of millennials and empty nesters moving to urban centers.

“Both of those population shifts to an urban living environment contribute to the vibrancy of these downtowns. So, once the hotels see that the downtowns are coming back and they’re getting more vibrant, they know that the risk factor of failure is reduced significantly.”

Riley says that gives everyone more confidence in a project that still requires a solid business plan and the right financing.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at