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Former synagogue finds new life as "green" hotel in Syracuse

The façade of the former synaogue on the outside will be retained as the building becomes "Hotel Skyler."
Ryan Morden
The façade of the former synaogue on the outside will be retained as the building becomes "Hotel Skyler."

Construction crews in Syracuse are hard at work on the transformation of a former synagogue into a state-of-the-art, LEED certified hotel.  Their mission: to get the facility up and running by April 1.

Tom Fernandez with Woodbine Group, owner of Hotel Skyler, says the facility’s green credibility should be a draw for those who want to travel and leave as small a carbon footprint as possible

“Especially with the close vicinity to SUNY-ESF [the school of environmental science and forestry], everything going on with Syracuse University ... going on with the hospitals," says Fernandez, "I think the presence of where the hotel is will draw a lot of traffic to it.”

Trying to carve out a new niche of travelers will be key for Skyler.  It's entering the market in the Syracuse University neighborhood, where there are already several other hotels, including two properties owned by the Woodbine Group.

So what is different about Sklyer? 

First, the developers are pursuing LEEDPlatinum certification, to demonstrate the hotel's eco bona fides. LEED is a construction standard that measures sustainability through measures like water and energy efficiency; "platinum" is the highest level of certification.

Developer Norman Swansorn told YNN that Skyler is going all out to go green:

...we will be harvesting rainwater. Through harvesting rainwater and the fixtures we're using, we will be saving over 500,000 gallons of water on an annual basis. We will be drilling geothermal wells that will provide heating and air conditioning. The equipment we'll be using will be twice as efficient as the minimum standards

"Building on the history of the property"

This is not the first repurposing of the building.  It was built to be used as a synagogue almost 100 years ago, and most recently was home to the theater group Salt City Stage.

As Hotel Skyler, the building will retain the exterior décor of a synagogue. The tympanum (the decorative element over the doorway), features a prominent Star of David near the top. Just below, the phrase, ”Open ye the portals of righteousness. I will enter and praise God,” is etched in Hebrew, with an English translation to accompany it. 
On the inside, the project's environmental certification manager Lynee Sauer says there will be furnishings made from recycled materials and other green amenities.

But converting the building to a new use isn't just an act of historical preservation goodwill: Hotel Skyler's aggressive pursuit of the highest level LEED certification will make its owners eligible for tax breaks, reports Mike Grogan at the Post-Standard

Innovation Trail alumnus Ryan Morden is originally from Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's in journalism, minoring in political science and Scandinavian studies. Morden was Morning Edition producer and reporter at WRVO before moving over to the Innovation Trail project. Before landing at WRVO, Morden covered the Washington State legislature as a correspondent for Northwest News Network (N3), a group of nine NPR affiliates in the northwest.