Restoring a Treasure : Ed Riley

Ed Riley in front of the famed mural at the Hotel Syracuse
Ed Riley in front of the famed mural at the Hotel Syracuse

The man behind the rebirth of the landmark Hotel Syracuse is a former Onondaga Community College student. Edward “Ed” Riley might not be where he is today had a serious sports injury not led him to rethink how to turn his lifelong passion for historic architecture into a career.

Riley grew up on the west side of Syracuse and graduated from Christian Brothers Academy. He attended Syracuse University on scholarship to play lacrosse. A knee injury his freshman year forced him to reevaluate everything. “Since I couldn’t play lacrosse anymore I took another look at architecture. People were suggesting OCC as a good, affordable place to start.”

Riley enrolled at OCC and immediately felt at home in the Architectural Technology program. “It was top notch. It was run in a true office setting. The professor was the principal and the student was the apprentice. When we graduated we were able to transition to the workforce with ease.” Ultimately Riley would earn a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse and pursue his professional career.

Riley working with a contractor in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Syracuse
Riley working with a contractor in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Syracuse

Riley started his own practice and chose to fill vacancies with people with OCC backgrounds whenever possible. “I valued the product and knew OCC interns and employees could come right in and be profitable.” Riley would eventually sell his practice and focus on learning how to refurbish historical buildings. His quest for knowledge took him across several states, including Hawaii, before eventually coming back to Syracuse where he was considering a specific project. “The Hotel Syracuse had been on my mind for quite some time but it wasn’t until recently I felt the timing was right and I had the knowledge to do it right.”

Riley took on the challenge of renovating and restoring one of America’s classic buildings and now the old Hotel Syracuse is set to reopen July 4. It will be known as the Marriot Downtown. “I think the new name will give her the fresh start she needs. For the people of Syracuse she will always be the Hotel Syracuse, but for visitors the new name will provide them with the assurances Marriot brings.”

Riley plans to keep looking for new projects. As he does he continues to carry a deep appreciation for the learning environment he found at the College. “The faculty at OCC instilled good habits and I carry these practices with me every day. The solid foundation I built at OCC has allowed me to treat all projects with the upmost respect.”

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