The Syndicate Trust, like much of the city, declined in the 1960s, particularly when Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney closed in 1967. A series of owners worked to no avail to fill the building to capacity. A new owner bought the building in 1986, but defaulted on a loan used for the purchase two years later.
Developer Mark Finney bought the buildings at auction for $600,000 in 1993, originally intending to redevelop them. The buildings were emptied and gutted... then renovation halted. Years of legal wrangling ensued as Finney attempted to demolish the buildings for a parking lot, and the city blocked the attempts. Meanwhile, the buildings sat vacant, deteriorating and surrounded by a chainlink fence which blocked the sidewalks and streets around them.
The City eventually bought the buildings back from Finney... at a cost of $6 MILLION dollars, ten times what he paid for them. With the development rights thus secured, the City then handed them over to the DESCO Group and DFC Group -- without issuing a Request For Proposals. DESCO/DFC proposed to demolish the Century Building for a parking garage to serve the Old Post Office; the proposal did nothing for the remaining Syndicate Trust tower. An alternative proposal -- which would have kept both buildings intact -- was quickly squelched by the City.
Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, a sustained public outcry, a private lawsuit against the development, and basic principals of sound urban planning all failed to stop the garage plan. In early October 2004, wreckers smashed the corners of the building, before a judge could issue a decision in a stop-work injunction. Thus damaged, the building was effectively doomed.
In the 1990s, the only tenant was a Walgreens in the ground level, which persisted until around 2002.
For several years in the 1990s and early 2000s, the building was surrounded by sidewalk-obscructing barricades, ostensibly to protect the public from the deteriorating facade. Cynical observers might conclude that the barriers were actually to create the impression of danger rather than a response to any actual peril.