Thousands of shoppers are visiting a new, expanded Destiny USA for the Christmas shopping season. Could those shoppers be visiting an even larger complex in the future? Faced with a city deadline and a potential loss of a so-called PILOT agreement, Destiny was forced to declare the current expansion a final phase, putting the mega-mall project on hold. But YNN's Bill Carey reports the developer of Destiny still wants to grow the center far beyond the new expansion.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It is a "real life" demonstration of what the PILOT agreement was all about. A break on property taxes it would have paid on vacant land, to build the expansion, which, in turn, pumps millions of dollars in new sales tax revenue into the city's budget.
Payments made in lieu of taxes paying off building loans, while also supporting infrastructure work here as well as the Inner Harbor, Franklin Square and Armory Square. Though the project is on hold, Destiny says it wants to go further.
“As a company, we've been investing in Syracuse for over 25 years, well over a billion dollars. We would like to pursue additional development. We're not done building. We just need to make sure that the environment and the opportunity is right to do so,” said David Aitken of Destiny USA.
By the environment and opportunity, Destiny means a city government open to new discussions. A city government and industrial development agency now led by former common councilors who strongly opposed this initial expansion. And the city administration is showing very little willingness to even consider further expansion at Destiny USA.
“No,” said SIDA Chairman William Ryan.
“Under no circumstances?” asked our reporter.
Ryan replied, “You asked me if there were any circumstances that I can envision. The answer to your question is no.”
Still, others in city government are hoping those leaders change their minds.
“Certainly the deal would have to be negotiated differently. A lot more attention to detail to insure that we're exercising in a way that's beneficial to the taxpayer. But you can't deny the existing value and the potential value of that expansion,” said Syracuse Common Councilor Khalid Bey.
The public waits to see what happens. Some think things are fine, as is.
“I don't think the area is large enough to support it, basically. The City of Syracuse is large, but it's about the largest city in this area,” Destiny USA shopper Tom Oyer said.
Others want to avoid more loud public battles.
“I think it'd be nice to add on to it, but with all the drama that got us this far, might not be the best idea,” Destiny USA shopper Tracy Cartland said.
Still, others look beyond the drama and say it’s a needed boost to the area.
Destiny USA shopper Karen Boyle said, “I like it. I think it's going to give a lot of competition to the outlets in Waterloo. But I like the development. I like the growth.”
But will that growth continue?
Further work on the Destiny project could become a political issue in the coming year. Mayor Stephanie Miner and several common councilors face re-election contests in 2013.