The Destiny USA project in Syracuse will fall far short of its original vision. Instead of being a Disney World-type attraction, it will be just a really big mall.
Syracuse taxpayers are stuck holding the bag because the mall expanded just enough to stay off the tax rolls for 30 years. It does even have to make payments in lieu of taxes.
It’s a pretty incredible development. The Syracuse Post-Standard reports:
(Mall owner Robert) Congel’s only payments to the city will be the balance he owes on a $60 million project fee he has to pay to the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency for issuing bonds on the project. That will amount to about $3.1 million per year for about six more years.
(Mayor Stephanie) Miner said she was not surprised by Congel’s announcement that he was finished building his project.
“I believed Syracuse’s destiny was not a shopping mall. I continue to believe that now,” said Miner, who was a critic of the Destiny USA tax deal.
Atlantic Cities declared the project “Dead Pipe Dream of the Day” and posted a video of the original vision.
The project’s fate immediately raised eyebrows in Rochester, where Congel’s son, Scott, is shopping a $750 million proposal to transform Medley Centre. Like Destiny, Medley is running up against PILOT deadlines and has not yet delivered. Like Destiny, Medley has a grand plan that relies on heavy taxpayer investment.
“The two different Congel family projects, Destiny in Syracuse and Medley here, are basically the same project. It’s just a function of scale and they’re both premised on the idea taxpayers should put up the capital,” said Johnston. “If there’s a sound investment, the market will finance it. If it’s not a sound investment, why would the taxpayers want to put a penny into it?”
Will Destiny’s fate be Medley’s destiny? Scott Congel said in a statement they are very different projects. He must make his case to the public.