After years of delays, developers and local officials have agreed on a 30-year tax deal that will allow construction to start on Destiny USA — a megamall whose backers vow will run on renewable energy and be a model for clean living and shopping.
Under the proposed three-way agreement, developer Robert Congel's would drop his lawsuit against the city and pay a $60 million payment in lieu of taxes to be divided between the city and county. Meanwhile, Syracuse and Onondaga County have worked out a formula to share a projected $100 million in sales tax revenues and guaranteed project fees.
"It's time to stop talking about Destiny and time to start building it," Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll said at a press conference Tuesday evening. He said the project will result in $1 billion of new development and thousands of new jobs.
City and Onondaga County lawmakers must approve the agreement.
"The devil is always in the details," said Bill Ryan, leader of the council's Democratic majority.
"This region, this city, is money-strapped, is dying for some economic development," Ryan said. "I'm going to approach this with as open a mind as I can. But I've got to weigh the long-term consequences and the long-term benefits and see where they end up."
The proposed Destiny USA megamall was supposed to have been completed by June 2004 but has been at a standstill, mired in politics and bickering.
Congel said a 1.3 million-square-foot expansion of an existing commercial center was the first phase of transforming the mall into a multibillion-dollar entertainment and shopping resort complex that would rival Minnesota's Mall of America, the largest mall in the country. The company boasts it would be the world's largest green complex, operated entirely on renewable energy sources.
The first phase will include 848,000 square feet of leasable retail, dining and entertainment space.
"It's something that we've worked diligently at for quite some time," said Destiny executive David Aitken.
Construction could start as early as September. The first phase of the expansion could open to shoppers in 2008.
Destiny developers also have agreed to complete all three phases of the project. The subsequent phases include a 1,000-room hotel and the addition of another 350,000 square feet of leasable retail space.
However, the developer has the option to change the order of the phases.
Congel would be required to build only the first phase to qualify for the 30-year property tax exemption. But he would have to pay the $60 million for all three phases up front and would not get any of it back if he stopped building after the first phase, Driscoll said.