10:16am

Thu June 14, 2012
Development

After Destiny USA debacle, Inner Harbor plans face a wary council

(CORRECTION June 18th, 2 p.m.: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the estimated cost of environmental cleanup. That amount is roughly $12 million.)

The topic was the redevelopment of Syracuse's Inner Harbor, but it didn't take long for a councilor to bring up the elephant in the chamber: the failed expansion of Destiny USA.

But Steven Aiello, president of COR Development, didn't have much choice on the timing of his meeting with the Syracuse Common Council.

It was just last week that grand plans by the developer of Destiny USA were finally laid to rest.

Aiello isn't looking to build a mall, but councilors couldn't help but raise concerns. The proposed project is just down the road from what was once going to be Syracuse's Disney World.

Concerns

Aiello presented his final plans Wednesday to build a satellite campus for Onondaga Community College, a hotel and mixed-used residential and retail space around a former barge canal. 

His $350 million development bid won approval from the city in February.

"We have the 'Tuscan Village' without the [tax break]," councilor Lance Denno said, referring to Destiny USA's one-time plan to construct a glass enclosed "Tuscan Village" along the Inner Harbor.

The city still needs to transfer the land to COR. And while Aiello asserted his firm is not asking for any tax breaks, councilor Denno told Aiello he wanted any possibility of future tax breaks to be fully disclosed.

If not, the city is "often left bringing a pen knife to a gun fight with developers," councilor Jake Barrett said.

"The comparisons between Destiny and this COR development are immense," Barrett said after the meeting. "We just want to make sure that at this stage that the city isn't too far out on a limb."

COR has a better track record than Destiny USA's developer, COR's Aiello told the council. He also said they have long built projects in the region without tax breaks.

After the meeting, Aiello seemed confident that the concerns would be addressed.

"I think there's a good working relationship between us and the city and the council," Aiello said. "I think we'll be able to work through all the issues together."

First steps

Before any new construction is done at the Inner Harbor site, about $4.8 million $12 million worth of environmental cleanup will be needed, according to Aiello. His firm is seeking state and federal aid to help pay for that.

The harbor will be developed in five stages and COR will have 10 years to complete the project, though Aiello said he expects it will take about five.

Onondaga Community College has not formally signed on to the plan for its satellite campus, but that process is moving along, Aiello said. The development would still happen if the campus idea falls through.

Despite reservations from some councilors, the council is planning to vote on the plans Monday.