Destiny USA's expansion will net Syracuse just $210,000 a year

Jun 18, 2012

Syracuse will be getting just a $210,000 increase in annual tax break payments from the expanded Destiny USA mega-mall.

That compares to several million dollars the mall would pay in property taxes if it didn't have a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) deal.

Syracuse common councilors learned the payment amount when they pressed the chairman of the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) Bill Ryan along with an attorney for SIDA this morning.

That $210,000 will have to be used for lakefront improvements, according to Ryan.

Councilors have been seeking answers on the deal Destiny USA has with the city since developer Robert Congel's Pyramid Corp. invoked a "final phase" clause in a deal with the city.

That allowed the developer to deem the mall's current 800,000 square foot expansion to the be the last and still keep the PILOT, even though Congel told the city he would build a 3.25 million square foot tourist attraction.

Councilors held the meeting in an attempt to seek clarity on the debacle.

"I just want to make sure the city gets what it’s entitled to, that SIDA gets what it’s entitled to," said Councilor Kathleen Joy. "And that Pyramid doesn’t use those definitions to its advantage and interprets that language to say ‘well, we don’t even owe $210,000 on the PILOT, it’s actually zero.' "

Parking lots

There were also questions raised at the finance committee meeting about whether the city could regain control of some the land marked for Destiny USA's expansion.

The several overflow parking lots east of the mall were only supposed to be temporary and are still owned by SIDA, according to councilor Jake Barrett.

Ryan told the council he wasn't sure if the city could get that land back, but he said SIDA would look into it.

"We want to be sure that we get everything that we’re legally entitled to," Ryan said after the meeting. "It’s a question of what are we entitled to, what are the remedies, what happens now that this is the final phase."

Ryan was on the common council in 2002 and 2006, when the Destiny USA deals came before it.

He told those currently serving on the council the Destiny USA project has always been an issue of property tax versus sales tax revenue.