4:45pm

Wed February 1, 2012
The Upstate Economy

Developer unveils big plans for Syracuse's Inner Harbor

New York’s Canal Corporation was 0 for 3 in its efforts to find someone interested in redeveloping Syracuse’s Inner Harbor.

Their last request for proposals, a few years back, garnered zero submissions.

But now, the City of Syracuse is in charge, after stepping up and asking to be put in charge of the project. And today the city made public its ambitious new plan to redevelop the harbor.

A selection committee picked COR Development's bid, which proposes to turn the former industrial channel shooting off of Onondaga Lake into a mix of residential, retail, recreation and academia properties.

And though the other two proposals would have left much of the land undeveloped, COR says its proposal will also leave plenty of green space and walking paths for the public.

The details

COR’s head architect on the project, Carlie Hanson, says the two largest structures around the Inner Harbor will serve as a satellite campus for Onondaga Community College, eventually housing 4,000 students, and a hotel. The east side of the harbor will play host to apartments and ground-level retail space, as well as some offices.

Almost all of the buildings at the site will be new, though a harbormaster house and canal maintenance building will be renovated. The architecture will blend with other industrial buildings in the area and the nearby Franklin Square, meaning lots of red bricks and large windows, says Hanson.

COR envisions that the maintenance building will be converted into a clubhouse for rowing teams, to which they plan to add a boathouse and more docking space.

The new neighborhood will connect well with the rest of the city, the developers predict.

“I think its location really supports the overall master plan that the community has developed in tying in the lake, the mall, Inner Harbor, Franklin Square all the way down to [downtown],” says Hanson. “I think it lends itself very well to supporting what’s already been anticipated.”

The money

COR will pay about $2.8 million to acquire the 28 acres of land, and spend a total of $350 million on the project.

No grants or tax breaks for the project have been discussed yet, according to Ben Walsh, executive director of the Syracuse City Industrial Development Agency, but he and COR chief Steve Aiello both indicated that discussions about incentives will take place in the future.

Incentives would be mutually beneficial, according to Common Council economic development committee chair Kahlid Bey.

“That allows us an opportunity to ask for community benefits. You’re using public dollars, so the public should have input,” contends Bey. “The public should be able to take part in the development - you know, adding ideas and so on and so forth.”

COR says it will seek state and federal grants to help deal with environmental contamination on the land.

Council members are also hoping that the public will benefit from the project in the form of local laborers winning bids for construction - they're asking COR to enter into a binding local labor agreement. COR says it has a commitment to using local labor.

The project's next step is legislative approval from the Common Council.  COR's Hanson says she ultimately expects the project to be complete within 5 to 7 years.