Miner says tax break for Destiny USA hotel would be a "mistake"

Feb 12, 2014

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says giving the Destiny USA entertainment and shopping center a tax break to build a hotel would be “a mistake,” but the mayor actually has little say over those incentives.

Destiny USA told the mayor and county executive last week that it will seek an incentives package similar to one the city granted to the new Marriott hotel in Armory Square. That’s an 18 year property tax break that Mayor Miner says will add up to about $20 million in aid for Destiny.

"Needless to say, $20 million will hire a lot of police officers and firefighters and code enforcers and help fix water mains and roads," Miner said Wednesday afternoon.

But Destiny USA’s developer also plans on going to the county’s economic development agency, OCIDA, and sidestepping the city. That means Miner or the Common Council won’t have any way to block the tax break.

Miner says she’s not opposed to the 252 room, $75 million hotel next to the mall, just the tax break. She says the 30 year break the mall already has is enough. A much grander hotel was once part of the developer’s plan for transforming the Carousel Mall into Destiny.

County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says the mayor’s opposition is “premature” since no proposal has been submitted yet.

"Let’s wait and see what the application says, let’s learn more about the project," he said. "And then at that point elected officials can take positions and then the [OCIDA] board members will have the final decision to make."

McMahon says Destiny’s hotel project is comparable to the downtown hotel project. Miner says having the hotel across from the mall will only benefit the developer and Destiny USA, which already has a lengthy property tax break from the city.

"There is a successful mall there that has already been given 30 years of benefits. And to give a mall developer additional benefits to incent a hotel would be a disservice to the community," Miner said. "It would not result in additional benefits to the public."

Miner says giving tax breaks to the downtown hotel was the right move because it improved downtown and has a ripple effect.

The mayor's opposition to the project came as no surprise to Destiny USA spokesman David Aitken, who said in an email the project would not be feasible without help from the county.

"With the growth of Canadian tourists and other guests from beyond the Syracuse area, largely driven by the success of Destiny USA, this project will provide additional sales tax revenue, room occupancy taxes and create new construction and permanent jobs for area residents," Aitken said.