Syracuse cautiously approves Inner Harbor plans

Jun 19, 2012

For COR Development President Steve Aiello, Monday's vote by the Syracuse Common Council was a long time coming.

Aiello's firm was selected earlier this year to redevelop the city's Inner Harbor. Then it was granted a memorandum of understanding from the council in February.

But it wasn't until yesterday that the council officially voted in favor of Aiello's $350 million proposal.

To get there, Aiello had to go before the council multiple times to answer questions and tamp down concerns from councilors.

"You know, this is a process," Aiello said before the vote. "I think that the council is doing a good job. They're diligent. They're concerned about everything that we've represented."

At a meeting last week, councilors pressed Aiello on his intentions to seek property tax exemptions after winning the contract.

Aiello said Monday he has no plans to ask for a tax break. But he would not rule it out.

The council meeting before yesterday's vote focused on public access to the waterfront.

Aiello wasn't able to appease everyone on the council. Councilor Lance Denno voted against the project over those tax break concerns.

"It just seems to me that it would be appropriate to put some limits on what [the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency] can grant as a [tax break]," Denno said.

Big plans

COR says it will build a hotel, a satellite campus for Onondaga Community College and several mixed-use properties on 28 acres surrounding the former barge canal.

The deal approved by the council says the developer can buy the property in stages - only after presenting building plans and proof of funding. COR will pay $2.8 million for the land.

"I'm very pleased that this developer is listening to the community, is listening to the council," said councilor Kathleen Joy. "It can be done in phases so we're not just giving away the store."

An estimated $12 million worth of environmental cleanup will be needed on the Inner Harbor before new construction can begin.

Aiello is hoping to win state and federal funding to pay for that.