Irondequoit, N.Y. – Destiny USA, the expansion of Carousel Mall in Syracuse, will not expand further and the city will not get anticipated tax revenue.
Destiny USA was supposed to be a tourist attraction like Disney World and a mall larger than the Mall of America. The promise of tourist dollars and jobs led Syracuse to award tax breaks and construction bonds. Destiny repeatedly had trouble meeting deadlines spelled out in those agreements, triggering the announcement.
But Destiny expanded the mall just enough to keep it off the tax rolls for 30 years.
Tax expert and Reuters columnist David Cay Johnston said Destiny USA has some lessons for Medley Centre. Destiny is owned by Robert Congel and Medley is owned by his son, Scott.
“The two different Congel family projects, Destiny in Syracuse and Medley here, are basically the same project. It’s just a function of scale and they’re both premised on the idea taxpayers should put up the capital,” said Johnston. “If there’s a sound investment, the market will finance it. If it’s not a sound investment, why would the taxpayers want to put a penny into it?”
Scott Congel plans to spend $750 million to turn Medley Centre into an entertainment, retail, housing and hotel complex. He has sought $250 million in state financing, to be paid back with sales tax generated from the project.
So far, politicians have approached the proposal with caution.
"These two projects and their plans are totally different as are the PILOT programs. Our project continues to move forward as planned, and will continue to do so,” Scott Congel said in a statement.
Congel’s next deadline to keep tax breaks is to show he has invested $93 million in the project. County officials have said he can show he has obtained financing in that amount, even if it has not been spent. The county is reviewing project finances.