« on: May 19, 2005, 01:25:20 PM »
The project was announced in 2000 with an initial budget of 1.3 billion dollars. It was to be completed by 2004. They broke ground in 2002 with Pataki and others present. There is a lot of resistance to the project. They have expanded the scope from 1.3 billion to over 9 billion with a new research park that is highly disliked by the locals. The project has just secured a $700 million loan but there are many things they need to do with it. The idea for Destiny USA was first presented to the public in the spring of 2000. Some of the earliest signs of problems arose from the mixed opinions of local residents, businesses, and politicians, several of whom either opposed the project outright or were skeptical of its viability and local impact. When the Pyramid Cos. held the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a 47 floor, 1,300 room hotel and a four-story parking garage with capacity for 2,400 cars, many politicians attended the event, including Governor George Pataki, Senator Charles Schumer, and Representative James Walsh, and it was supposed to represent the beginning of the DestiNY USA project.
However, the conflict between DestiNY executives and local politicians began at this time as well. State Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, had been critical of Pyramid’s requests for government assistance and skeptical about the promised scope of the project. He felt that the groundbreaking was a political ploy by the developers to secure financial benefits from the state, which he thought amounted to a lot of hype for nothing. He did not attend the event and remarked that “I don’t know what they’re breaking ground for. If it’s a groundbreaking for a parking garage, I will not be there.” DestiNY officials should have detected potential problems at this point by recognizing the significance of a lack of support by such a key local official.
The dispute between developers and local officials only worsened over time. In December 2002, construction stopped after developers completed the first phase of pylons for the parking deck. In January 2003, Pyramid announced that it put construction on hold until it resolved the issue of whether construction of the hotel would satisfy requirements established by city and county officials for a 30 year property tax exemption on the existing Carousel Center expansion . City and county lawmakers clearly stated a year earlier that the mall’s owner had to build an addition of at least 800,000 square feet of leasable space to qualify for the exemption, and the agreement did not mention that a hotel would satisfy the stipulation.
However, no one identified or discussed this problem until January 2003, at which point many city common councilors became angry and were not willing to support such a fundamental change in the contract to accommodate the DestiNY developers at the last minute. If there had been ongoing communication and teamwork between city officials and developers, the concern could have been identified and addressed well before construction even began, thereby possibly avoiding work stoppages and delays. After a several months of bickering and inaction, DestiNY developers finally agreed to revise their plans and begin the DestiNY USA project by adding 800,000 square feet of retail space to the existing Carousel Center.
Surprisingly, construction did not begin after the resolution of this matter, and Pyramid did not take any steps to obtain funding or present the city with the plans required to secure the credit. DestiNY officials then claimed that the passing of a bill by the state legislature was critical to their success. This bill supposedly guaranteed that Pyramid would continue to receive Empire Zone reimbursements up to $52 million a year for fourteen years, even if changes were made to the Empire Zone program. Pyramid said that the guaranteed reimbursements were necessary to repay investors.