Syracuse developer refuses to build hotel without tax breaks

Executives of Destiny USA, a regional shopping and entertainment complex in Syracuse, N.Y., are refusing to build a proposed 225-room hotel without being provided exemption from property taxes.

According to Syracuse.com, Destiny executive David Aitken told members of the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency Tuesday that the $75-million project would not be commercially viable without the 20-year property tax exemption the company is seeking. Aitken said that financing would be impossible to obtain without cost reduction provided by tax exemption.

The county development agency's board of directors voted 4-0 to authorize the hiring of an independent firm to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed project. Attorney William Weir said the study would determine whether the hotel would boost tourism in the county or steal from the existing hotel market, which has an average occupancy rate of 65 percent. Weir also said the study also would look at whether the project would be feasible without the requested tax breaks.

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CNY Central.com reported that Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner opposes tax breaks for the hotel. While the hotel proposes to create as many as 400 full and part time jobs, and is expected to bring in $1.3 million per year in sales and occupancy room taxes, she estimates the tax breaks will be worth at least $20 million. The 17 story hotel would be attached directly to the mall by extending the pedestrian bridge across Solar Street.

Miner said the proposed hotel should receive no tax exemptions because the Destiny USA mall has already received numerous local and state government benefits, including a 30-year property tax abatement from the city. Destiny USA officials anticipated her opposition to the proposal, and have contacted the county industrial development agency, rather than the city's industrial development agency, for the tax breaks. The county agency is capable of handing out tax exemptions anywhere in the county, including the city.

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