Zixi Wu | Staff photographerNews
Destiny USA grows despite cut in funding
Despite a shortage of funding due to economic troubles, Destiny USA officials maintain a positive outlook about the shopping center’s future.
In June, project developer Robert Congel’s Pyramid Cos. of the Syracuse area and Destiny USA Holdings delivered a three-page letter to the city stating the mall’s 1.3-million-square-foot addition would be the final phase of its expansion.
“It was a difficult announcement to make in June, but we are still excited about our expansion’s final phase and are working hard towards its completion,” said Sara Wallace, a Destiny USA executive.
The economic decline swayed the developer to abandon thoughts of expansion further than the project’s current phase, said David Aitken, a Destiny USA executive.
The project’s developers always had plans to continue the expansion, but economic troubles thwarted the original goal, Aitken said. The developers did not use promises of a larger project to take advantage of a tax deal from the city, he said, as many of the project’s critics suggest.
“Given the challenges we’ve been through, our focus is bringing this phase of the project to its full potential,” Aitken said. “It’s just a good time to pause and make sure we’re successful in what we’re doing.”
But Common Councilor Jake Barrett said the project’s final phase has been a disappointment to the city in general.
“The mammoth public disappointment in the downsizing of the project is in direct proportion to the mammoth hyping that the Pyramid developers performed over the past 12 years,” he said.
Despite the setbacks, Destiny USA is working hard to be nationally recognized by domestic and international travelers, and to put Syracuse on the map as a great tourist destination, Wallace said.
“To us, Destiny USA means more visitation, tourism and jobs for the area, as well as a great place to shop, dine and play,” she said.
“Given the challenges we’ve been through, our focus is bringing this phase of the project to its full potential. It’s just a good time to pause and make sure we’re successful in what we’re doing.”
David Aitken, Chief spokesman of Destiny USA
Barrett said he does not think the mall’s new expansion will have a significant effect on the city’s economic growth.
“This was to be a moon shot for the economic fortunes of the city, but now appears to be merely complementary to Pyramid’s existing retail mix on the site,” Barrett said.
With the first and second floors of the mall’s expansion open, Destiny USA officials are currently working to complete the third-floor expansion, Wallace said.
The expansion of Destiny USA should be completed at the beginning of 2013 and house more than 260 tenants within its facility. Wallace said Destiny USA officials expect a large portion of the mall’s new venues to open in November and December, in time for the holiday season.
“Right now we’re concentrated on getting our third floor operating as soon as possible,” Wallace said. “We’re also trying our best to keep our customers and those concerned with the expansion in the loop.”
Wallace said she is working to manage the expectations and inquiries of customers through Destiny USA’s Facebook page and Twitter account.
“People have had a lot of questions about the project, and we’re using Facebook and Twitter to keep them as updated and informed as possible,” she said.
Feedback from the mall’s customers and from the community has generally been very positive, Wallace said.
“The amount of feedback we have experienced is incredible,” Wallace said. “I think the biggest challenge for us has been addressing rumors about different aspects of the project, but the public has been really responsive to our honesty in addressing them.”
While project officials are primarily concerned with the completion of the final phase, Wallace said future expansion is not out of the question for the shopping center.
Said Wallace: “We don’t have any plans in motion, but we’re always thinking about space we can use and hopeful for additional development in the future.”
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