A fter two years of being what some called a big empty white box , the 1.3 million square foot expansion of the Carousel Center is once again a busy place.
W hile the end result may be a big mall and not the Destiny USA originally envisioned, top Destiny executive Bruce Kenan says he has not given up the dream. "We never stop dreaming." Kenan told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "We never stop planning to build and we continue to do that. So the vision will evolve as all things do."
K enan took Kenyon on a tour of the expanded part of the mall, explaining where various stores, restaurants and other attractions would go. Two years ago, work on the expansion came to a halt when Citigroup called Destiny a "failure" and withheld its funding. In March the bank and Destiny's developers came to a settlement which released $40 million to resume construction. The court papers identified that only 14 tenants were signed up. The included 10 outlet stores, three restaurants and a large bowling alley.
B ut Kenan says other stores are signing leases and he fully expects all three floors of the huge expansion will be filled by spring of next year. "During the time there was a question hanging over the financing, we did leasing and we were successful with some very important tenants." Kenan explained, "But that was a bad environment to be leasing, once that cloud was lifted the momentum has grown remarkably." Kenan won't say how many nor identify which stores are signing leases.
Destiny still must secure more funding for future phases of the project. When asked if the developers were having a tough time getting banks on board after Citigroup called the project a failure, Kenan replied, "C itigroup was wrong. they were wrong then, they continue to be wrong on that subject. No we're not having difficulty, again we're building off a very successful shopping center."
K enan pointed out that the Carousel Center attracted 19 million visitors last year and is expected to attract 29 million when the expansion is done. He says once the expansion is complete, Phase Two could include both another expansion and a hotel for out of town visitors
D estiny recently paid the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency one million dollars in exchange for another six months to complete the project or potentially lose the tax exemption on the expansion. Kenan said they are in "good shape" to meet that deadline.