Onondaga County Lawmakers approved the sale of “Lot 17” today, which is perhaps better known as the parking lot used for the Oncenter downtown. The law approved the sale of the nearly three acre lot to the local developer PEMCO for $2.5 million. Legislature Chair Ryan McMahon said the developer plans to build a $135 million complex, including student housing, restaurants and retail space.
“If you go into any city that has a strong convention center district, you need density. It’s very difficult to envision a strong convention district that have gaps and parking lots and that don’t have buildings,” said McMahon. “This project will bring thousands of people downtown. You’ll have bodies. You’ll have development. You’re talking about one of the largest developments we’ve seen in our community.”
The vote drew some debate as to whether the property is worth more than what PEMCO will pay for it. Legislator Casey Jordan said he thinks that while the plan for a new complex at the site is an excellent one, the county could have received more money for the property.
“I’m not convinced that this is the best possible offer we can get on this property,” said Jordan. “That being said, I don’t know if anybody else a proposal to invest a $135-$150 million into developing this property. It’s a huge sum of money, and it’s a huge development. It really will be transformative.”
Still, Jordan said he wants to take a more in-depth look at what he calls the county’s “problematic process” to seek requests for proposals to develop property. The lone no vote came from Democratic Floor Leader Linda Ervin, who strongly believes a hotel should be built on the lot instead.
“Everything that I’ve known about convention centers, everything I’ve heard about convention centers and everything that we’ve heard from the folks who have been advising us, says that we need a hotel that is connected to the convention center,” said Ervin. “By selling the lot, and precluding any future use of that lot for a hotel, to me, is against something within me.”
Environmental reviews on the lot will be completed this year. Construction is expected to begin in 2019.