June 20, 2014

The Update Desk: Bookstore Deal is Off

According to published reports, Syracuse University fired the developer of its new bookstore, the Cameron Group LLC. In a statement, the University noted that
The developer has been unable to adequately address the University's concerns or demonstrate a credible ability to successfully complete the project as it had contractually agreed to do so.
The bookstore was the recipient of a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), which was granted just shy of two years ago by a 'bitterly divided' Common Council.  The PILOT would have given the city all of about $64,000 per year, or less than $2M over the life of the deal.

Back in April of this year, the developer was for the second time in hot water over failure to progress with the project.  One default from last fall had been cleared when the developer took down some trees, put up some stakes, parked a backhoe and made it look like construction had started.  In April the developer assured everyone that they were going to go forward and that, while they were not making any progress, they were not costing anyone anything, a comment I found distasteful. There IS a cost when developers promise something and don't deliver, I noted:
We lose faith in the system when we see the projects not get off the ground, when we see delays, when we see construction equipment parked on the building site but nothing happening. It leaves a bad taste in our mouth, because we've been down this road before.
Now that the developer is out, we won't get the promised minority hiring and fitness programs for local kids that were included as binding contingencies in the deal.  And worse,  unless SU decides to build their new bookstore themselves without involvement from SIDA and the Common Council, we'll have to go through this agonizing process again, with our legislators deciding  once more whether it's worth it to waive tax dollars in the millions for promises in the thousands.