CAROUSEL CENTER (DESTINY USA)
Park Street and Harborside Drive
Syracuse, New York

The development of Syracuse's massive mega mall was a long and arduous process. Pyramid Companies, headed by entrepreneur Robert Congel ["con-jul"], proposed construction of a 1 million+ square foot retail hub, which was to be built on land in the city's "Oil City" area. 

Plans for CAROUSEL CENTER were originally announced in July 1987 and met a tidal wave of opposition. Years of controversy, lawsuits and litigation followed.

The 57-acre mall site was located 1.3 miles northwest of downtown Syracuse and surrounded on 2 sides by refineries and on another by Onondaga Lake. Its redevelopment would require a massive hazardous waste clean up effort in order for the land to comply with government safety standards.

Lawsuits thwarting the mall-building effort were eventually thrown out of court and ground was broken for the project in May 1989. Syracuse-based Dal Pos Architects designed the structure. 

The 7-level shopping venue would consist of 2 main retail levels. A basement (or Commons Level) would house 2 parking garages, as well as a middle retail section. 

Rising from the center of the center would be a 4-level tower, with the SkyDeck observation lounge and banquet facility on its top floors. The 4th floor (the third level above ground) would feature a 12-screen movie multiplex.

CAROUSEL CENTER was to eventually have 7 anchors. As of March 1989, four of these were leased, with the potential stores being New York City-based Bonwit Teller, Texas-based J.C. Penney, Rochester, New York-based Sibley's and New York City-based B. Altman. 

Financial problems at the B. Altman chain resulted in it being removed from the final line up. Syracuse-based Chappell's was recruited, in July 1989, to fill the upper level space. Canton, Massachusetts-based Hills leased the lower.

Bonwit Teller was also facing bankruptcy. Through a drawn out process of bids and refusals, Pyramid Companies finally acquired the nameplate in April 1990...barely saving its mega mall from opening with a vacant anchor space.

J.C. Penney, concerned about the possibility of the mall losing both of its upscale department store draws, considered pulling out of the project, but eventually decided to remain in the retail mix.

The Sibley's chain merged with Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann's in February 1990. The Sibley's space at CAROUSEL CENTER was originally planned to encompass 125,000 square feet. The prospective store was expanded by 71,000 square feet.

White Plains, New York-based Steinbach was signed, as a Second Level anchor, in July 1990. Woburn ["woo-burn"], Massachusetts-based Lechmere ["leech-meer"] eventually filled the First Level space.

A gala black-tie -100-dollar-per-plate- dinner was held in the Bonwit Teller store on October 13, 1990, commemorating completion of the mall. On October 15, CAROUSEL CENTER was officially dedicated; an event that had been delayed on 3 occasions.

The mall's final anchor line-up was as follows; a 2-level (64,000 square foot) Bonwit Teller, 2-level (158,500 square foot) J.C. Penney and Hoyts Carousel Center Cinema 12, which showed its first features October 19, 1990. A 2-level (196,000 square foot) Kaufmann's opened for business November 15 of the same year.

Junior anchors were a 1-level (63,000 square foot) Steinbach, 1-level (80,000 square foot) Hills and 1-level (80,000 square foot) Chappell's. A 1-level (63,000 square foot) Lechmere began business in 1991.

CAROUSEL CENTER originally housed 125 inline stores, with this number eventually growing to 170. Some of these tenants included Filene's Basement, Lechter's Housewares, Heid's Hot Dog & Ice Cream, Spencer Gifts, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Warner Brothers Studio Store, Bombay Company, Williams-Sonoma, Zales Jewelers, Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips, Cajun Cafe and People's Pottery.

As one might expect, CAROUSEL CENTER immediately put the hurt on several established shopping malls in Greater Syracuse. The most effected were CAMILLUS MALL (1964) {5.2 miles southwest, in Camillus} and PENN-CAN MALL (1976) {5.9 miles northeast, in Onondaga County / Cicero}. SHOPPINGTOWN (1957) {5.6 miles southeast, in Onondaga County / DeWitt} persevered, at least for a time.

New York City-based Lord & Taylor agreed to occupy the mall's potential seventh anchor spot in March 1990. Their 2-level (118,000 square foot) store was dedicated October 28, 1994. With it, the construction cost of the 1.4 million square foot CAROUSEL CENTER had reached 250 million dollars, making it the most expensive building ever constructed in Onondaga County.

Anchor stores came and went over the years. The first to fade was Chappell's, which was rebranded, by York, Pennsylvania-based The Bon Ton, in January 1995. Hills was rebranded, by Rocky Hill, Connecticut-based Ames, on July 22, 1999. This space was divided in half after Ames was shuttered, in August 2002. Sports Authority took up shop, in the southern half, in 2004. 

Lechmere closed in November 1997. Its First Level area was divided into 2 store spaces. These were occupied by DSW (late 1999) and Kaufmann's Furniture Gallery (mid-2000). 

DSW moved to another location in the mall in 2004, with Circuilt City taking its place in November. This store was shuttered and replaced, by Ultimate Electronics, in August 2010. After the "Macy-ation" of the Kaufmann's chain, in September 2006, the Furniture Gallery was shuttered.

Steinbach, on Level 2, pulled out of the mall in May 1996. Its replacement, HomePlace, opened in August 1996 and closed in September 1998. A partition was installed. Best Buy opened, in half of the area, in November 1998 and was soon joined by Bally's Total Fitness.

Bonwit Teller, the remaining charter anchor, was the final operational store in the chain. It bit the dust March 9, 2000, with a Stockholm-based H & M (Hennes & Mauritz) replacing it late in the year. By 2002, this store had been downsized into the building's first level.

The Third Level cinema was expanded into a 14-plex (1994) and 19-plex (1996). Regal Entertainment absorbed the Hoyts chain in 2002, with the CAROUSEL CENTER venue being renamed the Regal Carousel Mall 19. In 2005, the complex was renovated into a stadium seating theater. 2 auditoriums were lost in the conversion into the Regal Carousel Mall Stadium 17.

In 1997, a massive expansion of CAROUSEL CENTER was announced. Originally known as the Empire Project, and later as DestiNY USA, it would have encompassed nearly 5 million square feet and redeveloped several acres of oil refinery storage tanks and rust belt industrial installations adjacent to the mall. 

CAROUSEL CENTER was to be doubled in size, becoming the nation's largest shopping center and bumping Minnesota's MALL OF AMERICA down to the number 2 position.

In addition to retail, DestiNY USA would include a (90,000 square foot) salt water aquarium, (500,000 square foot) multi-field indoor sports and recreation complex, a glass-enclosed Winter Garden with Erie Canal replica, 15,000-seat amphitheater, 100 acre domed park, 20,000 hotel rooms, 3 golf courses, a performing arts center and many other amenities.

A photo op groundbreaking was held in October 2002, which commemorated the start of construction on the first phase of DestiNY USA; the Grand Destiny Hotel. This facility was scrapped after it was revealed that the city would not extend tax breaks for a hospitality-oriented expansion. The addition would have to be strictly retail-based.

The DestiNY USA project hit other snags. Controversy erupted over tax breaks given to Pyramid Companies. Doubts also arose about claims made concerning its potential impact as a major Upstate New York tourist draw. 

In addition, the Macy's and Lord & Taylor parent companies were none-too-pleased about changes to their stores and alterations of their leasing arrangements via eminent domain. J.C. Penney and 11 other mall tenants were also unhappy with various aspects of the project.

These wrinkles were somewhat ironed out. A bona fide groundbreaking, for a first phase mall expansion, took place in March 2007. A 3-level (840,000 square foot) addition, built in the mall's south parking lot, was to house Arendi, a section of stores with a real time / online shopping concept. This would utilize computerized merchandise displays, computer-activating ID badges and iPhone technology. 

However, work ground to a halt in June 2009, when financing for the 540 million dollar project was withdrawn by Citigroup Global Markets. The half-completed structure sat idle for 2 years as a courtroom battle raged. Citigroup contended that Arendi was a potential failure because no tenants had been actually signed. A deal was worked out in March 2011, releasing 40 million dollars in construction funding.

Soon after, details about the eminent completion of the project were released. The high-tech Arendi concept was being abandoned. The mall expansion would be a combination of high-end outlet stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. 

A listing of future tenants included Saks Off Fifth, Dick's Sporting Goods, BCBG Maxazria, Michaeil Kors, Hugo Boss and Salvatore Ferragamo, as well as restaurants such as The Melting Pot, Cantina Laredo, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill and a Gordon Biersch brewery pub. 2 of the entertainment-type venues were the Revolutions bowling alley, game arcade and bistro and Aja nightclub.

The H & M store was relocated from the old Bonwit Teller anchor box, to new quarters in the expansion area, on September 22, 2011. This new store encompassed 20,000 square feet. 

The next operational tenants in the expansion area were Hartmann Luggage and Lenox China, who opened their doors November 16, 2011. Forever 21 assumed the old Bonwit Teller / H & M structure and opened a 2-level (60,000 square foot) store on April 13, 2012.  

An official mall re-dedication was held August 2, 2012. At this time, the official name of CAROUSEL CENTER, and its addition, was changed to DESTINY USA. 100 stores and services were eventually recruited. With completion of the expansion, DESTINY USA encompassed 2,250,000 leasable square feet and contained approximately 300 stores and services. 

Sources:

"Carousel Center" and "Destiny USA" articles on Wikipedia
www.carouselcenter.com
www.syracuse.com
www.labelscar.com
http:www.syracusethenandnow.com
Syracuse Post-Standard
https://nccnews.expressions.syr.edu
www.allbusiness.com
www.cinematreasures.org