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Developers of Whitney Lofts project seek Syracuse tax breaks

Tom Magnarelli
The Whitney Lofts project would redevelop two historic buildings in downtown Syracuse.

The developers of two historic buildings in downtown Syracuse are seeking tax breaks from the city. The Whitney Lofts project would feature 16 new apartments, a restaurant and a speakeasy bar.

The tax breaks total more than $200,000 on sales and mortgage taxes. Deputy Commissioner for Business Development Nora Spillane said the redevelopment would add new excitement to the 300 block of S. Salina St.

“This is a way for public dollars to be used on projects that we know will have tangible economic impacts onto the downtown neighborhood, that we’re going to be repairing and replacing, fixing up, historic buildings in our downtown core, that continue to build on the vibrancy of downtown,” Spillane said.

The project also has the support of Sen. Charles Schumer who is asking the National Parks Service to approve of tax credits for the developers. Part of the redevelopment involves tearing down a concrete wall and exposing the original brick facade with windows from the 1930s.

Spillane noted the developers are not asking for property tax exemptions also known as PILOTs or payments in lieu of taxes. Even if they were, the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency does not need the permission of the city council to authorize a PILOT, as they traditionally did before voting to nix the policy last year. Councilor Khalid Bey said that is still problematic.

“I thought it was a good faith effort to say, while we know we don’t have to come to you, you represent the voices of the people, so let us come to you to get your approval," Bey said. "To me that’s win win, it’s fair. To move away from that is another statement all together. It means you no longer care what the people think.”

Bey said there could be pushback to that policy next year.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.