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Despite bumps in the road, Carousel at last becomes Destiny

For more than 22 years shoppers have flocked to the Carousel Center Mall in Syracuse. That name goes in the history books today, as the mall is re-branded as Destiny USA.

Over the years, Destiny has sometimes been a dirty word in Syracuse.  

Grand plans to expand Carousel Center into Destiny U-S-A have been delayed, downsized and in some cases scrapped.  It's been the source of friction between politicians and developers, with the prudence of 30-year tax breaks debated in coffee shops across central New York for more than a decade.  

For the grand visionary of it all, Pyramid Companies founding partner Robert Congel, the re-branding of the mall on the southern tip of Onondaga Lake today as  Destiny USA is huge, even though the ride has been bumpy.

"We always would like to get together a little more.  But a lot of things interfere, weather, politics, financing.  But we're here today, and this is going to be our greatest achievement," said Congel.

The official rebranding from Carousel to Destiny will happen in what's called the "canyon" …a wide boulevard , three stories high and lit by skylights.  That light reflects off of shiny escalators crisscross the canyon, adorned with greenery and painted in brown and red earth tones.  A giant tree-like sculpture rises out of the center of the area.  And it's these images, this feel, that mall manager Rob Schoeneck believes will define Destiny.

"The canyon area that we're standing in today, with our architectural trees and the restaurant and the entertainment and just the energy of the canyon area is going to be the iconic piece that people will take away on their first visit," said Schoeneck.

The canyon provides a whole different feel from the iconic piece of the original mall -- the carousel -- which was plucked from the remains of Roseland Park, refurbished and planted in the food court.  The carousel is actually one of the few remaining pieces of the original mall.

"Over the course of the 22 years that the facilities been open, we've only had 30 tenants who've been here for the entire time," said Destiny Partner David Aitken.

Aitken says the changes in tenants reflects a changing society. For example, bookstores have a tougher time making it today.

"Obviously those larger format stores, some of them unfortunately haven't been successful as people have turned to the various forms of e-reader."

The other defining piece of Destiny, according to  developers, is it's LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

"I think this is the largest green shopping mall in the United State's, possibly in the world," said Rick Fredrizzi of the US Green Building Council.

Fredrizzi says Destiny achieved the pinnacle of green building designations earlier this year.

"What this project did from the very beginning 10 years ago, was holistically looking at the idea of creating a space that actually did everything right -- water, waste materials, indoor environmental quality and innovation," Fredrizzi said.

All the tenants are required to live up to the green goals at Destiny.  Matt Lynch manages Cantina Loredo, a Mexican restaurant that just opened up in the canyon area, says it was easy to buy in.

"All the high efficiency air conditioners, the water heaters, the lighting -- from the business standpoint, you're going to save money. But you're also making an impact with the environment," said Lynch.

The irony of course is that the complex sits on what was once  a highly polluted piece of land, something Congel emphasizes.

"The passion that has gone into this is far beyond normal passion," said Congel. "Eliminating the junk yard, the oil tanks, to put this up, really makes you proud."

For now, Schoeneck says about 20 of 100 storefronts are filled. He expects that number to be 50 or 60 by the holiday season, with most of the spots leased. And in the meantime, work will go on in what is now Destiny, out of the site of shoppers.

"A lot of the stuff that's noise producing will happen off hours, now that we're bringing things on line this week," said Schoeneck. "So we are transitioning from what's been a full-blown construction area for the last year-and-a-half to an open, operating destination shopping center."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.