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Details of Onondaga Lakeshore redevelopment will be released today

Ellen Abbott
Dredging took place on Onondaga Lake in the summer of 2012. (file photo)

Central New York should soon have answers about a mystery redevelopment project on the western shore of Onondaga Lake. In his budget released last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed spending $30 million of state money on an economic development project in Onondaga County. He’s expected to outline those details during a visit to Onondaga County Wednesday.

The Onondaga County Legislature is also expected to chip in some money in the early stages of what would be a massive economic development project.

On Wednesday's Ways and Means Committee agenda, it’s called the Onondaga Lake West Revitalization Project. Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says the county would take $500,000 out of a room occupancy tax that’s earmarked for tourism, and use it to study county properties on the western lakeshore to determine exactly what kind of development it can support.

"I know there’s lots of reports that this will be built there and that will be built there," McMahon said. "Nothing's been confirmed because we first need to see what can be built there, and what it will cost."

The development will be another step in the revitalization of the area surrounding what was once called the most polluted lake in the country.

“These lands are park lands, these are county parks already," McMahon explained. "So we are looking to see how we can build on our success on the Eastern side of the lake, and some of the new resurgence of the harbor and the Western side of the lake sorely needs a shot of adrenaline in the arm, and that’s what we’re looking to do.”

He also says the development is not a replacement for a plan to get state dollars for an athletic stadium in downtown Syracuse.

“The stadium wasn’t ready, and there’s various reasons why that didn’t take place," McMahon said. "It’s too bad. It’s unfortunate, but we weren’t going to miss the opportunity when you have a governor who’s saying we want to do something in central New York. So we had other plans that we always knew we always wanted to pitch the state for. We weren’t going to ask for two or three in the same year, so this project got fast tracked.”

Part of the shore is made up of soda ash that was dumped when Solvay Process, and later Allied Chemical, used the lake as a dumping ground for industrial waste. The lake is nearing the end of a court ordered clean up, and environmental officials say it’s cleaner than it’s been in years.

McMahon won’t comment on the specifics of the project, other than to say there's an entertainment venue and tourism is involved, but that tourism isn’t the only aspect of the proposal that will impact Solvay and nearby towns. He expects it will change the face of a part of Onondaga County that once was dotted with hotels, restaurants and amusement parks.

"I think there’s a real opportunity to really put this lake, and make this lake what it once was over a hundred years ago, which was the center for tourism and different activities for this region."

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.