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$85 million aquarium proposed for Syracuse's Inner Harbor

Onondaga County
An artist rendering of a proposed $85 million aquarium in the Inner Harbor section of Syracuse

Syracuse’s Inner Harbor could soon be home to a state-of-the-art aquarium. Onondaga County is proposing construction of an $85 million facility, in an attempt to build on the renaissance of Onondaga Lake.

“We have this unique opportunity to transform our community and turn us into a true leisure stay destination, which will create jobs and support the industries that have been quite frankly been hurt the hardest by the pandemic,” said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon Monday. He said an aquarium would be the largest investment into central New York’s entertainment infrastructure in generations.

“We’re going to build an $85 million dollar aquarium. We’re going to create hundreds of jobs, both construction and permanent. We’re going to transform this neighborhood and continue the momentum of the cleanup of Onondaga Lake, and we’re going to pay cash,” McMahon said.

That cash would have to come from county coffers, and the Onondaga County Legislature will have the final say on that. The 80,000 square foot facility would draw a half million visitors a year, and create $50 million in economic impact, according to a consultant’s report.

More than that, McMahon said it will boost long-time efforts to revitalize the Inner Harbor, a former industrial site in Syracuse, once called Oil City because of the huge oil tanks that dotted the area. There has been spotty development around the Inner Harbor over the last few decades, but large swaths of land surrounding a waterway that connects Onondaga Creek to Onondaga Lake still remain.

"Density in this location will make these other parcels, all around, this other land, very attractive for other development. The density of this location will help Destiny. It will help the hotels all around,” McMahon said.

The land is currently owned by the COR development company, and the county is currently negotiating the sale of the property. The aquarium is part of McMahon’s proposed 2021-20211 budget, which he will present to county lawmakers Tuesday.