TOWN OF DEWITT, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — You’d never know it was a Monday afternoon looking at the standing-room-only crowd at DeWitt Town Hall listening to a list of speakers in favor of the plans for ShoppingTown Mall.
The group, specifically, majorly endorsed Onondaga County’s Industrial Development Agency using eminent domain to force a sale of two properties holding up the project.
Benderson Development, which owns the old Macy’s property, and Transform, which owners the former Sears, have refused to accept offers to consolidate their real estate with the rest of ShoppingTown Mall for redevelopment.
The developers selected by Onondaga County, OHB Redev, plan to transform the deteriorating site into District East, an urban-style, open-air, modern shopping center with housing, retail, dining and entertainment.
Monday’s meeting is a formal part of the eminent domain process, which could end up in court.
Among the crowd of community members was Susan and Brady Rabin, who both formally commented.
After the meeting, Rabin told NewsChannel 9, that she’s embarrassed when out-of-town guests visit.
She said: “We take them to Skaneateles. We take them to Cazenovia, driving around. When we drive through DeWitt and pass that huge chunk of property, they say: ‘Oh! What’s that?’ We tell them what it was, how great it was when we first moved here in 1987, and what’s happened over the years. It’s just deteriorated. There’s nothing good you can say about it except it has great potential.”
The only two speakers who opposed the eminent domain were attorneys for the targeted companies. Both vocalized their legal objection to taking the properties, but neither detailed what the companies would do with the real estate instead.
Neither attorney would answer NewsChannel 9’s questions after the meeting.
Ryan Benz, one of the co-developers of the upcoming project, said: “We’ve made multiple above-market offers to these folks. I can’t speak to the ambition on why they don’t want to be a willing participant in prosperity within this region.”
“It was really encouraging to see the community come out and continue to support this project,” Benz said. “My partners and I continue to be frustrated at the inaction from Transform Co. and Benderson. Our community deserves better, but it was great to hear today from members of the community that said we don’t like eminent domain, we don’t want to go through it, but at this point, it’s time and it’s needed.”
In the meantime, Benz says his team meets weekly as they plan the design and attract tenants. He reminds Benderson and Transform his phone is on, hoping to continue negotiations.
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