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$85M aquarium project could be coming to Syracuse’s Inner Harbor

By Eric Reinhardt


A rendering of the proposed $85 million aquarium project in Syracuse’s Inner Harbor that Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced Oct. 4. (rendering CREDIT: ONONDAGA COUNTY)

SYRACUSE — An aquarium that will be a magnet for tourists and boost economic development is in the Syracuse Inner Harbor’s future if Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon has his way.

The proposed 2022 budget that McMahon outlined Oct. 5 includes an $85 million aquarium project at the Syracuse Inner Harbor. 

“We’ve been working on this in partnership with our parks department, our zoo, and the Central New York Regional Planning [and Development] Board for months,” McMahon said Oct. 4 in announcing the project at the Inner Harbor. 

The plan was included in McMahon’s county-budget address the next day before the county legislature.

“In this budget, we are seeking $35 million to construct an aquarium at the Inner Harbor of Syracuse. I will come back to this body for an additional $50 million of 2021 surplus funds in 2022,” the county executive said in prepared remarks for the budget address. “As usual, we did our homework to make sure this project was viable. We solicited a professional, independent market analysis and the results were nothing short of astounding,” he added.

The aquarium project would result in hundreds of good-paying trades and construction jobs; hundreds of permanent jobs; and a “catalyst for development” in the Inner Harbor neighborhood, per McMahon. The aquarium project would have a private operator and function as a public-private partnership.

Fayetteville–based COR Development Co. LLC currently owns the four acres of land where crews would build the aquarium, but McMahon said Onondaga County has negotiated terms to “hopefully close on this land, so it’ll be owned by the county.” 

The county executive is hopeful that crews could begin construction on the project in late 2022 but he’s unsure of when the project might finish. 

“This is big,” Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said to begin his remarks at the Oct. 4 event. “And it’s a long time coming.”                                                         

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