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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : May/June 2002 : Innovation

Innovation

DestiNY USA
One of the largest developments in New York aims to be one of the greenest, too.


by Penny Bonda, FASID


Nothing like it in the world,” claims the promotional literature for a resort destination currently in the planning stages. Here are the stats so far:

Name: DestiNY USA
Location: Syracuse, NY
Scope: The existing 1.6 million-square- foot Carousel Center mall plus an additional 3.5 million square feet of entertainment, retailing, recreation, dining; more than 4,000 hotel rooms
Cost: in excess of $2 billion including $1.3 billion private sector investment Government funding: both federal and state monies have been secured
Economic impact: 35 million visitors per year will add more than $6.1 billion into the upstate New York economy annually with an economic impact of $12.5 billion statewide


As impressive as they are, these numbers tell only a fraction of the story. The project will be enclosed under a 65-acre glass sky atrium and will house a 25,000 seat amphitheater, driving range, water park, ball fields, an indoor 1,200-foot-long replica of the Erie Canal complete with boats, and a state-of-the-art salt water aquarium. It will revolve around seven Lifestyle Zones, each designed to appeal to a particular demographic including sports enthusiasts, families with children, shoppers—both bargain hunters and luxury—as well as locals and tourists looking for varied dining or entertainment experiences.

DestiNY USA is being developed by The Pyramid Companies, the largest shopping center developer and manager in the Northeast, and has been in the planning stages for almost two years, far enough along that construction documents were complete enough for the work of building the project to begin. And then—something happened. Robert Congel, Pyramid Companies’ founder and senior managing partner, invited two dozen of the nation’s leading experts on environmental design and construction to a weekend retreat to begin the process of changing the face of the project from one of the largest developments in New York State to one of the greenest.

“Our goal,” said Congel, “is to bring in the very best people in the world to make this project the global model for environmentally responsible design, construction and land use. We are working to make DestiNY USA ‘climate positive’ using no fossil fuels, while lowering our construction and operating costs, ensuring that DestiNY USA will be the international center for environmental excellence.” Congel made the decision to go green within the last year following his introduction to his first green building in Albany, NY. The events of September 11 also convinced him of the urgent need for the United States to end its dependence on foreign oil, and finally, he says, “I have 17 grandchildren and I want them to grow up in a better world.”

The project, to be located on a brownfield site formally known as “Oil City” near downtown Syracuse, was already helping to reclaim a long blighted area, but the new goals formulated at the retreat charette are far more comprehensive. Clean, healthy air is one of Congel’s priorities, and the technological challenges of creating an indoor environmental system under a dome to meet that objective are daunting. Relying solely on renewable resources such as biomass, geothermal and solar to generate power is equally intimidating, but Congel’s passion and commitment are strong. Current and potential partnerships with Syracuse University, the U.S. EPA, U.S. DOE, U.S. DOT, the New York State Center of Excellence in Environmental Systems and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERTA) will further help assure the viability of the green efforts.

Rick Fedrizzi, the founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council and one of the organizers of the retreat, believes that “the developer’s commitment to transforming a brownfield site into DestiNY USA, combined with the experience and intellectual resources of the team will result in the establishment of a new global standard for environmental responsibility.”


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