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Shoppingtown Still in Limbo: County and Mall Owner Will Go to Court to Determine Property's Fate

Scott Willis/WAER News

Onondaga County has run out of patience with the owners of the mostly empty Shoppingtown Mall.

“This situation is at a crisis point where a landlord can go four years without paying any taxes, collecting rents, not reinvesting back into the property as tenant after tenant leaves, and still be part of this community.”

County executive Ryan McMahon says Moonbeam Capital Investments owes $7.6 million in back taxes, which will jump to $9 million January first.  He says he talked to the company’s lawyers about a month ago, and they seemed receptive to a tax payment plan and a reinvestment strategy.  McMahon says the county would even consider tax relief on any redevelopment.

“Moonbeam, at that time, gave every inclination that they were going to have conversations and set up a meeting. Within that 30-day period we received a notice of claim, which is a prelude to what could be potential litigation where our friends at Moonbeam make some outrageous claims.”

…which, according to court documents, alleges the county, its industrial development arm, and the Town of Dewitt are part of an “unlawful conspiracy” to seize the property.   Back in October, the county transferred the mall to the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA) instead of auctioning the mall for back taxes, a move Moonbeam also alleges was illegal.  The case goes to court in early February.   

County Executive Ryan McMahon says the mall has a lot of potential that isn't being taken advantage of.

Moonbeam bought Shoppingtown over five years ago for $13.6 million, and has not followed through on numerous promises to redevelop it.  McMahon says it’s difficult to put a price tag on lost sales tax or other revenue.

We know that they have a very valuable piece of real estate and some of our more affluent suburbs in the county. Many people would do very well with that real estate. It just further shows that these folks aren’t community partners.”

The town of Dewitt has proposed a mixed-use development for the site, including some retail, commercial, and residential space, and even offered to secure grants to help Moonbeam with the planning.  McMahon says the firm walked away.