The contract to build half of the homes promised by Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon to secure Legislator Charles Garland’s vote for a proposed aquarium has been awarded. 

The county chose Home HeadQuarters to build five homes to be located at: 

  • 306 W. Kennedy St.
  • 332-34 W. Kennedy St.
  • 349 W. Kennedy St. 
  • 157-59 Furman Ave. 
  • 201-07 Furman Ave. 

“Overall, it’s a good start,” Garland said. “It’s a feather in the cap for the community and the district.” 

Last year, Garland promised to vote to set aside $85 million for an aquarium in exchange for a list of asks. Housing on the city’s South Side was among them. McMahon proposed setting aside about $4.5 million in federal stimulus money to build 10 homes in the South Side. 

Garland broke with the other five Democrats in the legislature to vote to set aside the money for the aquarium. The money came from the county’s general fund, a fund built through budget surpluses. 

The vote on the aquarium was divisive: Community members and advocates argued there were better ways to spend $85 million — like further addressing child poverty and the city’s lead crisis. 

Three Republicans voted against the proposal, including legislators Brian May, Tim Burtis and Ken Bush. 

Ultimately, the vote passed, 9-8. 

The contract with Home HeadQuarters leaves five other homes to be addressed in another contract. The county received proposals for those houses but has not yet awarded the contract.

Last year, during a press conference announcing the housing deal, McMahon said five of the houses would include supportive services. 

In June, Onondaga County’s Housing Development Fund purchased six properties — the five now under contract with Home HeadQuarters and another at 336 W. Kennedy St. — from the Greater Syracuse Land Bank for $225,000. 

The county will own the properties during the construction of the homes and sell them after the houses are complete. 

According to Home HeadQuarters’ proposal to the county, the homes will cost $449,653 or $484,653 to build. The more expensive price will kick in only if the homes are built with garages. 

The nonprofit builder said the project will be just one of several it has taken on in the area. Through a state program, the Legacy City Project, Home HeadQuarters is planning on rehabbing eight vacant homes to be sold to lower income occupants, it wrote in its proposal. The organization has also taken on rehabbing several Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corporation homes in the area.

According to a timeline laid out in the proposal, site preparation could start as early as December 2023. The entire program, including construction of the homes, could conclude by the end of next year, Home HeadQuarters proposed. 

Once finished, the homes would be sold for $150,000. 

“I’m very happy it’s going forward,” Garland said. 

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Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or