Port City Native Makes His Pitch For Floating Facility In Harbor

OSWEGO, NY – Joseph Pilotta returned to his hometown Monday night to present his plan for a business, retail, entertainment and residential facility.

The $150 million, 150,000 square foot project would create a structure that would float in Oswego Harbor.

Pilotta, vice president of Digital Financial Group of Columbus, Ohio, described the project as a “business entity and an entertainment entity.”

It wouldn’t be a landlord – tenant relationship; Digital Financial Group would be an active stakeholder, he added. “It would have a stake in making it work instead of having a stake in just having tenants.”

“We’re not going to just build it and then lease space to companies,” he said. “This is an operating crew.”

“It will be a destination,” he proclaimed of the facility that would house business offices as well as a children’s science center and more.

Members of the Common Council, several city officials and more than five dozen local residents packed the Council Chamber Monday night to hear the presentation and ask questions.

The program started back in 1991 when he was asked by the city of Columbus (Ohio) to develop a center for international trade. The city never moved forward on the center, but Pilotta said he kept working with the idea.

“This is a job creation model,” he said of his plan. “Concerts and entertainment are parts of this; but not the whole part.

The Energy and Life Science Institute (the facility’s business section – the place in which job creation will take place, according to Pilotta) would house offices, business services, administrative offices, wet and dry laboratories “very important to people in the  biotechnology arena,” a research and commercial network of 25 companies (the maximum for this kind of facility, he said) and about 20 luxury (one- and two-bedroom) apartments that would likely be rented by those working for the biotechnology companies, Pilotta said.

The apartments aren’t “penthouses,” he pointed out. “They are just really nice looking places.”

“You can’t do this just on public funds,” he stressed. “You really have to have some other method to do it.”

This isn’t going to be “a business incubator … or an accelerator,” where public money is used to try to grow businesses, he explained, adding that private money invested in companies will help them grow their products. “Maybe call it an energizer or growth basket,” he said.

Located inside the entertainment “shell” portion of the center will be a children’s science center with exhibits, a concert hall with seating for up to 10,000, a floating outdoor movie theater with an LED screen with audio that could be accessed on smart phones (so as the noise wouldn’t bother boaters in the area); in fact it could be called a drive-in theater for boaters, he added.

There would also be space for a 25,000-gallon aquarium, retail shops, trade shows and the yacht club; if they wish to locate there. Pilotta said he’d offer the same rental deal they are getting currently.

The structure will be anchored by tethers. It will be eco-friendly, Pilotta said. It would utilize all energy possibilities, including water, wind and solar.

Theses structure can be made relatively quickly, he said. They can withstand 90 mph winds.
And, Pilotta, said, they won’t have a negative impact on marine life.

Some people wondered how the facility would survive in Oswego, especially on the water. The “surge” of the water has been known to damage boats. However, Pilotta noted that wouldn’t be an issue for a several-ton “building.”

The theater can hold 10,000 people.

“But where would they park. Clearly, there is not enough parking in the city of Oswego,” Pilotta said in answer to a question. It would have to be like Harborfest, he said, when people are directed to outside parking sites and then take a bus to the venue.

“Concerts won’t be held every day. There will probably be about six of them a year, maybe five. Would they all be a full house? No,” he said.

Some wondered what kind of “breaks” the company was getting.

“We didn’t ask for anything regarding school tax, any kind of tax break. We looked at only the incentive packages the state government would give to anybody considering the type of project that we are,” he replied.

“I don’t expect the council will make a decision one way or another on such a large project,” Mayor Tom Gillen said.

Council President Ron Kaplewicz agreed.

“I think right now, he spoke his piece and now everybody’s kind of got to digest this,” he said. “You have to entertain every idea and consider everything so you can make a responsible decision. We want to hear from the public on this as well. This could be a huge step – it’s something to think about.

For more information or to ask a question, Pilotta can be reached at [email protected]


  1. I would like to know if something happens and people are hurt or death is the city liable. Just what we need is to be sued. I feel you as our politician had better look in to this very deeply.

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