January 16, 2012

317-319 S Salina St

Yup. $3.2 million renovation for a buildling on Salina Street. Mark my words: this is a sign of things to come. Peter Elitzer, owner of this former Label Shopper Building that was built in 1915, plans to have the project finished by the end of March. It's expected to house a new retail tenant (Philadelphia-based Villa athletic footwear and clothing) and 12 rental apartments. More pics here.

This is very encouraging. Yes, an athletic shoe store is what it is, but if you look at the big picture of what's really going on here, this is one of the first large chains to commit to Salina Street since it started hitting its decline in the 1960's and 1970's. It's a positive sign for the street, which is suddenly at the cusp of turning its fate around with the recent redevelopment planned at the corner of Fayette St, the new Centro bus hub on the south end, the Landmark Theatre expansion, and the recently completed Deys building that contains offices, apartments, and a fantastic coffee shop. They're all slow steps, but each one seems to signal something positive and generates more life for the once struggling street that has become a huge eyesore in the perception of Downtown Syracuse over the last 40 years.

Just for the record, I hate when people talk about the good ol' days of Salina Street and how it will never live up to how it used to be. It's alluded to in just about every news article about Salina Street (either in the article or in the comments) and I really can't stand it. It literally means nothing to me. That perception has little to no effect of how Salina Street is functioning right now. All it does is cloud someone's impression of how successful it can be. You know what? Most city cores were thriving during the the 1940's. It's just how it was. People were more centered, lived closer to where they worked, used mass transit more (somewhat), and weren't spread out as much. It wasn't just Syracuse or Salina Street. It was hard for just about any American city not to be successful during the early to mid-1900's.

My impression of S Salina Street since I was a kid? Shoddy, run-down buildings.

Any development that's cohesive, doesn't require any demolition, saves the street's architectural facades and landscape, and benefits the city and its residents in the long-run is a good thing for the street, in my opinion. Salina is the major artery of the city, represents the consciousness of Downtown, and it needs all the help it can get.

My ONLY issue with this is the rental rates. The developers claim it will be between $1,200 and $1,700 a month plus utilities. I don't doubt that they can fill these space given how high demand has been for housing over the last several years, but I wonder how long it will be before the high rent spaces in Downtown stop filling up and demand starts dwindling. At some point, you're going to need affordable apartments for young, single renters (which, for lack of a better definition, is the demographic that tends to be more social, go out more, and spend a decent amount of their income on restaurants, bars, and retail). If you want these people to spend their money at Downtown businesses, they're going to need to be able to afford it by not devoting so much of what they earn towards their living spaces each month.

I'll dive more into Downtown housing at some point in the future. I've been a resident for a few years now and have about a billion thoughts on what the city does well and what it could do better. For now, the new building rehab should be great and hopefully it's a positive sign of things to come.

January 10, 2012

Inner Harbor Proposals

I went to the Inner Harbor public hearing last night to see the potential plans for the area from three local developers. You can read more details about it here. Essentially, one of the three will soon get the go-ahead by the mayor to redevelop the harbor and mostly brownfield surroundings into something new.

First up was Hart-Lyman's plan which was, for lack of a better definition, based on landing a Bass Pro Shop, the second (albeit small) by J&A was redevelopment of a current building into rental apartments, and the third was COR's plan of redeveloping the entire area into a mixed-use community.

COR's plan brought a tear to my eye (not literally, but it should've). It was very detailed and exactly what I was hoping to find in one of the proposals. It's also eerily similar to the plan Andres Duany had in mind for the area roughly 10 years ago. Anyway, here's three slides from COR's presentation...

The overall masterplan...

Parcels B & C looking southwest...

Looking northwest from Kirkpatrick and Solar Streets...

I don't know how else to word it, but Syracuse needs to do this. The design is good on so many levels. It takes into account New Urbanism techniques, it brings OCC near Downtown, it utilizes the harbor for the community instead of relying on one business, it creates a pedestrian-friendly environment, it cohesively expands and enhances Franklin Square (something that already works), it promotes local boating, crew, and education, it looks both historic and new (which is the angle most developers should be playing in Syracuse), it brings in some retail, restaurant, and commercial aesthetics from places like Faneuil Hall in Boston, it creates affordable housing for both young adults and seniors, it feeds off the 99% occupancy rate in Downtown housing, and it capitalizes on some the energy recently created from the Creekwalk. I literally have no faults with their entire plan.

If people want Syracuse to behave like a real city, they need something like this that not only looks good, but enriches the community. This is something that could become truly unique not just to people outside the community but inside of it as well - something that a mega mall could never do. And really, how many other Upstate New York areas have the opportunity to do something like this and use it to their advantage? None?

If this ends up getting redeveloped as a Bass Pro Shop, I'm just going to pack-up and leave Syracuse.

OK, not really, but I'll pretend to.

The mayor intends to vote on one of the three redevelopment plans within the next month.