February 15, 2012

Well Designed Travel: The Sidewalks of Buenos Aires

Though mostly a home design blog, Apartment Therapy has some excellent pictures of sidewalks around Buenos Aires. I'm especially partial to the example in the bottom row, second from the right; a perfect example of beauty, originality, and tranquility, all tied within a valued consciousness of the public realm.

Those are just a few ideas to get the brain thinking about what could be possible here. Sidewalks have plenty of potential to encourage and to portray a sense of real value and a sense of place. Not all of them have to be one dimensional, poorly maintained, or of such low quality.

February 6, 2012

Construction of Inns at Armory Square to start soon

Developer Richard Sykes Jr plans to construct a 102-room Marriott Courtyard and a 78-room Marriott Residence Inn at the northwest corner of South Franklin and West Fayette Streets along the northern edge of Armory Square. The site is currently a surface parking lot.

Artist rendering. RHS Holdings.

The rendering looks OK. It's a bit "meh" for me and also a bit big (Armory Square tends to be mostly condensed 2 to 3 story buildings). But when you take into account the adjacent 6 and 7 story buildings located on this block, The Warehouse and Washington Station, and other similar sized ones in the "Power District", the Niagara Mowhawk Building and the Federal Building, it's going to visually blend them into and out of Armory Square fairly well. At least, way better than a surface parking lot.

And this is one big surface parking lot.

Funny how Washington Station, the building at the right, has all this unique siding and glass on its south facade. The part that will be most visual to the public now is that drab, gray wall that faces east. The new hotel will allow some window interaction from the private (inside) to the public (outside) and it's also scaled to the pedestrian fairly well; something that Washington Station clearly does poorly.

The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency has granted the project a 15-year full tax abatement. That applies to the actual hotel and not the parcel of land. 15 years is a bit extreme, especially considering that the city needs every bit of tax money that it can get right now, but juxtapose that with the fact that this corner of land (a surface parking lot mere steps away from the city's most pedestrian-friendly neighborhood) could easily sit empty for 15 years.

If all goes as planned, we'll see some much needed visual continuity of the surrounding blocks, a building welcoming you into the neighborhood rather than an empty lot, and something that piggybacks on the success of Armory Square.

And really, any day where Downtown has one less surface parking lot is a good day.

February 3, 2012

City plans to demolish Otisca Building

Picture courtesy of the Onondaga Historical Society.

Well, I'm glad I took some pictures when I did. The city plans to demolish the former Ryan's Brewery, a 2 and 3-story brick structure at the northeast corner of Butternut and McBride Streets, sometime this month. The demolition is being paid for by Home Headquarters, a local non-profit agency.

Also mentioned in the article is that ownership of the property will then change hands to Housing Visions where 30 "affordable" apartment and store fronts will be constructed after the group applies for a state grant this spring.

I haven't seen any plans of the apartments yet, but I'll post them here when more information develops over the coming months. I'm vehemently opposed to demolishing historic buildings when nothing legitimate has been lined up to replace them. There's way to many examples just in Syracuse alone of empty promises turning into empty lots. Hopefully this is not one of them.

Also, I'm generally not a fan of affordable housing because it tends to centralize way too many people of the same demographic into one tiny area. Although, the two non-profit agencies tied to this have done some nice work in the city as of late. And the phrase "store fronts" in the article is also encouraging. If it indeed is mixed-use, it could be a step in the right direction; as long as it's not overly suburbanized (i.e. set too far away from the street, automobile-focused, etc...).

We'll have to wait and see. It would've been nice to see the old brewery re-used in some capacity. If only a small section of it. But, I guess there is no chance of that now.

Take your pictures soon, because one of the last remaining breweries won't be around too much longer.