January 21, 2013

These Evolving Times

On January 18, 2013, the Syracuse Media Group, the company that produces syracuse.com and The Post-Standard, announced its new headquarters at Merchants Commons, a refurbished complex at 220 S. Warren Street.

The shift will move about 150 people to a glass-lined, street-level office on the corner of Warren and Fayette streets once renovations are complete in April. Company support services and human resources departments will remain at the Post-Standard building at Clinton Square. Once the Syracuse Media Group moves out of Clinton Square, it will empty about 25,000 square feet of space which the company plans to lease out.

There's a few major points to dissect here. The first one: Technology.

Just in case you're unaware, The Post-Standard plans to scale back its production of newspapers by only offering home delivery service for three days out of the week (beginning in February of '13). A continuing trend with many of the Newhouse-owned newspapers around the country. The Post-Standard will continue to print smaller editions of its newspaper within Onondaga County on non-delivery days.

I think when news broke about this late last year, a lot of people freaked out. And it's undertandable. Central New York is fairly rooted in its own ideals, life, and habits, and getting that daily dose of news in the morning, maybe talking with strangers at diners about the day's hot topics, reading the obituaries and Op-Ed sections, et al, are all things that people here have made a comfortable, daily life out of for decades. The thing is... times are changing. And technology is making information incredibly accelerated - to the point where society can only play catch-up. And for most people over the age of say... 45, having a physical newspaper delivered to their homes only 3 days out of the week is a very hard pill to swallow and maybe even a bit of culture-shock to their daily life.

As we all know, it can be easy to pick on Syracuse. It's easy to bring in hyperbole and knee-jerk reactions into a discussion like this. "Syracuse is going downhill!", "Pretty soon there will be no paper at all!"... Those are easy reactions. But if you take a look at the big picture of everything that has happened over the last several years - not just here, but practically everywhere - technology is changing our lives. It's changed how we communicate, how we present ourselves, how we find new restaurants, how we meet, how we date, and it's definitely changed how we get our news.

The Syracuse Media Group plans to evolve with the times. It will offer a digital-first focus, completely (at least in their mission) to redefine the way we receive news and information in Syracuse. Is it a risk? You bet'cha. Can it work? Maybe. Was it the right move? Probably. Is it needed for the growth of the city? Yes.

To say it like it is, people in our generation do not get our news on a daily basis. We get it on an hourly, minute, and sometimes second basis (I kid you not if you're addicted to Twitter). And the lone media giant in our region has to evolve with the times. It's very sad and unfortunate that people have to loose their jobs and careers over a transition like this, but on the other hand, I do applaud the company for taking the initiative - and not just taking the initiative because they went bankrupt, for instance. It's a gamble and I'm sure a lot of people will be watching not only on their smart phones and iPads over these next several weeks, but as a collective whole to see if this thing can actually take-off and work correctly.

The second: Warren Street.

As I've written about before, Warren Street is my favorite street in Downtown Syracuse. It has such a large amount of potential and neglect. So much so that it's almost impossible not to root for it. I've been extremely passionate about how this street gets handled as we progress forward and how it gets perceived (sometimes incorrectly by local leaders). The fact that this entire digital endeavor is being spearheaded at the nexus of Warren and Fayette streets is extremely encouraging. When I first read about construction plans and viewed renderings of the Merchants Commons online, my initial reaction was for a major retailer to move in and with apartments above it; thereby giving some much-needed, daily life to Warren Street and this area of Downtown. Finding out that a media company will be moving in to occupy both the first and second floors did not sit well with me at first. If Warren Street is going to wake up from its long nap, the last thing is needs is for a long-awaited addition to be full of nothing but people driving away from it at 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Essentially, more neglect. The street needs life from individuals outside of this timeframe. So, needless to say, I was not pleased.

But check out these renderings and current construction pictures.

It's not too shabby. The building is close and open to the street, it has a trendy, new, and sleek interior, flat-screens and computers will display the news and videos at all hours of the day, walk-ins will be welcome, and the employees will be seated a mixed-use collaborative space that will operate longer than the traditional 9-to-5 workday (so I'm told).

It's hard to argue with the positives that could transpire for the life of the street. It could very well be the shot in the arm that Warren Street has been needing all these decades.

That being said, I'll be curious as to not only what will transpire with this entire process, but what will happen to the leased-out section of the Post-Standard building at Clinton Square. I'm generally not a fan of the building or its interaction with the neighborhood. I'd have no qualms with demolition and redevelopment. I would, however, have qualms about a potential grocery store; a topic and aspect of Downtown living that has been gaining momentum lately as the entire neighborhood continues move forward. I'll tackle that beast very soon as I have a ton of thoughts on grocery shopping as a Downtown resident over these last 6 years.

For now, let's sit back and watch the changes as they unfold over the next couple months. I hope things go well for the new company, their employees, and its new headquarters on Warren Street. A street that desperately needs activity and life.