April 26, 2013

Inner Harbor construction to begin soon

According to Syracuse.com, COR Development plans to begin its construction of the Syracuse Inner Harbor project before the end of the year. Aside from renderings that have already been made public, COR plans to present the city its design and site plans within a few months. Among the developments being planned on the 34 acres of former state land over the next 5 to 10 years are...

  • A marina.
  • A three-story, 150-room hotel along the south bank.
  • 80 three-story condominiums.
  • Apartment buildings containing 210 apartments along the western bank (Four-story buildings with retail on the first floor).
  • A community boat house.
  • An academic satellite campus (COR is hoping for OCC) with a 50,000 square foot building on the southwestern corner - with a possible 100,000 square-foot expansion in the future.
  • A total of 120,000 square feet of commercial space.
  • A total of 200,000 square feet of retail specialty shops.

    It's an ambitious project to say the least.

    As much as I love its potential, I understand the criticism. Not only could it end up looking very "corporate", but we're giving one company a huge share of land and money and basically saying, "Here you go. Do what you want.". It reeks of Congelism. But I think in this scenario, given the history, successes, and mistakes that have lead us to have a huge contrast of desirable and undesirable settings within such a small amount of land (a half mile radius to be exact), this needs to happen in order to connect the dots between everything.

    As it stands today, we have roughly four different vibes happening in the Lakefront...

    1. A desirable and huge mall that feels totally disconnected from the rest of the city.
    2. A scattered and unorganized arrangement of newly refurbished apartment buildings, shells of old industrial buildings, a creekwalk, and a nearby sewage treatment.
    3. A very desirable area in Franklin Square; possibly the city's greatest pedestrian district and asset for original character.
    4. A blank slate of land (with water) laying between the mall and Franklin Square.

    And as much as I don't want Destiny USA to be associated with this city, we have to come to terms that it's here to stay and a part of our community. And if we want to improve its relationship between where it is right now (on the outskirts of town) to where it could feel psychologically (tied in with the city), we need to start building on the empty land that separates the two.

    Picture if you will, a walk from shopping at Destiny USA, to the Inner Harbor for a stroll along the boardwalk, to beautiful Franklin Square for coffee, down the Creekwalk, and into Armory Square. I mean, it will provide so many different environments and relationships within such a short distance. And it could help connect everything without having to use a car in order to do it (ideally).

    So this sounds hasty, but I'm all for this thing getting underway as soon as possible. However, I also understand the criticism because it puts a lot of hope and faith into one private company. If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave them below.

  • April 12, 2013

    Ammo against I-81

    The "what to do with I-81?" discussion will be heating up soon, as the state DOT attempts to make a decision by 2017-ish on the fate of the elevated highway through Downtown Syracuse. Between now and then there will be a ton of public debate about what the best option will be for not only Downtown, but for Central New York in general.

    Personally, I find the whole thing to be a no-brainer: tear it down, utilize I-481 as a bypass and rename it, and replace I-81 with a ground-level parkway or boulevard; something that helps to connect The Hill with lower Downtown.

    If you generally agree with that sentiment, then I've gone ahead and done some of the dirty work for you. Please feel free to use any or all of these passive-aggressive, bullet points and/or questions when someone actually tries to defend rebuilding I-81 through Downtown Syracuse.


  • Separating the city's two major money generators, Syracuse University and the medical centers, from the city's epicenter and most desirable neighborhood, Downtown, with a giant concrete highway seems like a gross misallocation of resources.

  • I fail to see how demolishing more infrastructure for the sake of a bigger highway system will help the city grow.

  • How will an elevated highway beautify both Downtown and its walking experience and can you provide some examples of when this has worked in other cities? (The answer is usually "no").

  • According to Google Maps, a trip from Nedrow to Cicero via I-81 takes 22 minutes. The trip around Downtown via I-481 to I-81 takes 26 minutes. Unless my math is incorrect, that's only a difference of 4 minutes.

  • Building a huge, concrete highway directly through the region's urban center seems very 1954-ish to me.

  • I wonder if there's any correlation between the construction of I-81 and the city's population plummeting during the middle-half of the 20th century?

  • Did you know that Downtown Syracuse has no true park for its 2,500 residents and its 30,000 workers? I thought that was a funny little bit of info.

  • Since its lifespan is nearing an end and the highway is coming down anyway, how does rebuilding it every 50 years make good financial sense?

  • Syracuse is a small city and rebuilding a highway through its center contains its size and dampens potential growth of Downtown and University Hill, its two fastest growing neigborhoods.

  • Ambulances and emergency vehicles should be fine. More people will not die because there is no elevated highway. Emergency vehicles nowadays have these fancy things called sirens and lights. Furthermore, an emergency vehicle can get trapped on a highway just as easily, if not more easily, than it could on the streets (here's a good example of it actually happening).

  • If not having an elevated highway helps to attract new businesses and people to Downtown, is it so much to ask for people to sacrifice their already low commuting times?

  • Gas is wasted and the environment is polluted the second the ignition is turned on in a car. Please don't use the "we'll be wasting more gas" as a legitimate argument or try to make me feel guilty about the environment any more than I already do. People will be using more gas for the very reason that they chose to have a car and live far away from the city's center in the first place.

  • Riddle me this: do we want a better place to live or do we want to drive faster?
  • April 10, 2013

    "Give Yourself the Green Light"

    I love watching propaganda films like these. This one, "Give Yourself the Green Light", was produced by General Motors in 1954 and is advocating for the creation of the Interstate Highway System.

    While watching this, I can't help but be reminded of the current and the upcoming discussion of I-81. I think if someone were to make a film advocating for the reconstruction and rebuilding of an elevated highway through Downtown Syracuse today, their ideas would be presented in a similar style as this one.

    Towards the end of the film, you see examples of highways from Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Chicago. It's actually hard to fathom how much of their core infrastructure these cities were willing to sacrifice and destroy just for the sake of automobiles. This was taken about 60 years ago, but the magnitude of what was going on is still hard to comprehend today.

    April 9, 2013

    The Libido for the Ugly

    The following is an essay written by H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), a renowned journalist, satirist, and social critic of the American scene. "The Libido for the Ugly" describes the ugliness of poverty and architecture during the American Industrialization of the 1920's.

    Note: There's no rhyme or reason for this post in particular, but just thought it would be a nice anecdote to add to the blog.

    H.L. Mencken
    (from Prejudices: Sixth Series, 1927)

    On a Winter day some years ago, coming out of Pittsburgh on one of the expresses of the Pennsylvania Railroad, I rolled eastward for an hour through the coal and steel towns of Westmoreland county. It was familiar ground; boy and man, I had been through it often before. But somehow I had never quite sensed its appalling desolation. Here was the very heart of industrial America, the center of its most lucrative and characteristic activity, the boast and pride of the richest and grandest nation ever seen on earth-and here was a scene so dreadfully hideous, so intolerably bleak and forlorn that it reduced the whole aspiration of man to a macabre and depressing joke. Here was wealth beyond computation, almost beyond imagination-and here were human habitations so abominable that they would have disgraced a race of alley cats.