Thursday, September 28, 2006

A different twist on the Connective Corridor

I was reading Inc. Magazine and noticed a great article on how some universities are offering low or no cost consulting by their students to local companies. (article not online yet) The students get course credit and real world experience while the companies get fresh ideas from the students. This is different from the typical internship because the students are there to present ideas on a specific idea or project rather than do filing or menial office work.

We have in Syracuse one of the best business schools and a Top Tier entrepreneurship school. This is a real untapped resource in this city. Much of the coursework at SOM (School of Management) involves case studies with fake companies on paper and fake business plans. Why not let the students try their handiwork on a real company is CNY? The cost would be minimal for all parties involved. Low cost for SU-have one or two professors oversee the students while they get some great experience in the business world. Low cost for the businesses-say $2,000 to $3,000 for a semester or possibly even free???- a bargain for a team of consultants.

Let students provide new ideas and a fresh perspective for companies. Sure, some of their ideas may be too academic or a bit outlandish but overall it could be a great shot in the arm for small companies who don't have enough money to hire consultants or professionals.

We can have a Connective Corridor of ideas as well as a physical pathway. There is really few links between the business department at SU and local businesses. Why now connect the two and create a win-win situation for all involved?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday Leftovers - But They're Tasty


It's the middle of the week, and time for a quick breather - let's catch up on some stuff I've been meaning to post for a while. Here's a Salt[ed] City Top 5 coming at you...

1. When the history of Syracuse's revitalization is written, Doug Sutherland will be remembered as as a pioneer, the guy who hitched up his wagon first, built a beautiful cabin, and then started helping everyone else do it too - except instead of building from scratch, he took old cabins and made them new again. The developer behind most of Frankin Square and the new Lofts at Willow gave an incredible presentation last spring, which everybody needs to check out. He talks numbers, makes suggestions for specific properties, and has some realistic yet creative suggestions for advancing the downtown development plot. Probably the best, most cogent thing I've read or heard about property development in the city, ever.

2. Got an update from some 40 Below team members - looks like the summit is postponed until spring, but promises to be big, and is planning to emphasize participation by local college students. I'll be making the trek up from DC for sure.

3. It also seems the 40 Below team has its collective hands full with the Wilson Bldg. renovation project. The S. Salina Street building, pictured above, is from the Preservation Society of Central New York's excellent Syracuse: Then and Now website. Check out the site, and keep an eye on this undertaking (we sure will). Could be the first step in achieving critical mass on cleaning up Salina Street. Next step might be a Main Street initiative...

4. Congel's Ditch now has Uncle Sam's seal of approval? Well, at least the EPA seems to like it.

5. Finally, back to some results-focused issues, I see Jeff Daniels all over TV these days, singing the praises of the Wolverine State. I remember last year's latest I Heart NY ads with Gov. Pataki, which I actually kinda liked. But what about a national buy campaign just for the 'Cuse? The social scientist in me has always wondered how much new business can actually be correlated with these ads, but, man, if we could get Gere, Cruise (or maybe not), some of the Baldwins...telling the 'Cuse's story on national TV...that would kinda put Michigan to shame, eh, at least in terms of A-List celebs shilling for us.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Today's Take on the Alliterative Alley

Dick Case briefly offers some new thoughts on the topic du jour, the Connective Corridor. Mr. Case has expressed some skepticism, as have members of this blog, on the project, and seems to continue to be cautious – and perhaps rightly so.

I consider myself generally in favor of the CC, but as my colleague Garrett has pointed out, we need to be realistic about what it can – and should – accomplish. First, we need to clearly define the purpose. Artists’ renderings and imaginative plans are good, and get us thinking creatively about a project. But we’re apparently going to be spending significant amounts of taxpayer money on the CC and we need to be practical to a certain extent too.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. As our starting point, we need the university to be more physically tied to downtown. Removing the nasty I-81 overpass, as has been suggested, is a great idea, but likely won’t happen without an exhaustive and acrimonious process that will make Congel’s Ditch look like the Soldier/Sailor renovations (for example, how will truckers feel?). And as Garrett pointed out to me yesterday, does Syracuse really want our own Little Big Dig? So focusing on eliminating of I-81, while a good solution in theory, doesn’t advance the plot.

Next. Well, what about the gondolas…sigh. The gondolas. Well, interestingly enough, the P-S looked at the man behind the infamous plan today (perhaps inspired by Salt[ed] City? I have a feeling we might have some reporters in our audience. Welcome.). I gotta admit, it does sounds kinda cool. But let’s stay grounded for now, folks.

So what’s left? I think a couple of ideas. First, a shuttle bus is a no-brainer. According to some SU friends, current Centro shuttles run irregularly, without any posted schedules or clearly defined stops. I went to college in Providence, R.I., at a school a quarter of SU’s size and footprint. It managed to run a free student shuttle service around the city, seven days a week, with a well-delineated schedule and clearly identified stops. My guess is SU could accomplish this tomorrow with little effort. It’s not sexy, but I think it would be effective. We can’t make kids leave M Street, but at least we can offer them a ride to Armory. And let me say again, renovating the Warehouse in Armory was a masterstroke, and I give S.U. mucho kudos for it. Note that it seems to have been accomplished without massive bureaucracy, processes, committees, syndicates, etc, etc., but rather with decisiveness and action.

Ok, now you want sexy? I think the OnTrack option is worth further exploration. Commuters are clearly NOT going to use it, as has been made abundantly clear. But what if S.U. cleans up their station (a security post, some serious lighting, signage), and the city tackles the Armory station? The infrastructure is already there. It’s cool and “intermodal” (I mean, you gotta walk there or whatever). My guess is it wouldn’t take much effort or money to get this up and running either – and if students vote (or don’t vote) with their feet, we haven’t spent tons of money and effort for naught. And of course, the train can continue to the Inner Harbor, One Tex Simone Drive, Congel’s Ditch, etc.

Ok, let’s throw in some bike paths, some solid, attractive, easy to maintain signage, and make sure the shuttle service goes down Genesee Street and to the CoE too. Seems like a pretty good start to me.

But what about the wireless Internet kiosks? The ready-made art? The street minstrels and jugglers? I mean, ok, I guess. I think Syracuse is more Norman Rockwell than Marcel Duchamp, and I fear that we could end up with some creepy po-mo sculptures and kiosk computer that freeze up in the winter, though. Now, as I’ve said before, I don’t like to be negative about creative ideas. I do think wireless Internet coverage in the CC would be cool. And I love that the city has a vibrant cultural scene – and while I believe in appealing to people’s better selves and not defaming art to satisfy crass consumerism, we also gotta know who is using the CC and what its main purpose should be.

Academics tend to pontificate about “place and space” and things like that, but in the end, the Connective Corridor should be just that – a way to get from here to there. If we keep that in mind, I think this project is going to be a key part of the city’s future, and an exciting advancement of the plot.

Oh, and yes. Why aren’t the designs available online anywhere? It makes me nervous when we hear talk about openness and community involvement, and then don’t see wide dissemination of the designs themselves…hopefully SU will put them up on their site soon. Anyone having any intel on this?

We hope we're not beating a dead horse with these constant posts on the CC - I actually meant to post on about a half dozen other things tonight as well. But this is a really important topic, and I think in some emblematic of the choices we have to make about our city's future. Anyone who's reading this, please take a moment to chime in and offer your thoughts.

And I promise to talk (in fewer words!) about some other cool stuff that's happening, for the rest of the week.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Empire Zones

In Sunday's Post standard there was a huge front page story about Empire Zones and their effect on CNY businesses . The article spotlighted several businesses in CNY and Western NY that reinvented themselves in order to gain empire zone benefits. Now I don't know a great deal about empire zones and all the ins and outs but what I do know is that they provide significant tax breaks for businesses in turn for growth and job creation.

The article in mention takes a real negative light on business "re creating" themselves as new companies in order to take full advantage of the tax breaks. The companies either reincorporating and moved ownership in order to make themselves look like a new company on paper.

My problem is twofold. My first problem is that the article or at least the way I took had a slant of the businesses taking advantage of the system. Good for them! They took advantage of one of the few economic incentives the state offers for businesses and made it work in their favor. Its hard enough to do business here in New York without having to fight for every break you can try and get. Even if they did play the system and didn't create as many jobs as promised, they are still here in NY and still employing people.

My second problem is that the state made it so hard to get these benefits. Why shouldn't any business who is making strides to stay in NY and grow despite the obstacles be able to get these benefits. Business owners should be rewarded for staying here rather than have to jump through legal and economic hurdles to stay. No one seems to making any effort to help business here in the State. Look at Beak & Skiff and other small distillers who the state turned down for the ability to make their own spirits all because they were concerned over tax revenue and the possibilities of sales over the internet.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More Connective Corridor

I haven't had a chance to review what went on at today's symposium but I got to thinking about the corridor and a few things left me wondering. For one, who is actually controlling the design and decision process on this project? The City or SU? I fear that if SU is controlling this project it is going to be too concentrated on being some sort of high brow arts district rather than being a combination walkway, arts district, business community, and streetscape project. If the City controls it I feel that that the walkway will be too utilitarian and much of the money spent will go to strictly streetscape renovation and ancillary projects that can be associated with the money(sewers, paving, etc.) There needs to be a coalition combining the best parts of both sides in order to get a final product that works. Also, the Syracuse community needs to be involved as well as the businesses on the route. I feel that when most people think about the connective corridor all they think of is a long walk, the internet, and everyone's favorite: ski gondolas.

CoE: Advancing the Plot, Big Time

If you haven't checked out the combox on my post last night regarding the Syracuse Center for Excellence, definitely do so. My sincerest thanks to commenter J, who is obviously quite knowledgeable on the CoE and shared some really great news about its progress. Here's an excerpt of his comments:

the syracuse coe is actually tremendously active. construction of its new facility is ongoing now. the geothermal test bores are done...with a temporary slowdown when they hit some asbestos debris (from the remains of the former building). that's resolved, the money's already allocated, and the building design itself is mostly done. the building, incidentally, will run approximately $40 million, and hopefully achieve the highest point total of any building in the world under LEED (www.usgbc.org).

regarding innovations and actual projects...they're funding local businesses and soliciting proposals for more innovative solutions right now. i believe the strategic plan calls for a huge impact within the next two years, with the intent to create local manufacturing facilities to prototype and bring the technology to market. so i'd say, stay tuned. the coe is very aware that it must make a huge impact within the next two years, meaning actual products, jobs and renewal locally.

Folks, this is HUGE stuff. Maybe I've just been completely out of the loop, and everyone else is aware, but I have a feeling that this initiative is flying under the radar of most people in the 'Cuse. Of the many frustating aspects of Congel's Ditch, perhaps the most exasperating is the fact that it distracts us from the real opportunities we have for economic growth and prosperity. There should be a weekly column in the P-S just providing updates on the CoE. This stuff should be on the front page constantly. Our elected leaders should be talking about it all the time (on second thought, maybe not - we don't want to totally screw it up). But seriously, the potential is huge for the kind of jobs everyone in Syracuse dreams about - the kind of jobs that could really spark a renaissance.

J's excellent comments (thanks again) has definitely highlighted this to me, and I'm going to be digging much deeper into the CoE...I hope that anyone else out there who has good info on this (and other projects) will continue to share with us. Getting the word out about these stories is critical to getting Syracuse excited and ready to work towards our real future...

UPDATE: I believe Mr. J. was also posting over at Alive in CNY (a great blog you should be reading), participating in a really good discussion on the Connective Corridor, with tie-ins to the CoE. It seems like the local blogosphere is on to this stuff, but how do we get the rest of the 315 aware? Ideas?

Big Money for Local entrepreneurs

The MDA and the Central Upstate Regional Alliance have announced a $100,000 competition for the most innovative and growth oriented business in CNY. The qualifications are that the business must be incorporated and have under 2.5 million in sales. This is one of the best ideas I have heard of in a long time. Finally a competition where they are rewarding actual businesses rather than just plans and ideas. I think this is a real step in the right direction to target small and growing CNY businesses who really are the going to be the the driving force behind our economy. Lets face face it, the likelihood of say, Google or GE coming to town and offering hundreds of jobs in one shot are pretty slim. A small business may offer 1 or 2 but if you have say 50 small companies growing every year it multiplies into that same number of jobs. Plus, growing companies are looking for innovative and creative people to help them succeed and we have an abundance of those people who leave every year in search of those types of jobs in other cities. If we concentrate on and promote the growth small businesses then we have start to have real basis for strong future economic growth.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Semi-Famous Person Comes to Syracuse, Dies

Or so says the International Herald Tribune, in a headline that implies causality between the visit and the passing.

Danish environmental air quality expert P. Ole Fanger, recently appointed University Professor at SU, passed away suddenly while on a week-long trip to the Salt City. Syracuse getting an article in a publication like the IHT would normally be cause for celebration, but the death of Mr. Fanger is certainly a terrible blow for his loved ones, for SU, and for the indoor environmental technology efforts underway in CNY.

Without meaning to be callous, Mr. Fanger's passing got me wondering - whatever happened to the Center for Excellence for indoor air quality that was supposed to be established in the 'Cuse? I was an intern in local government back in the summer of 2002, when Gov. George Pataki came to town amidst much fanfare to announce its creation.

A quick Google search found this website for the Syracuse Center of Excellence, which has a very nice tribute page up for Mr. Fanger, incidentally.

Digging further into the site, I tried to see if the plot has been advanced at all since 2002. It appears the CoE is actually more a consortium or federation than a physical location, led by Syracuse University, with participation from other local colleges and private firms (over 70 members in all). The website is pretty impressive, and it seems that the CoE has a fairly large staff. What seems to be lacking are concrete examples of the CoE translating research efforts into commercially viable technology and new jobs.

Still, the potential seems huge. Firms in a particular industry often locate in the same geographic area (Silicon Alley in Boston, for example), for a variety of reasons. All it takes is for a few big firms to locate in a city, for local suppliers and infrastructure (schools, research centers, etc) to then have the incentive to develop even further, attracting even more firms. The CoE could really be the catalyst for a "virtuous cycle" making Syracuse the capital of indoor environmental systems - I think this is what the original intent was, after all. At any rate, we'll be keeping a closer eye on this now that it's back on our radar - and please share any info you have about the initiative in the combox.

P. Ole Fanger, rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tuesday Evening Round-Up & Welcome

To all those checking out Salt(ed) City thanks to Bob Niedt over at the Store Front blog, welcome! We hope that you like what you see, that you'll continue to check back here often, and that you'll contribute your thoughts to the discussion on Syracuse's future. In fact, we have the makings of a good brainstorming session going on Garrett's post regarding a young professionals' happy hour, so check it out and jump in.

A lot of development news in the region the last couple days. Here are some quick takes.

(1) First, Sunday's Post-Standard had a fascinating expose on New York's Empire Zone development program. It's long but worth the read - apparently the largest beneficiary of the state tax breaks so far is a New Jersey energy firm that got a $22 million rebate for adding half an employee. Really should make us stop and think about how government can best be involved in business development (hopefully you'll see a post on that from me this week).

(2) P-S columnist Dick Case wonders if the Connective Corridor design sketches aren't a little, well, sketchy - as are the details of this proposal. Incidentally, those in town and free on Thursday afternoon should head over to the Everson for the Connective Corridor symposium. The four design teams will be there to present their visions.

(3)Education is a critical part of any coherent development strategy. The CNY Business Journal has a piece on the [much needed] $900 million school renovation project in Syracuse, which might be held up because of labor disputes.

(4)Last, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has a great special report on bringing high tech jobs to our westerly neighbor. Read the introductory D&C editorial, or if you have the time, check out the entire report here. If you're hungry for more news from Monroe County, here's an article on an apparent "hotel renaissance" in the area.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

40 Below

40 Below has made some great progress in the 2 or so years its been around however it could be making it could be making a better effort at getting more people involved. I know a lot of us who are here for the long haul have some great ideas for what could be done in and with Syracuse but have no real venue to express these ideas. Why not have a monthly happy hour at a downtown bar after work? I know I am attracted by events featuring cheap booze and I know many of my contemporaries are as well. (that's where the idea for this blog came about) It would provide a venue for many of us to discuss some ideas and meet some new people with similar goals. It would be a great venue for 40 below to recruit people for its task forces and present new ideas. It would also be a great venue for anyone interested in marketing to our demographic. Maybe have some apartment developers on hand to showcase and pitch downtown living. As a marketer I am always looking at new ways to get my ideas and products out to people and I believe that this would be the best way to pitch a lot of what is being discussed in small groups across to board to a larger venue.

Connective Corridor Continued ...

Our latest blog member, Dan, shares his views on the Connective Corridor - ed.

I grew up in Syracuse for 20 years, before moving to Albany to finish my master's degree. When I return home, I like to catch up on the latest happenings about town. I came across an article discussing the proposed 'Connective Corridor' and needless to say, I was quite disturbed.

During a typical 'Syracuse Winter,' we get a lot of 'snow.' This frozen precipitation tends to limit the time people spend outside. Creating a footpath will not make people reconsider a 3 mile walk in the dead of winter. Snow falls from November to March. This leaves 4 months, where school is in session and the path can be fully utilized by students, without the Eskimo garb.

Now, I agree that students need to be given easier access to downtown and the surrounding areas. The most practical means to facilitate this is by shuttle bus. SU would have to do a very thorough job of not only making students aware of this travel option, but also letting them know the activities one can partake in at a given location - drinking, dining, play watching, modern art viewing, etc. As Garrett mentions, SU is an untapped resource of 15,000 students, this could provide a very positive economic impact for downtown and its surrounding areas.

But more importantly, the city needs a program for downtown revitalization. The millions of dollars proposed for this Corridor should be allocated elsewhere to someone who can design a plan and effectively revitalize downtown.The detached- from-her-students Nancy Cantor should ask the SU student body what they want and if they would even use such a path. After all, students will drive a car from one end of campus to another for class. The ivory tower is deluding itself into thinking that these same students will suddenly take up walking as a pastime. Given the exuberance Ms. Cantor and her enablers exude for this corridor, I respectfully ask them to push a shovel on the walkway after our first storm and clear it for the alleged droves of people seeking to culturally enrich their lives. I'd recommend gloves and a hat cause baby, in Syracuse, it's cold outside.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

South Salina Street

If you were to designate a "heart" of downtown Syracuse it would be South Salina Street. The street basically divides downtown into two halves. Currently Salina Street seems to be a blighted strip through the heart of downtown filled with empty buildings, dollar stores, and a general run down appearance. North Salina Street and the Little Italy project have been completed with some success and now the commercial corridor of downtown Salina Street needs to be addressed. Plans have been drawn up for a streetscape program for Salina Street, though I am having great difficulty finding much information relating to the project.

We need to develop a Main Street program or use their Four Point Approach to develop the Salina Street area. National Main Street is a program of the National Historic Trust that works to revitalization commercial districts."Main Street approach to commercial district revitalization, an innovative methodology that combines historic preservation with economic development to restore prosperity and vitality to downtowns and neighborhood business districts" (www.mainstreet.org)

This organization, of which I am a member, has had numerous successes across the country revitalizing downtown districts and vastly improving streetscapes. For anyone who is interested in revitalizing Downtown Syracuse, I highly recommend browsing their website and getting a feel for the ideas and strategy.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Downtown Living

While we still wrestle with the fact that we are having a difficult time integrating SU students into Syracuse, an encouraging fact is that the twenty somethings who are staying are moving from the suburbs into the city. Many of those who have stayed in Syracuse or returned here after college have begun to move into the city be it Downtown or Tipperary Hill. It seems to be a reverse of the suburban flight of many decades ago. Initially the proximity to the nightlife, activities, and proximity to other like minded individuals made it attractive but the low cost of living is a real kicker. As more and more living spaces open up they are quickly being snapped up. As an added benefit, those who left, like TheAlumnus, when they return at the holidays, are astounded at the size of the housing as compared to the very low cost for it. For the amount you would pay living in a small place in a large city, we can live like kings per se here in CNY. That fact alone will bring more and more of the expats back into the city after a few years of high cost living, as long as there are comparable job available to them to entice them to return.

"40 Below" Put On Ice?

Last October, I flew back to the 'Cuse to attend the 40 Below Summit, organized by the Metropolitan Development Association and other community groups. It was the second annual gathering of young professionals in the city, and from what I heard, attendance more than doubled (to 1,100) last year. There were some excellent speakers, including "local legend" and jack of all trades Tim Green (is there a career that man hasn't pursued), Dinosaur BBQ founder John Stage, and developer Doug Sutherland of Franklin Properties LLC. Good stuff, for the most part.

So imagine my surprise when I check out the group's website and find ZERO info regarding the next summit. What's the deal? I'm really curious - is the summit postponed, cancelled, or has it just run out of gas? Anyone know?

The group does seem to be going strong through its Adapt CNY, Inc. spin-off, and apparently getting into the development game on Salina Street, however.

Funny anecdote about last year's summit. Standing around the main hall in the OnCenter with some friends. A local politico comes over, very friendly, to say hi to us, and asks what we all do. I mention that I'm currently living out of town, and he says, oh you need to move back here, more and more job opportunities are becoming available. I kiddingly say, "Oh yeah, maybe I'd like a crack at your job one of these days." He suddenly got very cold, stared at me for a long minute, then walked away.

I guess when a six year old tells a politician he wants his job, its cute; when a twenty-three year old does, it's a threat. Haha.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thursday Evening Roundup

Please check out the updated What It's All About section below. Also, check in tomorrow, our third contributor to the blog will have his first piece up - and folks, this guy doesn't pull any punches.

Slow news day on the development front. Some movement in the ongoing legal battle between current Carousel Center tenants and developer Bob Congel over the proposed mall expansion. Normally I'm going to avoid posting Destiny news unless something actually happens (like, say, construction), but here you are for today.

I thought I’d take a moment to share what I hope will be one of the guiding principles of SaltedCity – what we’ve dubbed “advancing the plot”. Too often discussions about development in the city get bogged down in “what we can’t do”, or “what we used to do”, or “if only we had done”. The circus around Congel’s Ditch is just the latest example.

So what we at SaltedCity pledge is to try to cut to the core of the CNY’s economic and political problems – and to humbly offer suggestions about how to advance the plot, or, hereafter, “ATP” (because there’s nothing more blogger-chic than obscurantist acronyms, after all). We hope our readers will also offer suggestions on keeping things moving forward, and helping us to keep the blog from devolving into bitter rants and recriminations (though we may have some of those occasionally, just for fun).

Stay tuned. We’re just getting started.

Connective Corridor & SU

I agree whole heartadly that we need the Connective Corridor badly, but there is a lot that SU and the City of Syracuse could be doing to connect the two right now.

I went to SU for a few years and have spent a great deal of time up there as well, and found that SU students really don't know Syracuse. The SU campus and surrounding areas are very well insulated and self sustaining. With a little effort a student could spend a few months without having to leave The Hill. Most students, outside of campus just know how to get to the mall, Erie Blvd, Dewitt Wegmans, and the airport. During their four years at Syracuse, they never really experience Syracuse except for maybe going out for drinks in Armory Square. Whenever I would take my SU friends somewhere locally, be it the North Side for Italian, Oneida Lake for fishing, or even just to the bars on Tipp Hill, they would always be very surprised at what else existed in Syracuse.

If students could get to know the area better and get outside the SU bubble a bit more they may begin to see it as more than Marshall Street and 6 months of winter. That is an important step in getting SU students to stay in the area after college. I think a big first step was SU locating the School of Architecture downtown, and having a freshman orientation event in Clinton Square. With more programs like that students will become more and more exposed to what else Syracuse and the outlying areas have to offer.

The Downtown Committee and local merchants should really be pushing hard to get students off The Hill and into their events and businesses. With an enrollment of around 15,000 students, we have a real sleeping giant on our hands. If that could be tapped it would result in a boon to the local economy outside of The Hill. Furthermore, if we could get a larger percentage of those students to stay in Syracuse, imagine what it could do for us.

Of everyone I know who went to SU, but was not originally from the area, I know one person who stayed in Syracuse. Everyone else could not get out of town fast enough, it seems, to go to New York, DC, Boston, etc. However, we need to find jobs for those students and enough culture to lure them away from the big cities, but that's another topic for another post.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

But What About the Gondolas?

Switching gears very quickly, I just wanted to point out that this blog is going to consider a lot more than just retail developments in the 'Cuse (Bob Niedt is already doing yeoman's work in the regard, both in his three-times weekly column in the Post-Standard, and on his daily blog at syracuse.com, linked to at the right).

Commercial real estate development is obviously a key part of Syracuse's regrowth strategy, but another critical component has to be marshalling the city's non-commercial assets. Syracuse University, led by Chancellor Nancy Cantor is making a move in this direction with her proposal for the Connective Corridor, "a landscape and transit system to link the people and activities of the University Hill and downtown Syracuse." With a name only an academic could love, the CC will basically consist of pedestrian and shuttle bus connections between the Hill, the East Genesee Street hotels and theaters, and Armory Square.

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, perhaps the CC is bringing back memories of Syracuse's previous non-starter development project (back when Destiny was just a twinkle in Bob Congel's eye) - the Avenue of the Arts. Now, that project never got off the ground, but the CC looks pretty close to a sure thing. While there is little question AA is a much cooler (and alphabetically superior) name, the CC has something even better - serious amounts of funding, including almost $10 million from the federal government, and a sizable $1 million donation from National Grid. That kind of money is going to buy some pretty sweet bus kiosks. And the shuttles better have heated leather seats.

In all seriousness, the CC, aside from its name, has the makings of a great idea. Getting SU students out of Faegan's, off the Hill, and into downtown is a no-brainer in terms of bringing some serious spending into the city. SU's renovations to the old Dunk and Bright building in Armory, by the way, was an impressive move in this regard as well, as architecture students and other University employees are now located in downtown itself - the building looks great too.

And let's not forget the cultural aspect of all this. If the landscaping and signage are well-designed (and more importantly, well-maintained), this could be a great boon for Syracuse's theatre and fine arts scene. The key is going to be spending this large amount of money wisely.

That, of course, is where the gondolas come in, as one of Chancellor Cantor's original ideas was for a ski-lift style system from the Hill over I-81 into downtown. Aside from not being the most efficient people-moving system one could think of, some safety concerns do come to mind as well - plus they'd basically be unusable from November-March. But I appreciate the creative thinking. Still, there is at least one other American city doing something similar - so perhaps a CC in the sky isn't as crazy as it seems...

Malls in Syracuse

In Sunday's Store Front there was much discussion on Shoppingtown Mall and Great Northern Mall and how it seems that Macerich has been abandoning those two malls.

It seems that everyone has been concentrating on the enclosed malls especially Destiny USA while seeming to ignore the success of the new strip centers such as Fayetteville Town Center, the Developers Diversified property on Erie Blvd, etc. This is a new type of center for Syracuse but nationwide this has been a popular trend.

In my travels, in many of the rapidly expanding areas of the country such as Minneapolis, MN and Southern FL, these types of properties are spreading like wildfire and are the primary shopping centers even with Megamalls such as Mall of America and Sawgrass Mills. Nationwide this is the new trend in shopping, and Pyramid may be one the the small handful of developers still trying to develop enclosed malls. Its good too see the success of these types of open air centers in Syracuse, albeit a few years behind the times.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Movin' On Downtown

Some very encouraging news in the Post-Standard today, regarding the growing number of residential development projects in downtown Syracuse - and a growing number of Central New Yorkers who are taking a chance on living in the city center. This report comes on the heels of Friday's announcement by CEO Michael Falcone, of local developer The Pioneer Cos., that the firm plans to build a $70-90 million mixed use project in Armory Square.

In today's article, reporter Tim Knauss profiles local couple Kristy and Michael Frame, who recently made the move from Dewitt to an apartment in the Lofts on Willow near Clinton Square , right next door to the Dinosaur BBQ. Incidently, the Mr. Frame profiled could be this Mike Frame, a staff member at the Metropolitan Development Association. If that's true, it's great to see those who are working to redevelop downtown are willing to put their (rent) money where their mouth is.

The article says the Frames are paying about $960 a month for their loft - pricey by Syracuse standards, but just about half of what TheAlumnus pays in Washington, D.C. for a small, far less hip abode. For trendy urban living at a fair price, it seems it's hard to beat the 'Cuse.

The P-S article also includes estimates that downtown current boasts about 2500 residents, with developers saying 6,000-6,500 is the target population for development to really snowball. With less than 200 residents expected to move in new apartments downtown this year, it seems there is a long way to go.

But, when you think about it, a lot of the really hard work is done. The keys to revitalization are, in my amateur opinion, twofold. First, a perception that an area is hip, developing, on the "up and up"; and two, a critical mass, a center from which development can spread. I think downtown Syracuse has both of these going for it. Armory Square and Franklin Square represent the bookends of a corridor of impressive development, which includes Clinton and Hanover Squares in the center. As the perception that downtown is a "cool" place to live increases, we can expect the pace of both retail and residential growth to increase exponentially. The recent opening of C.L. Evers, a new upscale supermarket, near Clinton Square, is just a foretaste. Of course, we won't know downtown has really made it until we see these guys or this store open up in Armory or Franklin Square (but we can dream, can't we?).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Little Italy

I was home for Labor Day weekend, and decided to show my girlfriend around the old neighborhood. We headed up N. Salina Street from downtown, checking the "progress" on Syracuse's Little Italy project.

Growing in a Italian family on the North Side in the late '80s and '90s, I do remember pretty vividly going down to Lombardi's and Peter's on Butternut Street with my grandmother, getting bread at DeLauro's and Columbus bakeries, going to Italian festivals at Our Lady of Pompei, etc. From what my parents and grandparents say, of course, what I experienced was nothing compared to what the North Side used to be - and I know my friends of Polish and German descent probably heard the same thing in their families.

I guess it was this nostalgia that led the city to extend the sidewalks on N. Salina St. and throw up some nice red street banners proclaiming the area Little Italy. Great idea, in theory, but the problem is, of course, that they were a couple decades late. Sure, there are probably enough Italian bakeries and restaurants in the area left to fill a block or so - Cafe D'Italia, Columbus Bakery, Biscotti's, Antonio's - but they are scattered across the area. I give Biscotti's a lot of credit for locating their new store right on Salina Street, but it's a lot to ask businesses to relocate to fit within a development plan.

I will give the city credit - I think it's a good idea, and I applaud the initiative. But it's been almost three years since the project started. There needs to be a significant increase in the number of cafes, restaurants, and stores in the four block corridor before Little Italy is more than just a bit of nostalgia plastered on a street sign. I've lived in cities with great Little Italy neighborhoods, most notably Providence, R.I. with its fantastic Federal Hill - there are literally dozens of restaurants, cafes, and shops, all very walkable and VERY busy. The city did a good job with the sidewalk extension, but what it really needed to do was line up a group of investors willing to develop just a few more restaurants right on N. Salina St. It seems to me the key to the success of a project like this is getting the critical mass - once a few restaurants are really successful, more will want to locate in the area, and a virtuous cycle can develop. The key is creating that critical mass.

But we have to be realistic. I noticed there are a lot of other businesses on the street - many, catering to the city's Vietnamese population. I don't have statistics on it, but my casual observations seem to suggest the North Side is home to an increasing number of Vietnamese residents. What about establishing a Little Hanoi (or Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City) in the area? Utilizing the resources that already exist in an area is better (cheaper/more efficient) that having to develop them from scratch. Plus, with a larger Vietnamese population in the area, a Little Hanoi would have an authenticity that I think is lacking from Little Italy.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What It's All About

Syracuse was once famed as the "Salt City". These days, it seems that too many people - from our elected leaders down to our next door neighbors - are just salting the Cuse's game. That's where we begin.

Who are we? We’re twenty-something, native CNYers, with deep local ties and a strong interest in Syracuse’s future. TheAlumnus is a fourth-generation Syracusan who left to attend college and graduate school out of state and is currently living and working in Washington, D.C. Garrett attended Syracuse University and LeMoyne College and today is a sales manager for a CNY firm that deals extensively with local governments across the country. Look for more contributors to join the blog in the near future.

Basically, we decided to move the conversations we have had since high school (back then at Denny’s and Friendly’s on Erie Blvd., these days over beers in Armory) to the Web. We’re not experts in smart growth, economic development, or any other buzzwords, but we do know one thing, or rather, one place, pretty well. Enjoy, and join in!