Facade Grants Useful

Post-Standard letter to the Editor.

February 9, 2009

To the Editor:

In Sunday's article on reviving downtown, John L. Gann Jr. rallies against facade renovation grants as if that is where virtually all the city's efforts and development dollars are focused. Facade grants are a tiny component of economic development. However, they stimulate renovation projects many times the grant value, as well as beautify the city and attract more residents.

Gann argues that we can't achieve real change by just changing our looks. I agree. But Gann's formula is change through marketing (he's a marketing guy), but that's an even greater emphasis on "looks". Marketing is fine. But it should be based on true great things that are happening, not just embellishment. We must create those things.

We should focus our energies on structural changes and rethink our economic development policies and incentive programs. People want community. People are attracted to places with high cultural vitality. Where people want to live, jobs follow. A culturally vibrant city core makes for a strong city. A strong city makes for strong suburbs. Let's stop pushing downtown into being a glorified office park, and instead bring back the mixed-use residential commercial environment that existed before poorly conceived economic development policies destroyed it. People spend 3/4 of their income where they live, and only 1/4 where they work. If downtown office workers---many of whom live outside Syracuse---moved into Syracuse and their offices moved to the suburbs, the economic and cultural vitality of Syracuse would improve dramatically.

Bring on the facade grants, historic preservation grants, residential development, great schools, business development from within, plus more and broader diversity of residents. Structural change (economic and cultural) for a sustainable and prosperous future.

Carlo Moneti