CNY-Speaks Downtown Revitalization Issues

Summary view of the major issues defined by CNY-Speaks for downtown revitalization.

September 9, 2009

I wasn't able to attend the last CNY-Speaks public discussion on downtown Syracuse revitalization plans. However I sent the following comments to the CNY-Speaks organizers.

Economic Development

Lets reverse the creation of downtown as a glorified office park. Let's return to a mixed-use, walkable, urban development. Don't bother giving incentives to big offices; switch policy toward residential development. let offices move to Dewitt if that's their unsubsidized preference. The city will be far better off economically and culturally if workers from outside the city moved into the city and worked outside of it. People spend more money where they live than where they work. Downtown is too small and isolated. We should promote dense mixed-use development several blocks in all directions.....which can be greatly facilitated by...>

Parking & Transportation

Take down I81. Don't build a wide or fast boulevard (we don't want to encourage through traffic to use it, and we don't want the rest of traffic to gravitate to the same road by default); build a regular main street. Create exits as far south as Seneca Tnpk to encourage better dispersion of traffic across the street grid. Take down I690 as well, so we can eliminate the whole spaghetti junction. Then we can turn Adams, Harrison, Clinton, and West streets back to normal sized two-way streets. Traffic will actually improve dramatically, and all those streets could easily be transformed into walkable development.

As to parking, there is too much. Much less will be needed with fewer large offices—who's employees each consume one parking spot all day (no turn-over). We should vastly improve public transportation; it is the required infrastructure to encourage the development of walkable communities.

Establish at least one north/south and east/west pedestrian way (also for bikes and street car) that cross downtown. It creates safe (well-lighted, lots of eyes) path to which people will naturally gravitate and gather. The properties along these ways will quickly sprout apartments and condos, shops, hotels, restaurants, and small offices.

Arts & Aesthetics

Treat cultural development as 50% of economic development. In the final analysis, a city's economic vitality is driven by its cultural vitality. People want community, and are attracted to culturally rich environments. Don't allow throw-away architecture; establish standards that will enhance the city's aesthetics. Establish 5 year urban development plans; they are "action" plans. 25 year plans are "concept" documents; they should not take the place of 5 year plans. More city money should go to cultural development, and there should probably be a city department of cultural affairs. The mish-mash of non-profits with shaky financing isn't enough. Again, treat cultural development as 50% of economic development.

Crime & Safety

What crime? Doesn't downtown have pretty much the lowest crime rate in the city? And on a per-capita basis (considering the daytime population), isn't it vastly lower? We should stop treating the issue as if it's legitimate. Just put out the statistics and the issue will fade away.