More than 200 people, including public officials, area residents and community leaders, participated in two recent all-day sessions to discuss the Connective Corridor, a proposed link between Syracuse University and downtown Syracuse. The sessions, sponsored by Syracuse University and National Grid, resulted in a wide array of ideas and information about the Connective Corridor, including thoughts on various design elements for the project, and ways in which Syracuse University, the City of Syracuse and the community can work together on the project. The sessions were held Dec. 1 and 2.
Leading the discussions was Casey Jones, an architectural and design professional who is developing a competition among professional design firms to create a master plan for the Connective Corridor. Jones has been retained by Syracuse University, which is partnering with the City of Syracuse to implement the project. “The goal of the Connective Corridor is to create a more lively link between the University and downtown,” Jones says. “It is exciting to think that the community will have a direct hand in shaping a vision for the Corridor.”
While many of those participating see the Connective Corridor as a way to improve the city’s landscape and design, others also envision the project as a vehicle for business and cultural development in the city, according to Eric Persons, director of Engagement Initiatives at Syracuse University, who helped coordinate the sessions. “Overall, participants viewed the Connective Corridor as one step among many needed to attract students, residents and visitors to downtown Syracuse and the University Hill,” Persons says.
Many of the participants offered comments about the future of Interstate 81, with several people recommending removal of the highway from the city’s center. Others suggested using the elevated highway as a canvas for murals and community art.
One major concern voiced during the sessions was the question of safety for those using the Connective Corridor. Traffic improvements, pedestrian and bicycle pathways, and efficient public transportation between the University Hill and downtown Syracuse were mentioned as ways to address the issue of safety. Other safety concerns discussed were police patrols, lighting and snow removal. Participants suggested that the best way to ensure a safe environment is to have activities and attractions that will draw people downtown on a regular basis.
Collaboration and cooperation among different project stakeholders were important themes expressed during the sessions, according to Persons. “Several participants expressed the need to include residents and youth in the design process by conducting specific planning exercises with those groups,” he says. “Participants also stated the need to incorporate the concerns of neighborhoods and communities outside the University Hill and downtown areas as a way to promote use of the corridor.”
In addition to sharing their goals and concerns, participants were asked for ideas regarding specific aspects of the corridor. Each of the four sessions were devoted to one element of the project: economic and community development; arts and culture in the community; transportation, technology and services; and landscape and public space improvements. Participants were separated into groups and given a particular question to answer. Specific topics included increasing park space, opening additional restaurants and shops, developing family-friendly activities, offering free wireless Internet service, and building spaces for community art exhibitions. Suggested design concepts included distinctive signage and lighting, historical markers and bringing some type of trolley back as a form of public transportation.
Syracuse University and National Grid are planning to host additional sessions with stakeholder groups identified by those attending the public sessions on December 1-2. The information collected during all of the sessions will be provided to up to four firms selected for the design competition, which is expected to be launched in early 2006. The goal of the competition is to select the design firm that develops the best vision for the Connective Corridor including the transportation and road improvements outlined by state and local governments.
The information and ideas expressed during the public sessions will be posted on the project web site at http://connectivecorridor.syr.edu. In compliance with the design competition guidelines, the information will not be posted until the four professional design teams are announced.