A three-mile-long pedestrian pathway and an accompanying public shuttle bus circuit will link Syracuse University and downtown Syracuse’s arts institutions, entertainment venues and public spaces–emphasizing a “new city within the old” and encouraging area residents, students and visitors to experience the city’s many cultural treasures and resources, according to a plan announced on March 21.

The pedestrian route would function as urban artwork, offering a unique combination of public art, signage, historical information and a lighted pathway scheme that together would form a highly visible symbol of regeneration and growth.

The Connective Corridor project was described at a morning news conference at Syracuse Stage. Participating were Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor; Virginia Carmody, district representative from the office of Rep. Jim Walsh; William F. Edwards, president of Niagara Mohawk, a National Grid company; SU Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement Thomas J. Walsh; and Alan Rothschild, president of the East Genesee Regents Association and a member of the University Hill Corporation board.

“This is a tremendously exciting project,” Cantor said. “Syracuse has a well-earned reputation as a crucible for innovative thought. The Connective Corridor will only serve to enhance this by facilitating the convergence of our many talents and energies.”

The Connective Corridor will be created through a combination of public and private funds. At the news conference, Edwards announced the first private pledge–$1 million over the next two years from National Grid.

“We’re very pleased to be a corporate sponsor of the Connective Corridor,” Edwards said. “Eliminating the physical and cultural barriers that have traditionally separated our university and our city can make a world of difference in how we, as a community, see ourselves. And, importantly, it will make a significant difference in how our region is viewed by others who may want to move their family or their business here, or by those who simply want to stay in this area after graduation. I applaud Chancellor Cantor and Congressman Walsh for their vision and for their commitment to this project.”

Congressman Walsh secured the first public commitment–$3.5 million allocated for the project in the 2005 federal highway reauthorization bill passed March 9 by the House of Representatives.

“I am proud to have secured $3.5 million in the 2005 Transportation Bill for this project to better link the University Hill community to the resources and opportunities available in downtown Syracuse,” says Congressman Walsh. “The streetscape improvements first presented to me by the East Genesee Regents Association and the University Hill Corporation have been taken to a new level with Chancellor Cantor’s plan to connect with downtown. With the added support of National Grid, this concept–while serving a very practical transportation purpose–will change the way we think about university/community interactions and partnerships.”

“This project, at its very core, is all about collaboration,” Cantor said. “We have an amazing array of people who are ready–and eager–to create something truly exceptional. At the forefront are Bill Edwards and National Grid and Congressman Jim Walsh. Their support is instrumental in making this idea a reality.”

Among the numerous venues, independent organizations and artists along the corridor: the Syracuse Stage/SU Drama complex, the new Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company/Community Folk Art Center facility (805 East Genesee St.), the Everson Museum of Art, the Oncenter, the War Memorial Auditorium, the John H. Mulroy Civic Center, the Onondaga Historical Association Museum, The Media Unit, the Downtown Writer’s Center, the Landmark Theatre, the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology and historic Armory Square, and The Warehouse, a property being developed by SU on West Fayette Street.

Lighting and landscaping enhancements, benches, signage, bus shelters and public art will punctuate the Connective Corridor’s pedestrian pathway. The relatively level and unencumbered route makes walking, running and biking all very practical possibilities. Most significant is the opportunity to create a viable pathway to spur economic activity uniquely offered by foot traffic that promotes exploration and serendipitous discovery.

The proposed shuttle bus circuit through downtown would further enhance patronage of venues along the pathway and would also intersect with the existing bus system serving the University Hill, enabling college students to also access the Connective Corridor’s offerings.

The project’s economic impact will benefit area hotels, museums, entertainment venues, community retail and specialty stores, and restaurants. The Connective Corridor also has potential for future development and expansion within the city.

An invited competition, drawing upon both nationally recognized and local design talent, will be conducted for the design of the master plan, which would serve as a blueprint for the conceptual and physical framework of the overall project. Interdisciplinary teams of architects, landscape architects, and graphic and industrial designers will be asked to propose their vision for the corridor in the form of drawings and computer simulations. Proposals will also be requested for specific designs for bus shelters, benches, lighting standards and future art commissions.

Competition images will be exhibited at SU and downtown, and a community forum will be held in response to the proposals before the winning team is selected. A jury of design peers and representatives from the community and SU will be assembled to review the entries and select the winning team.

“I am excited about Syracuse University’s plan for connecting the main campus and downtown,” Rothschild said. “East Genesee Street serves as the gateway to both the University Hill area and downtown. The East Genesee Street area has recently seen a resurgence of many major projects such as the Marx Hotel, the Time Warner building and the Genesee Grand Hotel. The new corridor plan will take the revitalization of East Genesee Street to the next level.”

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