June 21, 2018

Grains of Salt (v34): One Corner at a Time

Grains of Salt
When My Sweet Baboo and I both worked in downtown Syracuse, we'd get to the center city in time for my 7AM start; I'd stick around until his 5PM end, and we'd meet at the car for the short ride home to The Valley.

We parked in two different lots back in the day - the Trolley Lot behind the Armory (before it was closed to put in a floatables collection station), and then the lot on the corner of Salina and Onondaga, across from the Hotel Syracuse, where we moved when the first lot closed.

The Trolley Lot reopened after three years or so of work, much nicer than it ever was before, but MSB continued to park at Salina/Onondaga until he retired a couple of years ago. Now, that lot is going to get an extreme makeover of its own, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Allyn Family Foundation, a local philanthropic organization.

Early last month, the AFF announced the formation of a new nonprofit organization, the Syracuse Urban Partnership, which will develop our old parking lot into a mixed-use building with apartments, space for philanthropic agencies to collaborate (the AFF will have offices there), and a 'food hall' similar to those we get to see in larger cities like Philly's Reading Terminal Market. The market is designed to help make it possible for folks to get into the restaurant business, such as the ones who have been featured at the With Love project.

The $22M project, which will break ground next year, also involved the City of Syracuse and CenterStateCEO, the local business development organization formed when the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Agency merged a few years back.

Why the plans to repurpose the lot?  Meg O'Connell, the AFF's executive director, explained it in this interview with WVRO. She noted that "the idea of a downtown public market has been floating around for years" but no single organization had taken the lead.
It came to a tipping point where the board of the Allyn Foundation said, we could do this. We could leverage the funds that we have and we could bring all the partners in together and create this great new entity in downtown Syracuse...
You've seen so much great vibrancy going downtown. But this corner, that is really the nexus for where you enter the southeast side of the city, as well as the southwest side of the city, is just kind of crying out for some development. The are clearly challenges with that site, but we really felt that was part of our commitment to downtown to do it specifically on that site.
The challenges O'Connell mentioned? The lot, a couple of blocks from Armory Square, is not far from the Rescue Mission complex, and right down the street from the troubled Clinton Plaza Apartments. A young man was murdered near the lot a few years ago; there have also been reports of drug dealing, solicitation and the like not only during the time the lot was the used solely by folks working on the Hotel Syracuse project, but since.

These challenges are not insurmountable - or, I should say, we cannot consider them to be insurmountable. If we did, there would be no development anywhere other than in the suburbs. And, back to O'Connell,
We have to recognize that the core of the city is important. People ask  "Why this investment in downtown?"  You can't be a suburb of nothing. 
Indeed.

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