Thursday, May 22, 2008

Case Study - Syracuse, NY - Vol. 2

This post will serve as the practical companion to my quasi-realtime Volume 1. Syracuse is the 5th in my series of city case studies following Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the St. Petersburg area, and Scranton. Tentative plans for the post series include profiling Toronto, Buffalo, and Ottawa from past experience and an immersion style Cleveland entry if I can reconcile the rail schedule (currently only leaving Rochester at 11PM daily and arriving at 3:30AM). (Photo by Emilie Eagan - CC A-N-SA 2.0 License)

I lived in what you could call the Syracuse area (Cazenovia) for 3 months in 2001. It's location also makes it convenient for day trips. It's unlikely I will be putting forth any hidden gems, but that is what this blog is for.

Getting to Syracuse

Situated just south of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90), Syracuse nevertheless found a way to bring high-speed traffic to service (destroy?) their central business district via elevated highway, the Interstates 690 and 81. 81 is the main North-South connection to Watertown, the Thousand Islands, and Ottawa northbound and Binghamton, Scranton, and Harrisburg southbound. 690 is a northwest to southeast route across the top of downtown that constitutes a shortcut to Rochester, Buffalo and points west. Interstate 481 creates an eastern and northern suburb loop while acting officially as a downtown bypass.

The William Walsh Regional Transportation Center, located not downtown, but near the northern city limits, serves as a multimodal station offering Greyhound and Trailways buses in addition to Amtrak along the Empire Corridor. Cities linked directly by a single train include Chicago, South Bend, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Schenectady, Albany, Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Boston, and New York. The station is served often by intracity buses to downtown and other area destinations. This will be covered in more detail in the Getting Around Syracuse section.

Flying in and out of Syracuse is made possible at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport located a few miles north of the city. The airport boasts the world's largest snowplow at 32 feet, 3 inches wide. JetBlue is the lone low-cost carrier of the seven currently in operation which combined offer direct service to Fort Lauderdale, New York, Orlando, Detroit, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Newark, Cleveland, Atlanta, and Cincinnati.

Downtown Syracuse

Situated about a mile and a half southeast of Onondaga Lake and generally bounded by I-690 to the North, I-81 to the East, West Street to the West, and Adams Street to the South, downtown Syracuse is the business and activity center of a multi-county area containing over 700,000 residents and an economy that rates eight of its eleven top employers in the education or service industries. (Photo by Jiashiang Wang - CC A 2.0 License)

Downtown is home to the majority of the large cultural institutions and civic equipment in Syracuse. The Landmark Theatre on South Salina Street is home to shows, lectures and concerts in addition to similar events taking place at the Mulroy Civic Center's three differently sized theatre spaces. The Civic Center is technically part of and operated by OnCenter, the city's primary convention center. Also part of the OnCenter complex is the vintage 1950 Onondaga County War Memorial arena, home of the AHL Syracuse Crunch hockey team, affiliated with the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Flickr User: elh70 - CC A-N-NDW 2.0 License)

At the western end of the downtown lies the Armory Square district, Syracuse's primary dining, drinking, and entertainment quarter. Armory Square distinguishes itself from the Carousel Center "business district" in that it has retained many old building with quality architecture, maintained proper frontages where it hasn't and provides not only living arrangements, but also non-retail commercial space. The mini-district caters to all crowds including the pub scene, the sports bar crowd, and the dance club set. The Sound Garden on Walton Street is a must-visit for music fans. (Photo by Flickr User: sipes23 - CC A-N-NDW 2.0 License)

Anchoring the district during the day and occupying the area's namesake is the Museum of Science and Technology currently featuring the Ocean Oasis and Technotown exhibits as well as a domed IMAX Onimtheater.

Extended Downtown Districts

On the east side of Interstate 81 lies the educational and medical center of Central New York. The University Hill neighborhood is home to nationally prominent Syracuse University as well as the state-run Upstate Medical University and College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The Hill is also home to a VA Medical Center and the private Crouse Memorial Hospital.

Getting Around Syracuse

With the demise of OnTrack, Centro, the public bus system, is the only form of public transportation remaining in Syracuse. With 30 base routes and numerous derivatives and extensions (Syracuse uses a three digit number for routes that are derived from a base route and either extended or modified), Onondaga County is given significant coverage to downtown with additional transfer nodes at the Regional Transportion Center as well as area shopping malls. Base fare is $1 with their website implying a zone system requiring additional cash payments for longer trips, but I haven't been able to determine the zone boundaries. Like RGRTA, many routes continue through downtown creating some single seat rides not requiring transfers. Unlike RGRTA, transfers are free, but there is no one day pass.

Accomodations in Syracuse

I have not stayed in any Syracuse area hotels so I will include only the four closest to the downtown core to facilitate the pedestrian and/or transit only experience. Room rates reflect a 5/31 booking at time of authoring.

Econo Lodge University

Located just north of the 81/690 multiplex, Rooms go for $85-$95 a night.

Renaissance Syracuse Hotel
701 E. Genesee St. Syracuse, NY

Just east of I-81 at the foot of University Hill, this cylindrical monument to modernism has been renovated by Marriott and offers rooms from $109 to $169 per night.

Parkview Hotel

Just down the street from the Marriott is the Parkview Hotel overlooking Foreman Park. The hotel is a fully restored building that was renovated as an 83 unit hotel and opened May 2005. The prices range from $109 (King) to $139 (Suite).

Jefferson Clinton Hotel

This 68 room, 11 story hotel was built in 1927 right in the heart of Armory Square. Likely the closest hotel to the downtown business district, rates take care of the high end traveler, starting at $189 and ending at $319 for an executive suite.

1 comment:

thethirdcoast said...

Al's Whiskey Lounge is also a must for drunks with expensive taste like me!

The pizza joint down there is also fantastic for the 2 AM munchies. Much better than street meat.