Monday, August 18, 2008

Urban News Vol. 28

As promised I am going to deliver some downtown Syracuse development news. Thanks to Joe Lorenz for the links that he included in his ramblings on August 8th. I'm also going to tap his August 13th entry for the first of two bonus stories today. I like to include Syracuse news due to similarities (whether most Rochesterians want to admit it) in many ways to Rochester's struggles to redensify. I think at least one of these stories bears strong resemblance to something talked about in previous installments of Urban News and shows that a fundamental attitude shift isn't happening in a bubble.

by Meghan Rubado, Syracuse Post-Standard

Article Key Points:
  • Proposed Marriott to be the third major downtown development on western edge of downtown
  • Facility would house two hotels, a Courtyard for business travelers, and a Residence Inn for families staying multiple nights
  • 15,000 square feet of first floor retail space are included in the plans
  • Developer and architect previously renovated a former shoe factory in Armory Square
  • Hotels will create 100 full and part-time positions

Of course I believe this is a positive development. Of the three developments cited (the others to be talked about in the next article), all will be infilling the surface parking lots that absolutely dominate the landscape there (regardless of what the clowns in the comments on that story would have you believe). Another key point is that the developers of this well as Jefferson-Clinton Commons get the picture when it comes to integration of living space (permanent and temporary) and retail.

O'Brien & Gere to Relocate 300 Employees to Downtown Syracuse
New York State Gubernatorial Press Release

Key Points:

  • Gov. Patterson personally made the announcement that O'Brien and Gere will relocate its corporate headquartes from DeWitt to downtown
  • 300 employees in addition to the Pioneer Real Estate companies will inhabit the U.S Green Building Council rated and certified structure
  • Building will be directly adjacent to the Marriott site and will occupy yet another "undeveloped parcel."

This story has many parallels to the move of Eastman Savings and Loan's headquarters from suburban Rochester to Chestnut Street. Both are infilling otherwise tragically underutilized urban space with energy efficient buildings. Sadly neither is giving details (that I know of, feel free to tell me I'm wrong) about the way these properties promote street-level activity (and reduced car dependence) through the provision of functional retail or service space beyond a bank branch that promises to be open about 6 hours a day.

I feel that in a way, the votes of confidence that these corporate leaders are giving to the city resonate beyond the proponents/naysayers. These men didn't get where they were by behaving reactively. It is their job to anticipate future business conditions and act accordingly.

Car-sharing Club Plans to Launch Service in Syracuse
by Tim Knauss, Syracuse Post-Standard

Article Key Points:

  • CuseCar was formed to give people the convenience of using a vehicle occasionally without the cost of ownership
  • Similar car-sharing operations have popped up in at least 20 American cities
  • The overall effect is to reduce dependence on automobiles, thus lowering air emissions, fuel consumption, urban sprawl and wear and tear on roads
  • Members pay an annual fee and reserve cars online or by phone, then use an identification card for access

Regardless of my general intolerance for non-commercial/emergency oil-burning personal transportation, this is a step in the right direction because it shows people are beginning to use their imagination to any degree to reduce the sheer number of vehicles on the road. Bear in mind that the production of an automobile uses some finite amount of oil for materials, the electricity to power automated machinery, and apparently vast amounts of water in both the steel and plastics production processes.

I'll end this marathon session with some truly encouraging news from the New York Times no less on the re-emergence of streetcars as downtown revitalizers. The focus is on Cincinnati, hence the rare post tag.

Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future
by Bob Driehaus, New York Times

Article Key Points:

  • Cincinnati officials assembling financing for a $132 million system
  • Six to eight mile loop would connect the city’s riverfront stadiums, downtown business district and uptown neighborhoods
  • At least 40 other cities are exploring streetcar plans to spur economic development and ease traffic congestion
  • Modern streetcars cost about $3 million each and carry up to 130 passengers per car
  • Since Portland plans for their system in 2001, more than 10,000 residential units have been built and $3.5 billion has been invested in property within two blocks of the line
  • Cincinnati City Manager Milton Donohey: "Cincinnati has to compete with other cities for investment. We have to compete for talent and for place of national prominence.”
  • Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman: "We have to plan for the future. I believe in 10 years, we would ask, ‘Why didn’t we do this?’ It will be 10 times more expensive, and the cost of gas will be unaffordable."

I've still got a decent amount on my plate to catch up on blog-wise now that I am pretty firmly entrenched in the city. Next up are west side of the river Main Street recommendations from the charette report and an official blog response to this Rochester Turning question.

I'd just like to reiterate that our tour of the Rochester Regional Community Design Center is only a week away. If you are interested in attending with us, please visit Rochester New Urbanism and Sustainable Development for more information.

1 comment:

JoeBass123 said...

good points about syracuse. it's funny to see the blatant negativity (and maybe even close-mindedness?) of comments in the syracuse.com articles, even when the articles deal with obvious positive developments for downtown.

the car-sharing thing is what i'm most excited about. my car has been a complete mess lately and i think i might just sell it and try being car-free for a little while. not sure if you know already or not, but zipcar has launched a car-sharing service in rochester. i think they've been doing it for about a year now. (zipcar.com). i agree with your points about car-sharing in general. in a perfect world, we could just rely on mass transit, but i think car-sharing is a small step in the right direction. and it gets more cars off the road in the process.

hope everything went well with the new home.