Monday, April 19, 2010

Just Design for the Main Street of Syracuse

During my visit to Syracuse on the 14th and 15th of April, I had a chance to visit the downtown area, around S. Salina Street. There are lots of people working in the area and passing through, but not enough to fill the space or support a lively commercial presence. I was wondering about this as I walked around. I noticed three problems that I have seen addressed in other places, and to good effect.

The first problem was emptiness -- there are a lot of parking lots around downtown Syracuse, and a very large public plaza which is good for summer festivals but contributes to the void at this time of year. Filling in some of the spaces would help to make the place more viable. In an earlier post I talked about Tom Low's sprawl repair: that would be a good tactic in Syracuse. Additionally, urban renewal and highway construction have created voids between downtown and the neighborhoods and the reconnection of downtown with the surrounding areas would be a great blessing. Some of this reconnection has started by telling Professor Kendall Phillips leads a public memory project, and at the Public Memory site you can hear the wonderful stories of the old 15th Ward..

Second, the area was redlined in the 1930s, and the uneven development continues, and contributes to a sense of class and race divisions that make the area unstable. Making it more open would do much to improve the stability of the area. Syracuse University has started a "connective corridor" to connect the university to the city. I am not convinced that "corridor" is the right metaphor to count redlining in spirit or form: time will tell.

Third, the area lacked trees and green. Syracuse has a short growing season, so evergreens would be very helpful for the streetscape. I saw a wonderful art project on the quad at the University of Syracuse in which a tree was dressed in a crocheted gown, and made it very colorful. This is a creative solution to the problem of a late spring.

Design that springs from justice has the potential to reknit this wonderful city and unleash its creative potential.

No comments: