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By Design

We’re in the thick of Connective Corridor construction across three major nodes this month:  1) Armory Square; 2) Fayette-Fireman’s Park, and 3) the underpass area of the I-81 viaduct.  You’ll notice the work if you drive through the city, and you’ve read about traffic issues related to many construction projects in today’s newspaper.  We want to remind you to keep checking the City’s new construction/traffic website, because the number of concurrent DOT/City and Connective Corridor construction projects happening this summer is pretty extraordinary.  They’re a sign of progress as they converge on downtown.  But in a city that is notable for lack of traffic congestion, this summer may sometimes test us (particularly on festival days like today) with major projects happening at I-690 downtown, West Street, Erie Blvd., Onondaga Creek bridge repairs, and three areas of the Connective Corridor under simultaneous construction.
So this is a good chance to remind you that it’s great weather to walk a beautiful city like Syracuse if you’re downtown.  Take a few blocks for a healthy stroll.  It’s good for your health, and may get you there quicker.  And for those headed downtown, there are lots of good alternate routes to get there, and plenty of good places to park when you arrive.
While we’ll get to those construction update later in this issue, we’d like to start with one word:  Design.   (For those who can’t wait, jump to the  construction update here.)
Why talk about design first?  Because that’s where it starts.  The Corridor was conceived exactly 10 years ago this summer when Syracuse University began a dialogue with the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County about ways to create more vibrant connections between the University and the core of the City.  A design competition was held in 2006 by Syracuse University that engaged many academic departments, faculty, staff and students, and community stakeholders about shaping that vision. 
It’s taken a long time to bring vision to fruition – assembling multiple external funding sources and going through complicated regulatory reviews required by federal highway dollars.  But here we are.  And it’s getting even more real as we see the pieces fit into shape this summer with more pedestrian and bicycle pathways, a robust transit system, green spaces, lighting and public art.  Two miles – more than 21,000 linear feet of streets – are being completely rebuilt.  These are streets that have not been rebuilt in decades, some going back 75 years.
Good design is the convergence of form and function.  This project is both.  It’s a multimodal transportation design project as well as a testbed for academic innovators to try out creative solutions for public social space.  We lose perspective over time.  Especially when it takes ten years to see something come into focus.  That’s why it’s relevant to see it through a new set of eyes.  That happened this spring with a visit from Landscape Architecture Magazine.  Let’s start there.

We’re pleased that Syracuse’s Connective Corridor was prominently featured in a 12-page spread in the May 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.  A widely read publication, Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) was founded in 1910 and is the monthly magazine of the American Society of Landscape Architects -- reaching more than 60,000 readers who plan and design projects valued at more than $140 billion each year.  The prestigious publication is available in both print and digital formats by subscription and may also be found each month in more than 200 bookstores across the United States and Canada.
The article was by Alex Ulam, a Cambridge-based freelance journalist who writes frequently on architecture and design.  His work has appeared in the New York Times, Maclean’s, Archeology, Architectural Record, the Architectural Record, the Architect’s Newspaper and other publications.  Alex visited the Corridor during dreary late winter weather.  He chatted with lots of folks, and wrote a nuanced story that tells the tale of a Rust Belt City working on reinventing itself.  And it talks about lessons learned along the way in a complex project like this.  It’s a thoughtful story in an issue that focused on innovation in urban lighting.  We think you’ll enjoy it.
Read the entire article here.
Some excerpts here:  “Now the largest public works project in Syracuse in more than 30 years, a $42.5 million streetscape initiative called the Connective Corridor, is seeking to help the city recover from the tabula rasa era of urban planning by building bridges to its past and to its future. The project is establishing a distinctive design identity and a green ethos along a two-mile route leading from the core of Syracuse University’s imposing 19th-century hilltop campus toward a downtown that is finally awakening after decades of decline …
“The Connective Corridor already is receiving national attention. A 2012 U.S. Green Building Council Global Community Leadership Award recognized Syracuse's leaders for their sustainable initiatives, singling out the work that is taking place along the Connective Corridor. The project includes a three­ for-one tree replacement program, bikeways and rehabilitated parks. Among its ambitious goals is a plan to harvest and manage 22 million gallons of stormwater a year through a network of green roofs, porous pavement, and bioswales …
“Tillett's work along the Connective Corridor also includes work on the OLIN Partnership redesign for Forman Park, originally built in 1839. Here Tillett installed tiny pulsating LED lights in the park's new custom-designed red painted benches.  Tillett, a quietly exuberant woman dressed in black and grays, calls these lights fire­flies. And on a winter's night with the park's historic fountain silent and its many bushes and trees denuded of all greenery, the little specks of flashing light highlight the unusual red benches and create an enchanted environment throughout the space …
“The use of avant-garde lighting schemes to revitalize worn-out buildings and public spaces is not new to Syracuse. In fact, the city has some of the most dramatically lit buildings in the country. One prominent example is the art deco National Grid building, once home to the nation's largest electric utility company, which is bathed top to bottom in a bold colored lighting program created in 1999 by Howard Brandston, the designer of the current lighting plan for the Statue of Liberty. "Because of these long, gray, snowy winters, lighting has been a focus for us," says Linda Dickerson Hartsock, director of the Connective Corridor for the Syracuse University Office of Community Engagement and Economic Development, the entity charged with developing the two-mile route …
“In addition to Tillett's work, the lighting plan for the Connective Corridor includes a facade grant improvement program with requests and guidelines for owners to illuminate their buildings. Hartsock says the facade lighting project will build on Tillett's scheme "so that moving out from the streetscape, we will be lighting up a series of beautiful iconic buildings that go back to the mid-18oos …
“As the most identifiable marker along the Connective Corridor, Tillett's lighting certainly is changing the city's appearance and opening possibilities for the future.  If you think about great European cities, one of the things that I think truly makes them special is the way that they use lighting,” says Hartsock. "Syracuse has a lot of that style of architecture here, and there is so much more that we could do with lighting --looking at it both from a functional point of view and also as art to illuminate a public space …”

Design is a team game

Connective Corridor Project design team credits
Corridor profiles


Much of the Connective Corridor’s design inspiration came from Julia Czerniak and Joe Sisko working together through CLEAR (Czerniak’ s private design practice) and UPSTATE, a program of the Syracuse University School of Architecture that Czerniak founded and Sisko co-directed.  Here’s a little more about Julia and Joe, and their creative partnership that framed the important design strategies for the Corridor.

Julia Czerniak
A professor of architecture at Syracuse University and the inaugural director of UPSTATE: A Center for Design, Research and Real Estate, Czerniak is also a registered landscape architect and founder of CLEAR, an interdisciplinary design practice that focuses on urban landscapes in Rust Belt cities.   She teaches architectural studios as well as seminars on landscape theory and criticism, and her research and practice draw on the intersection of those disciplines.  She recently completed work on a new campus entrance along the Dineen College of Law.  Her work as designer is complemented by a body of writing including a number of books, journals and papers.  Recent  books, Large Parks (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) and Case: Downsview Park Toronto (Prestel and Harvard Design School, 2001), that focus on contemporary design approaches to public parks and the relationship between landscape and cities.  Her third edited volume, Formerly Urban: Projecting Rust Belt Futures (Princeton Architectural Press) was published in 2013 by Princeton Architectural Press.  She lectures and teaches internationally.
Joe Sisko
As Assistant Director of UPSTATE: A Center for Design, Research and Real Estate, Joe has taught classes at the Syracuse University School of Architecture, bringing an entrepreneurial approach to public space, master planning and research projects from concept to implementation.  He is particularly interested in urban design and commerce in ways that foreground design while exploiting untapped markets, technological opportunities and underutilized local resources.  His work at UPSTATE has involved conceptualizing innovative urban design and planning proposals on behalf of the institute and Syracuse University on high visibility projects.  Joe actively participated in conceptual design for Forman Park, Warehouse Park, Case Supply redevelopment and green infrastructure for Otisco Street, as well as the Connective Corridor.  He was the designer for Syracuse Stage’s new plaza and key element of the Civic Strip such as wayfinding signage and a new series of “Kinections” interactive kiosks to be installed over the next year.  He has been very involved in Near Westside master plan development, as well as research work around rethinking 81.  Prior to SU, he was principal of Cell Studio, a practice focused on materials research, experimental wall systems, architectural design and sustainable systems.  Joe is a multi-skilled, multi-faceted talent who is equally comfortable designing public space and designing interactive digital interfaces.  He has been an absolutely integral member of the team, and prides himself on being self-motivated, organized and intellectually curious.  As he puts it well, he’s “known as the guy who can do just about everything,” and that’s true – whether it’s advanced building materials using advanced parametric and algorithmic design, or re-conceptualizing large public space.  Joe has tackled it from a strong intellectual framework and come up with innovative approaches that are truly entrepreneurial and sometimes at “the fringe of the profession” in his words.  That cutting-edge is where Joe richly interweaves his passion for design planning and research his passion for high quality.  Both are his forte. 

Focus on our design partner:  UPSTATE

In 2005 the Syracuse University School of Architecture, under the new leadership of then dean Mark Robbins, established UPSTATE, an interdisciplinary center focusing on design, research and real estate, with the goal of expanding the impact of architecture and planning in the post-industrial city.
Under the direction of Julia Czerniak since 2008, later by Marc Norman in 2012, UPSTATE has pursued diverse projects and activities. It partnered with regional non-profits and university centers to sponsor From the Ground Up, a multi-phase project focusing on innovative green residential design as a catalyst for neighborhood redevelopment.  UPSTATE was a partner with CLEAR in the design of the Connective Corridor, an effort to revitalize the major avenues that link the campus with downtown, and the Near Westside Initiative, which is using various strategies, including the LEED Neighborhood Development guidelines, to reinvigorate an inner-city district.  UPSTATE has been leading conceptual design work for the Civic Strip component of the Connective Corridor.
Throughout that time, UPSTATE also organized conferences, including UPSTATE: Downtown, UPSTATE: Public-Private and Formerly Urban: Projecting Rust Belt Futures, which explored the challenges facing Syracuse and other cities "whose character has devolved radically due to economic, demographic and physical change." It has extended its programs via exhibitions such as Syracuse Builds: After the Masterplan and collaborated on publication series such as New City Books, with From the Ground Up and Formerly Urban. 
UPSTATE and Olin worked to assemble the various urban design elements prepared for the Corridor’s “kit of parts” and conducted design charrettes to refine and expand proposals.  They were also tasked with working with B&L to gauge public sentiment to the design elements in the “kit of parts” and provide necessary research and development of new materials, determine reputable suppliers for materials, amenities and installation, and assist in cost estimating. 

About the School of Architecture
The School of Architecture at Syracuse University offers bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture that are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Both undergraduate and graduate programs rank among the best in the country according to "America's Best Architecture & Design Schools" 2010 published by Design Intelligence). SU’s School of Architecture was established in 1873 and is the fourth oldest architecture program in the country.
B&L Design Team
A multidisciplinary design team worked with CLEAR and SU’s School of Architecture to implement the vision. 

They included:  John P. Donohue, P.E., Mary Rowlands, Jeffrey B. Nadge, R.L.A, LEED AP. Senior Project Landscape Architect, B&L and James Laird, Jr, R.L.A. who was assigned to work closely with Julia Czerniak.  B&L’s role was to further advance the creative thinking and contemporary urban design principals from CLEAR and UPSTATE and concepts that emerged from the design completion toward preliminary plans, final design and implementation.  Collectively, the B&L team has worked on numerous transportation and community design projects including urban and rural trails and greenways, urban streetscapes, plaza and public park design, and recreational facilities.  B&L’s role was to transition design concepts by CLEAR and UPSTATE into the built environment.
A key consultant was Brooklyn-based Linnea Tillett of Tillett Lighting Design who has worked in a variety of settings such as public plazas, parks and landscapes and gardens.  Her work in pedestrian lighting for urban environments was used to establish guidelines for various New York City neighborhoods.  Her writings have been published internationally and her projects have received several awards.
Together, the team was also responsible for integrating and absorbing design research conducted by various university departments and student groups within the project scheme.

Paint it red

Why red?  It’s the most common question we hear.  Haven’t you wondered, too? 

The color red was part of the concept advanced by Field Operations and CLEAR (Professor Julia Czerniak’s design firm), through a design competition for the Corridor.  Field Operations and CLEAR were the competition winners and UPSTATE (part of SU’s School of Architecture) then worked with brand consultant Pentagram and others to develop a spectrum of reds to be used across the Corridor.  Former Chancellor Nancy Cantor was part of the design review team and endorsed red as the color of choice.  From that, a “kit of parts” was developed by B&L, Olin, Pentagram, Tillett Lighting and SU’s School of Architecture that included branded design elements such as street furniture and lighting using red color values.
“Distinctive and contrasting red values are intended to pay respect to historical values existing on the corridor, while energizing and extending precedents already set in the area,”  according to materials developed for the “kit of parts.”  Red was selected to convey energy and momentum, and create vibrancy and vitality through four-seasons, particularly winter.  “Novelty and flexibility in form and format is built into this system … and should establish a consistent attitude for the streets of Syracuse,” according to the design team.  The red color complimented the sense of movement, motion and flow conveyed by the Ohm typefact in the "USE" branding package developed by Pentagram, working with CLEAR, UPSTATE, the Syracuse School of Architecture, Olin and B&L.
But just as important as the color selection was the aggregation of elements.  Czerniak wrote about that deliberate rationale in “New Geographies, 3:  Urbanisms of Color, published by the Harvard Graduate School of Design.  In her scholarly article, “Accumulations,” she writes about how a brightly colored ground plane can lend coherence to accumulation through what urban theorist Roger Sherman calls “radical incrementalism.”  She describes it as a “design strategy that ‘utilizes accumulation as a means of producing character and identity’ across an urban field in lieu of master planning.”
“In a city such as Syracuse, New York, where growth is not an option,” she writes, “accumulation is a viable, potent strategy for positive change.  Cumulated color can lend identity and coherence to a large urban landscape, enabling projects to accrue over time while remaining legible.  That the identifying color – red – of the Syracuse Connective Corridor has persevered through a series of project iterations, shifting design teams, stakeholder inputs, and review agencies, is a testament to its promise of making a visible streetscape within a city of otherwise muted colors.”
“The projects’ winning competition entry by Field Operations in partnership with CLEAR advanced a concept that is still vital to the ongoing work,” she noted.  And the impact of that “accumulation?” It’s a “system with greater force than its individual assets,” concluded Czerniak.

Paint it black

Okay, enough about design.  Now onto construction.  This is the week we paint it black.  That may be your favorite Rolling Stones song, but it’s not what that means in the construction world.  Paint is black means asphalt time.  After weeks of street and sidewalk construction, we paved the street with black asphalt concrete. 

For history buffs, the use of asphalt/bitumen for waterproofing and as an adhesive dates at least to the fifth millennium B.C. in the early Indus community of Mehrgarh.  It hasn’t been that long since West Fayette Street was reconstructed, but it’s been 75 years.  So, this this complete street reconstruction is not a top coat.  It’s a thick, solid asphalt concrete pour that is designed to last a few decades. 
And here is a little more trivia for you.  There’s a green side to painting it black:  Asphalt concrete pavement material typically contains 5% asphalt/bitumen cement and 95% aggregates (stone, sand, and gravel).  Asphalt concrete road surfaces contain the most widely recycled materials in the U.S., both by gross tonnage and by percentage. According to a recent industry survey conducted by the Federal Highway Administration and the National Asphalt Pavement Association, more than 99% of the asphalt removed each year from road surfaces during widening and resurfacing projects is reused as part of new pavements, roadbeds, shoulders and embankments.
And, even better … Central New York is the heart of New York’s asphalt production economy.  So, all this roadwork that is giving you the blues.  Not only is it green and sustainable, it’s good for the economy when we paint it black!

Paint it blue


This week volunteers brought Flowscape to life.  A project designed by local architect Jason Evans, it was painted with assistance from the Downtown Committee, 40 Below Public Arts Task Force and volunteers like our own Connective Corridor Engagement Scholar Quinton Fletchall.  The temporary public art installation – a sky-blue motif designed to induce the aesthetic of movement, was conceived to draw attention to the former Centro bus terminal at corner of Fayette/Salina and Perseverance Park. 

The City of Syracuse has identified redevelopment of that area as a major priority, and Connective Corridor/Civic Strip funds have been designated as part of that effort.  A formal design competition will be launched soon, and ideas for redevelopment of this public space are welcome via Twitter @parkpotential.
It’s interesting that the temporary installation invokes the nomenclature Flowscape, especially since flowscaping is a cognitive mapping technique – similar to the process that the City is going through to re-imagine the Fayette/Salina node.  It’s theorized that the diagramming used to construct a flowscape resembles concept mapping, offering a topographical view of a stream of consciousness around an idea. The book Water Logic introduced the flowscape technique.  The temporary installation at the Fayette/Salina node looks very much like a water logic flowscape – perhaps by chance, or perhaps intentionally.  Let the ideas flow.

Façade application period extended
Just a reminder that our Round Three Façade Grant Application period is still open and we are still accepting proposals.  Learn more and download the application here.
Construction update

There are three nodes under Connective construction right now, so here is the run-down on each:
  1. West Fayette Street/Armory Square area:  Work at the end of the month involved wrapping up the south side of the 300 and 200 block area, with finishing work installing the pavers, curbing, sidewalks and street lighting, along with National Grid vault work.  There is some major National Grid work (unrelated to the Corridor) going on concurrently in the vault area in the Franklin and Fayette intersection, and this intensive work by National will continue for at least two weeks.  Paving work was largely completed on the southbound lane.  Next week, work begins on the north side of West Fayette Street in the 300 block, primarily in front of the Warehouse.  The crew is expecting to switch over to street reconstruction on the north side in the 200 and 300 blocks of West Fayette sometime around June 16.  For area businesses on West Fayette closer to Salina Street who have been asking, Corridor work will not be in that stretch for about three months – although National Grid vault work will be occurring in the Salina intersection area.
  2. State/Townsend/East Genesee and East Fayette/Fireman’s Park area:  Major Corridor construction work is now going on concurrently in the area around Fireman’s Park.  This is to keep the project advancing as National Grid completes its work in the Armory Square area.  There is intense excavation happening around the park in the East Fayette area between Townsend and State Streets.  Next week you’ll see excavation on State Street between Fayette and Genesee Streets, along with green infrastructure going in (a good chance to see green infrastructure up close).  There will be underdrain and curb grading work on Fayette between Townsend and State Streets, and along State Street.  The crew is working hard to get the area around Fayette-Fireman’s Park buttoned up, and interior sidewalks re-opened.  You’ll see curbing being set around the park, along with pavers going in the week of June 16, with the sidewalk being poured on the East Fayette side later the week of June 16, weather permitting.  There are still a few weeks to go to finish up the interior side.  It will be lovely when it’s done. 
  3.  East Genesee Street between McBride and Forman Ave/Route 81 underpass area:  The week of June 9 and June 16, expect to see excavation on East Genesee Street between Townsend and Almond Streets, along with finegrading in that stretch toward the end of the second week.  The city is also installing drainage units in that area.  You can see those units in place in the underpass area now.  This work has necessitated some street closures between Route 81 and McBride.  Check the city traffic detour website for updates.
Reminders about construction helplines
We want to remind you about useful ways to reach a team member if you have questions or concerns.  All the contact info is here on a special webpage.   Or, look for a team member in a white hat.  That person is a project manager and has answers.  As a team, we’re committed to service and quick responses to any questions.  Reach out to us.

Enjoy A Taste of Syracuse this weekend!
Come downtown!



Don't miss Syracuse Rising:  What's Next
A joint event sponsored by Believe in Syracuse with the Connective Corridor at the Black Olive
Wednesday, June 11 at 6 p.m.

Featuring Bob Doucette, Ben Walsh and Richard Sykes, with a look at major public and private sector investment happening along the Corridor downtown.  Come to a construction party!

Learn more and sign up here
The Connective Corridor is a collaboration of Syracuse University, the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County
Syracuse University Office of Community Engagement and Economic Development
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