5.29.2013

[re-activate the perimeter]

We all know that Clinton Square acts as the unofficial center of the city and region, acting as common gathering place for all walks of life.  Concerts, festivals, ice skating, people watching, lunch eating, farmers market shopping, and even fountain wading are among the activities that give the square its life.  The square has a fantastic backdrop of historic and monumental architecture [and yes, a few not-as-nice buildings as well], green space, the fountain, and the monument – what’s not to love about it?  Despite all of this, though, there are many times the square feels empty and uninteresting.  Its not the fault of the square itself, but rather the inactive perimeter of the square.
 

The north and south sides of Clinton Square were formerly lined with plenty of shops, food purveyors, the city’s opera house, the county courthouse, and the regional electric rail depot, so it goes without saying that there were plenty of people interacting around the perimeter.  Fast forward to today, and all of those buildings are long gone, with the introverted Atrium building to the south -- a failed attempt at a mall-like department store -- and the Post Standard building to the north.  Both offer little to no presence along the square, other than their hulking mass, and the passerby can only do just that – pass them by.  In order to make the buildings, and consequently Clinton Square, more engaging, they need to be opened up to the street.


The Post Standard is moving most of its operations to their new build-out in the Merchants Commons building a few blocks away, so a good chunk of space in their Clinton Square building will shortly be vacated.  The building’s fa├žade is organized into a series of repetitive bays, so this could offer the perfect opportunity to reactivate the square side into a series of storefronts.  There is a lot of sidewalk space on that side of the building which would be ideal for restaurants and cafes to set up outdoor seating – just think of what a popular summer spot that would be to dine while gazing out at the beautiful square.  And likewise in the winter, warm behind large panes of glass, one can glance out the window and see the ice skaters in the shadow of the impressive glittering tree.

It'd take little investment for a whole lot of gain [hey Post Standard -- get ahold of me and I can help you figure it out!], re-establishing a level of constant energy into Clinton Square that it sorely deserves.

5.14.2013

[reigniting]



Time to get back into the swing of things.   

A lot has been going on in Syracuse these days, and aside from a few facebook posts here and there, I’ve been pretty mum.  This blog is being reignited with new energy, once again reflecting on the goings-on around town and interjecting ideas to tap into underutilized potential.  Amongst the furious typing and photoshoppery that will be going on, I will be working on wrapping up the neighborhood print series so that no single Syracuse neighborhood is left out of the mix.  The summertime is full of art shows, and you will be able to find the [re]think syracuse prints, shirts, and more at a good number of them.  Stop by and see what is new!  And of course, if you feel like being a recluse, you can order goods via the new [re]think syracuse online store.  Here’s a listing of the next few art shows where you can find me:

SALTQuarters grand opening:  Wednesday, May 15th from 4pm - 7:30pm.  115 Otisco St

Funky Flea:  Saturday, June 1st from 10am - 4pm.  Everson Plaza

Syracuse Arts and Crafts Festival:  July 26th - 28th from 10am - 5pm.  Columbus Circle

4.14.2013

[the goods | new and improved]

Oh hey -- now you can get all the [re]think syracuse goods that you've been longing for via the fancy new online store!  Check it out, click some buttons, and the goods will show up at your door.

12.12.2012

[the goods]

Aside from the blogging [which has been a bit... slow lately], a side tangent of artisticness has resulted in a whole slew of [re]think syracuse goods that have been popping up at various syracuse art shows and have been for sale for some time at Craft Chemistry on North Salina.  Everything has been lovingly created by hand so that you can proudly display your love for the Salt City.  Check out the goods page for a look at everything that is currently available.

8.28.2012

[creekwalk | engaging esplanade]

The creekwalk certainly offers a great pathway for strolling, but other than a few benches scattered along its length, it offers little else for users to engage with.  The creekwalk could benefit from layering additional uses that would act as additional draw for other users.  Lets take a quick look at the brand new EastRiver Esplanade in NYC for some great examples:


Aside from an assortment of benches and some picnic tables in Clinton Square and adjacent to the federal building, there aren’t many options for the downtown office worker to sit and eat lunch outside.  The Esplanade offers high seating, along a broad railing that doubles as countertop-like surface, so one can gaze out at the river while eating.  This strategy could be easily incorporated along the creekwalk, either in the same manner or perhaps in a reimagined way that is stepped into the slope down toward the creek.


The Esplanade also boasts a well-appointed dog park that brings neighborhood dog-owners together while Fido burns off some energy.  The 4-or-5 car shock of parking/pavement that was oddly added just west of the MOST comes to mind as a great location for this – although its wasteful to pull out new material, the size and proximity of this spot are perfect.  The addition of a dog park would of course add a bit of work for the parks department to maintain it, but the benefits to downtown residents [and their dogs] as well as the smiles of passers-by surely outweigh the maintenance.

There already are a few moments and events that draw people to the creekwalk, like the Loch West Monster and the annual creek float parade, but there could be far more.  How about a playground or two for children [and adults too – you know that you like the occasional zip down a slide]?  And a smattering of hot-spot nodes for laptop and gadget users to hang out?  Lets invite a few vendors to establish a summer pop-up food stand creekside.  Or maybe an engaging water feature?  There are countless possibilities – we just need to start realizing the full potential of our very own Esplanade, the creekwalk.

7.19.2012

[creekwalk | beautiful sewage]

photo taken from archdaily
Lets remain at the area around the Hiawatha Boulevard bridge a bit longer to discuss an area of future potential along the creekwalk.  What if, in addition to awkwardly crossing the Hiawatha Boulevard bridge, the creekwalk had a spur that remained on the south side of the creek/canal and passed under the bridge.  It would then follow the water's edge along side the sewage treatment plant and out to the lake.  You're surely thinking "ew, that sounds like a terribly gross idea," but bear with me here.  This strip of land [highlighted in the image below] has the potential to be an amazingly lush, bio-diverse, and dare I say beautiful, segment of the creekwalk.

Due to this site's adjacency to the Metro sewage treatment plant, it would be a prime place to create a constructed wetland, in the same vein as the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, NY or the Sidwell Friends School in DC [pictured at the head of this post], but on a larger scale.  In the most basic sense, a constructed wetland naturally transforms wastewater into water clean enough to reintroduce into our waterways.  The process happens through a series of compartments [often terraced] containing a diverse array plants and organisms that clean and scrub the water just as they do in a natural wetland.  Untreated or partially-treated water could be diverted from the Metro plant and into this system that will do the same job as the nearby machinery, but with minimal need for oversight and maintenance.  Stress on the sewage plant would be reduced while the constructed wetland offers a much more pleasant face to the creek/canal than the backside of the wastewater holding tanks.  This could be a prime project for the Metro plant, the city, and the county's Save the Rain program to team up and create a system that not only adds a beautiful segment to the creekwalk, but also a project that could act as a model for such systems all over the country.

7.13.2012

[creekwalk | hiawatha crossing]

Anyone who has walked/run/biked the creekwalk knows what a great amenity it is for the city.  These same people also are well aware of what is perhaps the worst moment along the entirety of the creekwalk -- the Hiawatha Boulevard bridge across the creek/canal.

When approaching from downtown, you are enjoying the creekwalk pathway until the moment you hit Hiawatha Boulevard and are confronted with 5 lanes of traffic and an abrupt 90° turn.  You are funneled onto an all-too-narrow sidewalk with absolutely no buffer between you and the speeding cars, and if you're on a bike you must dismount and take up nearly the full width of this sidewalk.

Short of building a dedicated bike/pedestrian bridge across the water, a very immediate, short-term solution for this is relatively simple:  Reduce the number of vehicle lanes by one [still allowing for two in each direction] so that the southeastern lane can become a dedicated bikeway connecting the creekwalk across this bridge.  The sidewalk can remain for those on foot, and the bikeway can be separated from traffic by a median for added safety.  The crude drawing above depicts this change [the green strip is the bikeway] -- we should demand a solution for this stretch of the creekwalk not only for the sake of improved travel but also our safety.