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State approves Syracuse University investing $13.8 million loan repayment in Near Westside Initiative
State approves Syracuse University investing $13.8 million loan repayment in Near Westside InitiativeSeptember 21, 2007Kevin Morrowkdmorrow@syr.edu
Syracuse University has received approval from the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) and Empire State Development Corp. to reinvest a $13.8 million loan repayment — the remaining sum SU borrowed from the state in 1987 for construction of the campus Center for Science & Technology — in the Near Westside Initiative Inc.’s efforts to create the Syracuse Arts, Technology & Design Quarter.
The $13.8 million will be used to acquire and renovate abandoned warehouses and properties on Syracuse’s Near Westside and attract artists and technologists to those properties. The funds will also allow SU’s UPSTATE: A Center for Design, Research and Real Estate to provide world-class urban redesign services to this effort and the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems to incubate new green technology businesses and jobs for the area.
In addition, the City of Syracuse has announced it will submit a grant application to the state’s Restore New York’s Communities Initiative for an additional $10 million in funding for the Near Westside Initiative to: help WCNY construct a new broadcast and education center on a vacant parcel at the corner of West and Marcellus streets; rehabilitate two vacant or underutilized turn-of-the-century warehouses (the CASE Supply and Lincoln Supply buildings) into mixed-use commercial/residential facilities; and construct or rehabilitate 31 units of affordable “green” housing for current and future city residents in a several-block area located around Blodgett School and Skiddy Park and extending eastward to the Arts, Technology & Design Quarter developments.
The Near Westside Initiative Inc. is a nonprofit development corporation established by the Rosamund Gifford Foundation to revitalize Syracuse’s Near Westside. It is composed of some of the region’s most experienced development professionals; neighborhood residents; and business, educational and nonprofit leaders from Syracuse, including representatives from Syracuse University, the City of Syracuse, National Grid, Queri Development Corp., Green and Seifter, Home Headquarters and the Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative. The Arts, Technology & Design Quarter is central to this economic revitalization and urban redevelopment strategy, and is modeled in part on the highly successful Artist Relocation Program in Paducah, Ky.
The Arts, Technology & Design Quarter is envisioned as an interdisciplinary creative community of residences and workspaces for artists, designers, technologists and innovators rising among former warehouse and commercial structures in three blocks encompassed by West Fayette Street, Wyoming Street, Tully Street and West Street.
These facilities will be constructed or renovated using — and will serve as a testbed and showcase for — innovative environmental and energy technologies developed by industry partners of the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems.
The Arts, Technology & Design Quarter will also serve as a western extension of the Connective Corridor — a university-community partnership initiative that is more closely linking SU and the city and community through arts and culture. The Quarter is the western terminus of the Corridor and close by Armory Square, SU’s Warehouse and the Delevan building. The Quarter will both physically and metaphorically better connect the Near Westside to these vibrant areas.
“This is the first of the university debt restructuring proposals to be acted upon by the State,” says Edward Reinfurt, acting executive director of the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation. “It is not a blank check; rather, it is an affirmation of Syracuse’s commitment to technology advancement. The fact that it will help lead to transformative change in the community makes it the prototype we will want to see others model.”
“As a member of the Senate’s Economic Development Budget Subcommittee, I proposed Syracuse University’s inclusion in the Loan Forgiveness Program,” says state Sen. John A. DeFrancisco. “New York State’s forgiveness of this loan will allow SU to participate in advancing a lively Syracuse Arts, Technology & Design Quarter and help to advance the Near Westside Initiative. This is a vital step toward revitalizing the west side’s downtown corridor. It is also an important component in growing our cultural arts community and fostering economic growth in our downtown, both of which I have advocated for since I was first elected to the Senate. This project has the potential to bring to Syracuse artists and entrepreneurs from all across the globe.”
“This is a great example of a New York State initiative that will make a genuine difference in our community,” says Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli. “Syracuse University has developed an exciting plan to build on its accomplishment with The Warehouse, supporting technology and arts as two thriving economic and cultural engines in Syracuse. This coordinated, collaborative investment of $14million will continue the ongoing renaissance in downtown Syracuse.”
“Many new forces are now pulling in the same direction to address the challenges facing residents of the Near Westside,” says Mayor Matthew J. Driscoll. “My goal is to leverage this new investment by the state and Chancellor Cantor to reconnect the Near Westside with the energy and character of Armory Square.”
“This decision will make the Near Westside a more vibrant place for residents, the city and the region,” says Congressman Jim Walsh. “These combined community efforts will build upon those being made through the Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative, which are focusing on housing and home ownership in that area. Together, this critical mass has the potential to tie together a resurgent Downtown with other revitalized neighborhoods throughout Syracuse.”
“This is an exciting day for SU, the City, the community and our neighbors in the Near Westside neighborhood. We are so grateful for Senator DeFrancisco’s leadership role and Assemblyman Magnarelli’s support in securing these funds,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “The Arts, Technology & Design Quarter is the perfect embodiment of our vision of Scholarship in Action. We are combining the intellectual capital and resources of our students and faculty with residents, community partners, civic leaders and business to create new cultural and economic hope and opportunity in a neighborhood with a grand history and very resilient and talented residents. Without question, this is a two-way street of beneficial development, and there are so many exciting academic, cultural and economic opportunities ahead for all involved.”
Pending approval of the $10 million Restore New York grant, WCNY has announced its intention to build a 75,000-square-foot, multi-story broadcast facility at the corner of West and Marcellus streets that will include television and radio studios, offices and a 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art educational center. The WCNY construction would be the anchor project of the Arts, Technology & Design Quarter, with a portion of the building funded by the Restore New York grant and the remainder of the funding for the $17.5 million facility to be financed through a long-term lease between Near Westside Initiative Inc. and WCNY, plus additional construction and capital equipment costs currently being sought from foundations and major donors.
“Creating a new broadcast facility is part of our commitment to become more connected to the community. We want our programs and services to ensure that Central New York is increasingly unified, civically responsible, culturally aware, more informed, and better educated, and we will continue to reach out with open arms to private corporations, governmental agencies, and other non-profit organizations to create strategic partnerships,” says WCNY President and CEO Robert J. Daino. “We are delighted to work with a broad array of key community partners who are helping to create more than just a new broadcast center. We want to build a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Syracuse to provide greater access for the public and help propel community conversation to a new level.”
Another portion of the Restore New York grant would enable Home Headquarters, the SU School of Architecture and the Syracuse Center of Excellence to rehabilitate vacant, abandoned, condemned and surplus residential properties in the neighborhood, with an overall goal of having 50 completed and occupied by 2011.
The remainder would be used to redevelop the massive, 220,000-square-foot CASE Supply building and the smaller, 28,000-square-foot Lincoln Supply building. Both buildings would bookend the proposed WCNY facility.
The Near Westside Initiative will use a portion of the redirected $13.8 million loan repayment from SU to complete the purchase of the three parcels, which are already under contract; begin their remodeling; and seed the neighborhood planning and artist relocation program.
At the same time, SU School of Architecture Dean Mark Robbins and UPSTATE: A Center for Design, Research and Real Estate (based in the School of Architecture) will draw from the loan repayment funding to support design development for the Arts, Technology & Design Quarter — engaging nationally recognized experts in architecture, landscape architecture, sustainable design, marketing, urban planning, real estate development, public policy and finance to bring the most current and innovative thinking on urban revitalization to the project. UPSTATE will establish a home design center for Near Westside residents at The Warehouse with frontage on Fayette Street. Creation of exterior imaging and as-built drawings will be provided to new and existing residents of the Near Westside, bringing community clients into regular contact with students and faculty of the School of Architecture. UPSTATE will also conduct a national design competition to stimulate the most innovative designs for affordable and sustainable homes, and design the Near Westside Neighborhood Center at 233 Marcellus Street.
The Syracuse Center of Excellence will coordinate the efforts of its industry partners to create studio and innovation spaces for artists and designers using advanced sustainable designs and technologies. The CoE will use these resources to fund “above budget” green technology innovations for both the residential and commercial components of the Near Westside development. In addition, the CoE’s partner companies will be given incentives to test new technologies within the Near Westside.
And SU’s South Side Innovation Center will encourage successful start-up companies to locate in the Arts, Technology & Design Quarter and use its unique expertise in nurturing emerging and start-up businesses to assist artists and other innovators who have entrepreneurial business ambitions.
“This project is a model for combining the resources of a major university, with a disinvested neighborhood full of great people, and an entrepreneurial team of local leaders, to create an international, self-sustaining cultural hub for the City of Syracuse,” says Near Westside Initiative Chair Marilyn Higgins.
“The Near Westside Initiative group is to be commended in coming to the neighborhood and asking for resident input. We know what is needed. Usually groups come in and just do without asking, leave and never finish with broken promises. And we are expected to accept it, and we are left with a sense of not belonging and our visions are shattered. This group is totally the opposite,” says Mary Alice Smothers, a Near Westside resident. “They are doing this hand in hand with the residents’ input and this will be a valuable project that will be welcoming and pleasing to all involved. As a resident of this neighborhood for 32 years, I welcome the change, as do many residents I have spoken with. And they have no skepticism because they are actually a part of what’s coming into their neighborhood.”
“This is more than loan forgiveness,” says Assemblywoman Joan Christensen. “This is a reinvestment in our community in an area that has been targeted for just this type of economic development that benefits both the community and the local economy.”