The Near Westside is defined as a 550-acre neighborhood immediately west of Syracuse’s downtown core. The neighborhood is bounded by Onondaga creek to the east, West Fayette Street to the north, West Onondaga Street to the south, and South Geddes Street to the west.
Early development in the Near Westside neighborhood dates from the late 1880’s. Originally a prosperous working class community, most of the area’s residents labored in the factories and industrial yards that defined the neighborhood’s northern, eastern, and western edges. Parents raised their families in modest one- and two-story homes, purchased household goods at the corner store, sent their children off to school, and walked to Sunday services all in the same community.
By the mid-1950’s, however, this once active neighborhood was in decline. The factories began to shut down or relocated to new industrial sites, taking with them good paying jobs. Residents were tempted by the suburbs, which offered the promise of newer amenities, more space, and better employment opportunities. What remains is a neighborhood that has been hollowed out and left with an eclectic mix of industrial, commercial, and residential buildings that continue to slowly deteriorate.
Architecturally, the neighborhood is a relatively fine-grained collection of single family and multiple family houses on narrow lots. Most of the homes are positioned close to the street with deeper backyards and tight side yards. The buildings are simple one and two story rectangular volumes – clapboard homes animated by gable roofs, brick chimneys, bay windows and porches. While most houses are slightly modified structures from around the turn-of-the-century, the area is dotted with more recent residential structures including the three houses built as a result of the From the Ground Up: Innovative Green Homes competition from 2008-2009. Other more recent homes are situated on large lots that have been created by fusing smaller parcels together. The three superblocks given over to public housing and the suburban-style homes constructed by Habitat for Humanity fall into this category.
Ringing these primarily residential blocks are previously industrial blocks to the north and east of the neighborhood, bordering Fayette Streets and West Streets. Additionally, DOT Roadway Classifications for the neighborhood are as follows:
West Street is a major arterial; Fayette and Geddes Streets are minor arterials; Seymour Street is a collector street and all the other streets in the neighborhood – including Wyoming Street – are designated as local streets. In addition, the neighborhood plan has an innovative approach to marking the odonomy (history of the names) of the streets. The north-south oriented streets, named after Central New York counties, are to be planted with trees with red fall color; the east-west oriented streets, named after Central New York towns, are to be planted with trees with yellow fall color.
Today the near Westside comprises 3,500 ethnically and demographically diverse residents. Approximately 50% live below the poverty level, making an average of $13,300 per year. A high number – 37% — are disabled, and almost 50% of incoming 9th grade students do not finish high school.
Several community groups are working to improve conditions and revitalize the NWS neighborhood. Syracuse University and New York State have committed $13.8 million for the creation of the Near Westside Initiative (NWSI), a non-profit community development corporation. Through their efforts this neighborhood is being transformed from one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the region into a thriving creative, healthy, mixed income community. The NWSI’s mission is to combine the power of art, green technology and innovation with neighborhood values and culture to revitalize the neighborhood now known as the SALT district.
Syracuse University provided the leadership and seed funding to get the project off the ground. To date 52 faculty from 5 Colleges and over 1000 students have been directly engaged in the neighborhood’s revitalization. Home Headquarters, Syracuse’s Neighborworks Corporation, works to revitalize the housing stock and increase home ownership in the SALT District. The Syracuse Center of Excellence focuses on the district as a test bed for green technologies. The Syracuse University School of Architecture’s UPSTATE: Center for Design, Research and Real-estate provides neighborhood planning and design services. The Gifford Foundation, a small private charitable trust, has been instrumental in ensuring proper community engagement and resident ownership of this revitalization process. Lastly, the SU office of Community Engagement and Economic Development manages the overall Near Westside Initiative with its vice president acting as the NWSI board president and employing the executive director.
By building on the existing talents and assets of the area, the Near Westside Initiative is attracting artists, musicians, businesses and entrepreneurs. In the past four years the SALT District has attracted over $70 million dollars in leveraged investment and 337 new jobs. The SALT District is now a rapidly developing creative community with Wyoming Street the recipient of the majority of recent commercial investment. At its northernmost corner, an abandoned warehouse is being converted into the headquarters for Central New York’s public broadcasting station, WCNY Connected, and the newly opened headquarters for ProLiteracy, the largest international literacy organization in the world. Also here is the Delavan Center, an artist community which houses artist studios and workspaces. At mid-block is the newly renovated Lincoln Supply Building that houses artist live/work lofts, a Latino cultural center, and the headquarters for SAY YES, a district-wide school transformation effort. SALT Quarters new artist in residency building funded by ARTPLACE is also mid-block. At the southern terminus of Wyoming Street an innovative new development is being constructed that expands and joins a neighborhood health clinic with a revitalized full service neighborhood grocery store.
2.2 Wyoming Street Context
Wyoming Street is located within Syracuse’s Near Westside, one of the first residential neighborhoods in the city. This competition, through the advanced design approaches it yields and the resulting built work, will demonstrate the feasibility of bringing a high quality of design to a diverse, traditionally underserved neighborhood seeing renewed attention and investment. Its ambition is to wed high design standards and advanced technology in the development of a healthy street that will catalyze movement and the continual improvement of the neighborhood.
The context of the street, in terms of ownership and uses, includes the following:
The Delavan Art Center was started in the late 1960’s when Bill Delavan inherited the 100,000 sq. ft. warehouse. Over several decades, Bill Delavan converted the warehouse into 60 artist studios. Today the Delavan Art Center continues to be fully occupied. The center also features a large gallery space called the Szozda Gallery highlighting local artists.
Central New York’s Public Broadcasting Station, WCNY, will occupy 57,000 sq.ft. with TV, radio, studios, a café, education center, a small concert auditorium and office space for over 90 employees. WCNY serves 1.8 million viewers and listeners in its 19-county broadcasting area. The facility’s learning center will offer education programs for students of all ages. It will feature a program that will allow middle and high school students to become employers, employees and consumers in a mock city designed to give them hands-on business experience.
ProLiteracy is a non-profit organization which champions the power of literacy to improve the lives of adults and their families, communities, and societies. ProLiteracy envisions a world in which everyone can read, write, compute, and use technology to lead healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives. Paired with WCNY and the new learning center, ProLiteracy ‘s relocation to the Near Westside and the Downtown neighborhoods will be a benefit for the entire community.
WCNY will be installing a 30ft x 18ft LED screen in the courtyard of the CASE Supply complex. The screen will regularly feature PBS content but will also be programmable to play any type of media that the community may want to view. The courtyard is located at the middle of the 100 block of Marcellus Street with the LED screen facing towards Wyoming Street. The courtyard will also be wired for sound. WCNY hopes it will be used for a variety of community events.
PEACE Inc., Westside Family Resource Center
Incorporated in 1968, P.E.A.C.E., Inc. is a non-profit community-based organization with the mission of helping people in the community realize their potential for becoming self-sufficient. P.E.A.C.E., Inc. believes in the strength of the human spirit and is dedicated to changing lives by teaching people how to help themselves and support those around them. To this end, P.E.A.C.E., Inc. provides a continuum of services for the entire family from infants to the elderly. The majority of individuals they serve have incomes placing them at or below Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Hillside Family of Agencies provides child-centered human services in partnership with children, youth, parents, and families through an integrated system of care.
SALTQUARTERS is a self-sustaining neighborhood-based artist in residence project, currently under construction with an anticipated completion date of June 1st, 2013. SALTQUARTERS will consist of a renovated, formerly abandoned restaurant in the heart of the district into four affordable living quarters for artists, along with three artist studios and a gallery. As part of the project, two artists in residence will be provided two of the living quarters, one of the studio spaces, and a stipend to support their work. These artists, one local, and one national, will be selected by a committee of artists, art professors, and community members. They will spend one year developing professionally and using their craft as a strategy for place making in the neighborhood. The remaining two housing quarters and studios will be leased by the NWSI to other artists in the community. The revenue generated from these leases will be used to maintain the property and offset the cost of the artist in residence program in future years.
The NWSI purchased a 40,000 sq ft, 100 year-old warehouse and renovated it in 2010 into 10 live/work artist lofts on the top two floors and two commercial spaces on the first two floors. The entire building is occupied. The second floor tenant is Say Yes to Education, a city-wide education reform program working in tandem with the Syracuse City School District. On the first floor is La Casita, a Latino cultural center for neighborhood residents. The renovated building is LEED Platinum and features several “green” elements including a geothermal system.
Patch Up Studios (Juan Cruz)
The NWSI converted a 3,000 sq. ft. previously vacant bar/restaurant, into an art studio/classroom and loft apartment for our first artist in residence, Juan Cruz. Juan lives on the second floor and teaches art classes to neighborhood youth and adults on the first floor.
James Geddes Housing Complex
James Geddes Housing Development is a public housing complex operated by the Syracuse housing authority. It was originally built in two phases. The first phase consisted of two senior citizen high rises and 33 row houses for families and was completed in 1955. The second phase consisted of two more elderly high rises and 6 additional row houses and was completed in 1961.
Nojaim’s Bros Grocery Store
Nojaim Brothers Grocery is a family owned private grocery store established in 1920.
St. Joseph’s Wellness Center
Currently St. Joseph’s Hospital operates a 4,000 sq. ft. wellness center in the Near Westside. Starting in early 2013, construction will begin on a new, 20,000 sq. ft. clinic that will be located next to the Nojaim Brothers Grocery Store, located on Gifford Street. They will share a parking lot with the grocery store and will have joint health and wellness programing with the grocery store.
2.3 Area of Intervention
Although the site that influences your design thinking is quite large, your design interventions are limited to the area shown on the drawing provided called “Project Boundaries.” This drawing shows a street Right of Way extending along a five (5) block corridor of Wyoming Street from West Fayette Street to the north to Gifford Street to the South. In addition to this Right-of-Way, teams have the opportunity to design active program in a few adjacent parcels and small areas of space. There are six. First is the City Lot opposite the Case Supply Building. Second is a parcel mid-block on the east side of the street between Otisco and Tully Streets. Third and fourth are small parcels on the north side of Tully Street. Fifth is a series of small triangular spaces along the west side of the street between Fabius and Gifford Streets. Finally, the sixth is a small island of space that extends into Nojaim’s Grocery Store parking lot.