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VIEWPOINT: How Resiliency & Reconnection Drive Our Community Forward

By Merike Treier

Date:

There has been a lot written about how the past 18 months have been like nothing we’ve experienced 

 efore, and while we hope that we never have to experience anything like the coronavirus pandemic again, it’s remarkable to think about all that we achieved by working together. 

Every member of our community has played a critical role in pandemic response and recovery. As we endured this shared hardship, our drive to support each other never wavered — if anything it grew stronger. At the federal, state, and local levels, our delegates advocated for COVID-relief and recovery programs.

Following the second wave of pandemic closures, as winter months gave way to spring, 86 percent of downtown Syracuse storefronts had reopened by March 2021, providing motivation — and momentum — for all of us to keep pushing forward. 

Fortunately, work in downtown Syracuse never stopped. As we continue to move through the pandemic, $80 million of investment activity has been completed. While we were on pause, the incredible amount of real-estate development and investment taking place throughout downtown Syracuse continued to attract employers, new residents, and retailers. That included the following.

• On moving its regional headquarters to 250 South Clinton St. in April 2021, M&T Bank reaffirmed its commitment to the center of our community. 

• At downtown’s northern-most boundary, “The Post” will soon serve as the new headquarters for VIP Structures and new tenant, ChaseDesign in Clinton Square.

• Along South Warren Street, TCG Player expanded its footprint in The Galleries, making space for more than 300 employees focused on fulfilling game-card requests — a hobby that many people rediscovered during quarantine. 

• Across the street, CenterState CEO will expand the Tech Garden. Thanks to support from the state delegation, construction is projected to start in 2022. 

Whether it’s strolling through the Downtown Farmers Market every Tuesday, waving hello in coffee shops, at lunch, or a chance encounter and chat on the sidewalk, it’s nice to see signs of office life returning to downtown Syracuse. Now that we’re past Labor Day, it’s estimated that more of downtown Syracuse’s typical 29,000-person workforce is back in the office a few days a week. Whenever I run into someone on the sidewalk, our interaction reflects how genuinely happy we are to be able to re-engage. It’s often in these chance meeting connections where ideas are born, new friendships are formed, and collaboration begins. 

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why downtown Syracuse continues to be a residential destination — instinctively, we want to be where the action is.

Right now, more than 4,300 residents call downtown Syracuse home. Throughout 2020, developers completed 281 new apartments, providing room for downtown’s population to grow another 12.5 percent. Keeping consistent with a trend that downtown Syracuse has experienced for the last five years, as fast as developers are able to create new spaces, people are moving in — often signing leases before the final phases of construction are complete.

And, like the classic “chicken-and-egg” scenario outlines, just as people continue to flock to the center of our city, new businesses continue to appeal to them — providing ample shopping, services, and dining opportunities. From March 16, 2020 through Sept. 1, 2021, Downtown Syracuse welcomed 32 new retail businesses.

Among the highlights, the Salt City Market — downtown’s first new construction project in 10 years — opened at 484 South Salina St. in January 2021. With this monumental project came 10 new restaurants, downtown’s first full-service grocery store, the Syracuse Cooperative Market, the Salt City Coffee & Bar, and an outdoor playground.

As you walk throughout downtown Syracuse this fall to check out the new places, vibrant, visual cues will signify that downtown Syracuse is open for business — and ready to welcome you. Street-level businesses received “Downtown is Open” flags, thanks to COVID-19 relief funding provided by the Syracuse Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO) to our Downtown Syracuse Foundation. Together, the flags symbolize the resiliency of our business community, which weathered two rounds of pandemic closures. 

Downtown’s residents also enhance the streetscape through 13 posters displayed in kiosks as part of our “Live Like a Local” campaign. Looking for recommendations on where to go, what to do, and what to eat while you’re in downtown Syracuse? Residents share their recommendations through the posters.

Festivals, concerts, and performances are at the top of many recommendation lists — and we’re excited to continue to add more events to our calendars this fall.

As national touring companies for Broadway shows “Cats,” “Tootsie,” and “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory,” plus The Blue Man Group make temporary work homes for extended rehearsals at the Landmark Theatre and the Redhouse Arts Center, dozens of cast members, crew, and support staff are expected to generate up to $10 million in associated economic impact throughout our community.

Downtown’s museums continue to engage and educate the public through creative programming:

• hroughout the summer, the Erie Canal Museum raised the visibility of the Canal corridor, the new Empire State Trail, and the local brewing industry through its Beers, Bikes and Barges event. 

• he Everson Museum of Art curates a variety of ever-evolving exhibits ranging from hometown artists to its world-class ceramics collection. Later this year, we can look forward to a new café experience at the museum, enhancing an artistic experience. 

• n, February, a new, state-of-the-art digital theater is expected to open at The Museum of Science and Technology (The MOST), featuring planetarium shows, documentaries, interactive learning, and gaming space. 

• he Onondaga Historical Association (OHA) continues to bring history to life through a series of innovative hybrid in-person and virtual events, all designed to educate and encourage appreciation for our past through our community’s great stories. As the keeper of our community’s history, the OHA is actively involved with the City of Syracuse’s Heritage Park Commission tasked with re-imagining the area around Columbus Circle. The goal is to make a space that provides healing for our whole community. 

With so many moving pieces fueling momentum, the ways in which we access and move through downtown Syracuse is vital. 

In the spring, Centro introduced the SYRculator, a continuous, free, 15-minute bus loop connecting all major downtown neighborhoods and attractions. 

Summer road construction is unveiling smooth, newly paved streets. Later this year, South Clinton Street will change to two-way traffic south of Jefferson Street.

Over the summer, the City of Syracuse announced a new provider for its bicycle and scooter-share program, introducing VeoRide to bring back more than 200 pedal-assist bikes.

And as we move into fall, a new sign positioned at downtown’s western gateway will greet motorists at West Genesee Street, thanks to a partnership among Digital Hyve, Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (or TNT), Laser Focus Printing, and a number of community members. 

Together, these collaborations and investments highlight engagement in our community, further amplifying our resilient spirit. We saw many business pivots turn into successful new paths forward. 

Every member of our community played a critical role in pandemic response and recovery. And, by working together, we learned we can chart our own course to come back strong.                    

Merike Treier is executive director of the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, Inc. In this role, she leads a team to support a dynamic, vibrant downtown and promote future growth through economic development and revitalization initiatives, marketing and events, security, and environmental maintenance. Treier is also president of the Downtown Syracuse Foundation, Inc. and currently serves on the board of directors for The Gifford Foundation. Contact her at MTreier@DowntownSyracuse.com.

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