Group Gets Glimpse of What Syracuse Might Be
First taste offered of guide to aid government, schools,
residents in improving city.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
By Teri Weaver, Staff writer
It was an image that made you want to call for reservations: A busy
restaurant with outdoor seating next to a cobblestone patio bordering a
canal. Foliage neatly tucked in planters matched the cafe's green awnings.
About 50 people crowded into a downtown office conference room stared at
the picture Friday morning, trying to figure out where in Syracuse this
Mary Burgoon finally explained.
"This is San Antonio, Texas," she told the people gathered in the offices
of FOCUS Greater Syracuse, a community group created to improve living in
the area. The crowd laughed as she explained her point. This is what
Syracuse should be, she said.
Burgoon, a senior planner at Clough, Harbour & Associates LLP, was at
FOCUS' monthly meeting to give a first glimpse of Syracuse's attempt to
create a "comprehensive plan."
The plan, the city's first in 85 years, is meant to give businesses,
governments, schools and residents a guidebook that defines what needs
improving in Syracuse and how to make those improvements happen.
From bike paths and downtown housing to better water pipes and schools,
the plan should help draw more people to live, work and spend money inside
the city's limits, said Chuckie Holstein, the executive director of FOCUS.
"This is just the first taste," Holstein said of Friday's discussion.
"This is chapter one."
The city hired Clough, Harbour for about $150,000 to put together the
plan. Friday's discussion was a preview of a draft plan, Burgoon said. She
hopes to present the full plan to city officials in early fall.
"Comprehensive plans are very important documents for cities and
communities," said Charles Everett, the city's director of operations. "The
policies adopted in the plan are used in the everyday decision-making in the
Much of the plan's success relies on finding government and private money
to make the improvements happen. Burgoon said after the meeting that the
plan she'll hand over to the city won't include details about where to find
the money or estimates on how much some of these visions will cost.
But having a plan - an actual document that explains the city's goals for
the next 20 years - will help the city go after more grant money from the
federal government and from private foundations, she said.
"They require that a municipality has a comprehensive plan, a vision for
the future," she said. "They want to know about the specific project and
that it fits within a larger scheme. It does definitely open the doors."
"That is very true," he said later Friday afternoon, adding that cities
are more likely to win grant money if they prove the proposed improvement is
part of a long-term goal. "It's important for a municipality to have a plan.
Even if it's maintaining infrastructure."
Still, money will be a sticking point, many acknowledged Friday.
"The big bottleneck, as I see it, is going to be money," Holstein said.
Burgoon's draft plan includes emphasis on five areas in Syracuse: the
Lakefront, downtown, University Hill, the area where Interstates 81 and 481
intersect and Erie Boulevard East.
Erie Boulevard, for instance, "is just a road into the city," Burgoon
said. "It could become a major gateway."
The crowd responded with comments ranging from keeping graduating
students in Syracuse to revamping the city's water system. Both Burgoon and
Holstein said those thoughts are in the plan. Both also acknowledged that
not every idea will ultimately be implemented.
"We know everything can't be done," Holstein said after the meeting. But,
she added, residents shouldn't wait for the government to act or to pay for
lifestyle improvements. "There are things citizens can do," she said.
Don Hughes rode his Trek mountain bicycle to the early morning meeting.
After the meeting, he unlocked his bike from a sidewalk railing. There are
few bike paths or designated bike stands throughout the city, he said.
"We got them to add one on Comstock two years ago," he said of a street
in the university area. "It's a half-mile long."
© 2004 The Post-Standard.