All American cities have experienced, to some extent, an exodus of
business and residents to the suburbs – especially cities in the
northeast. Community leaders have
sometimes decided that it is older downtown buildings that are to
blame. As a result, large downtown areas have been leveled in the
name of "urban renewal."
In the 1960's and 1970's these leveled areas were often covered with
windswept new plazas hosting modern high-rise office towers
– like the MONY plaza and towers downtown. It wasn't until years later that
people started to notice that no one was using these new plazas (to
understand why go to
Future of Clinton Square). The liveliness of the street
network had been replaced with empty stretches of concrete that no
one cared to linger in.
More recently, large areas have been leveled in order to build suburban style
developments. Downtown was loosing shoppers to the suburban
Why not – the reasoning went – build shopping malls downtown to bring
the shoppers back? The Galleries on South Salina was such a
project. In most cities, as in Syracuse, after spending enormous
amounts to build them, these new downtown malls
have attracted no more business than the buildings
Other times historic
buildings were simply destroyed in the hopes that something better would follow.
We've been waiting since 1970 for something new and better to be built
on the former site of the
So what strategies have succeeded in bringing renewed life to downtown?
In Syracuse the only
downtown area that has shown renewed economic life in recent years is
Square. This wasn't a huge government led project and it didn't
depend on massive government subsidy. It was started by
enterprising business people who shared a vision of the kind of
development they would like to see. And it depended for its
success on the type of historic architecture destroyed by failed urban renewal
Statistics consistently show that preservation projects create more
jobs, income, and wealth than comparable new construction projects
while preserving an area's history in the process
Destroying Syracuse's 15th Ward. In the
1960's Syracuse destroyed a predominantly African-American neighborhood
southeast of downtown to make way for the new Interstate 81 and several
civic projects. As these residents scattered to new homes in other parts
of the city, many white residents picked up and moved to the suburbs. It
is a sad chapter in the city's history, and one the community is still
struggling to come to terms with.
There Goes the Neighborhood. To spark urban renewal, some towns
dynamite history. Littleport, Iowa was "the town you can blow
up," Mayor Zapf offered it on the Internet to any Hollywood studio that
needed a small town to dynamite to smithereens for an action movie.
Drugstore Chains bring suburban development to the city. As
chain drugstore companies vie for name recognition and market dominance,
they prefer to locate at prominent intersections – at "The Corner of Main
and Main." Historic buildings frequently occupy the chosen sites, making
them vulnerable to demolition. Historic buildings are being lost to
chain drug stores at an alarming rate, in Syracuse and across the country.
Chain pharmacies are
returning to Downtown -- and destroying it. Burd found himself
fighting a lonely battle to save a cluster of buildings in Shamokin, a
sleepy town of about 20,000 residents nestled in central Pennsylvania's
once-prosperous coal valley. His Goliath-sized opponent was Rite Aid,
the quickly expanding drugstore chain.
Success Stories. Fifteen success stories from around the
country -- including Syracuse, Buffalo and Albany -- where national
drugstore chains have agreed to spare historic buildings rather than
tear them down.