AIA Sustainable Design Assessment Team Report

The American Institute of Architects Sustainable Design Assessment Team program is based on the AIA’s goal of helping communities create a sustainable relationship between humans, the natural environment, and place.

In 2006, the AIA selected eight communities to receive technical assistance under the program. These included Syracuse, N.Y.; New Orleans, LA; Longview, Wash.; Guemes Island, Wash.; Lawrence, Kan.; Northeast, Mich.; Northern, Nev.; Hagerstown, Md.

The Design Assessment Team visited Syracuse for several days in early December 2006. At the conclusion of their visit the team presented a summary of what they had seen:

AIA SDAT - Syracuse: Preliminary Findings

In October, 2007 the final report was released:

AIA SDAT - Syracuse: Final Report

"The challenges facing Syracuse are serious ones created by many factors over a long time; correcting them will take time, energy, focus, and the commitment of many people at macro and micro levels. Syracuse’s window of opportunity closes as the further erosion and deterioration of its ecology, economy, historic fabric, infrastructure, and population logarithmically increase the difficulty of building a sustainable future. The time to reposition is now."

The report recommends Syracuse start by focusing on three initiatives in three areas:

  1. Develop clear physical connections that leverage the major assets of the city located between University Hill, the downtown core, and the riverfront. Though obvious and predictable, this connection is vital to the region’s long-term sustainability; it will be hard to attract new population and new businesses to the region without a thriving, energetic core.

  2. Running north to south and connecting multiple neighborhoods to the city and the riverfront, develop an environmental corridor along Onondaga Creek that supports neighborhoods, the city, and the land. This long-term initiative should begin with an enlightened planning effort that carefully considers the traditional Iroquois wisdom to make decisions for the seventh generation.

  3. In the impoverished neighborhood south of the city’s core, between the West Seneca Turnpike and Sentinel Heights, adjacent to Onondaga Creek Corridor, create a pilot program that systemically rebuilds the community around an existing school that serves as an after-school community center. Develop a educational exchange program with Syracuse University’s and SUNY’s business and design schools; teach business and skilled labor by preserving strategic historic houses; and teach environmental education and community service with working urban farms on vacant land and along Onondaga Creek

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