Take a drive down West Onondaga Street and notice the amazing architecture. One mansion after another, some in great shape, but far too many broken up into apartments, turned into slums. At one time, these were the McMansions of their time. The same holds true for much of James St. Think this couldn’t happen out in suburbia? Think again.
No less a prestigious periodical than the Atlantic Monthly has published an article, “The Next Slum?“, outlining the kinds of changes that are already positively affecting our cities and threatening the vast rolling hills of McMansions. You know where they are in the Syracuse area – out beyond the villages that surround the heart of Central New York, on land that you may remember for its dairy farms and corn fields. When you walk into one of these houses, look up. You’ll see where all the (expensive) heat is rising to – wasted space in cathedral ceilings. Count the number of square feet per person living there – by international standards, it borders on obscene. Look around and notice the large lawns requiring much mowing and many chemicals to maintain. Take a walk and notice the distinct lack of humans. No human interaction to speak of, just a lot of cars pulling into and out of the driveways. The garages are not “a pair of parking spaces” but rather car parks vaster than the average family home in most countries in the world.
Contrast this to our “village within the city” of Eastwood. We have a mix of homes, with many two- and three-family homes mixed in with the single-family variety. We even still have our James St. mansions. People from all walks of life are found on our streets and in our cafes, actually meeting and even greeting each other, especially in the good weather.
We are a five-minute drive from the urban center, where apartments are renting for twice what they rent for in Eastwood. We have many community groups, grassroots activists, people who have lived here their entire lives and people who have moved in from the suburbs. Things are getting visibly better in Eastwood. The phrase “Eastwood renaissance” is being used and correctly so.
Here’s a bit from that Atlantic article that forecasts what we in Eastwood can look forward to (bold font mine):
Twenty years ago, urban housing was a bargain in most central cities. Today, it carries an enormous price premium. Per square foot, urban residential neighborhood space goes for 40 percent to 200 percent more than traditional suburban space in areas as diverse as New York City; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.
It’s crucial to note that these premiums have arisen not only in central cities, but also in suburban towns that have walkable urban centers offering a mix of residential and commercial development. For instance, luxury single-family homes in suburban Westchester County, just north of New York City, sell for $375 a square foot. A luxury condo in downtown White Plains, the county’s biggest suburban city, can cost you $750 a square foot. This same pattern can be seen in the suburbs of Detroit, or outside Seattle. People are being drawn to the convenience and culture of walkable urban neighborhoods across the country—even when those neighborhoods are small.
Given this, is not Eastwood currently the bargain of the century? Don’t you wish you’d bought a building in Armory Square in the early ’90’s? Well, Eastwood is still undervalued but on the rise. While the rest of the country frets about recession, Syracuse does what it seems to do best – moves slowly, carefully, without the big booms and busts that plague many other parts of the country. The cost of living is still low here, while the simple pleasures that make life worth living – people to enjoy, recreation, sports, cultural events, good food and plenty of water (and wine and beer!) – are here in abundance.