Tag Archives: walkable

TONIGHT: Tell Mayor Miner to Stop this Power Grab

Remember this back in November:

“Syracuse lawmakers vote themselves the power to override the city planning commission” (Syracuse.com, 11/29/2011)

Lonnie posted about it here on November 22nd. Well, this may be late notice but TONIGHT all of us can do something about it!

Apparently, the Common Councilors who voted 6-3, with very little transparency or public input, to amend the City Charter to be able to inject legislative politics into unanimous City Planning Commission  decisions, didn’t get the message from our letters.

Mayor Stephanie Miner is seeking public comment TONIGHT AT CITY HALL on the Common Council’s decision to amend the City Charter for more authority over Planning Commission decisions. The Mayor wants to hear from the public and listen directly to comments to assist in making a decision to act on the City Charter change. She has already come out against it but needs some support from the public for next steps. The vote on the Common Council was veto-proof, but maybe cooler heads will prevail…

The meeting will be at 5:00 p.m. in Council chambers on the 3rd floor of City Hall, 233 E. Washington Street, Syracuse, 13202.

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Meeting about design for James/Midler corner

Sent in by Babette Baker regarding the development of the southwest corner of James and Midler (where the Sport Center once stood, where Fifi’s Ice Cream is now):

Information Meeting On the Proposed Kinney Drug Store Project

Monday, August 15th -7pm
James St Methodist Church
3027 James St.
Syracuse, NY

Representatives from the Development and Design Team will be present to answer questions.

Babette Baker
Coordinator
TNT/ESG/HPRP
City of Syracuse
Department of Neighborhood and Business Development
(v)  315.448-8173
(c) 315.935-3773
(f) 315.448.8036
bbaker@ci.syracuse.ny.us
www.syracuse.ny.us

It’s very hard, after over 10 years of looking at a pile of rubble at a major intersection in our neighborhood, to project five or ten years down the road and try to imagine what we will have wished we’d done in 2011.  We’re desperate for something clean, nice, and shop-able in that spot. And to be frank, given the number of years that have gone by without a solution, I’m not so sure there really is another solution besides another convenience store (Kinney’s). It’s basically a repetition of stores we already have, and apparently we don’t have enough people in this neighborhood who want anything but their medications and the stuff China ships us. I get that.

But, because I just can’t leave a thought unexpressed, I’d like to go back to this pattern of development that has plagued Syracuse and, apparently, still plagues it: pave paradise and put a parking lot. In a walkable community with lots of free parking along the streets (the side streets, anyway, but that’s another can of worms), why would we need the usual sea of asphalt that these convenience stores demand?  Perhaps you, dear reader, have seen the Walgreens parking lot filled to capacity, and do let me know if you have, but I have not.

So I’d ask that you re-read this article: Other cities series: historic fabric. Ask yourself if it’s true that there is nothing we can do to preserve the historic fabric – the built history – of James Street. Maybe this design will surprise us. Maybe it will adhere to our overlay district guidelines while leaving existing buildings intact.

I deeply appreciate all the hard work that Mr. Marcoccia has put into the development of this corner. He came to us once with a design – for a gas station – that really did not work for us. And he didn’t put us through the years of hell that we experienced with a certain other developer. Instead, he went back to the drawing board, and for that I am deeply grateful.

I am hoping that this new design will be at least closer to what will benefit Eastwood. And if there’s any way, please let not too much more asphalt mar the fabric of our business district. In ten years, when gas is at $7/gallon and we’re walking a lot more, we might wish we’d kept it after all.

Urban myths about Walkable Eastwood

Written by Maureen Harding, published with her permission:

There are several myths floating out there in Syracuse that somehow mistakenly are taken as “fact” concerning the Walkable Eastwood group of neighbors:

Myth: Redevelopment at the northeast corner of James and Midler (the former location of Steak & Sundae ) is being prevented by the Walkable Eastwood group.

Fact: The owner of the building at that location, Mike Muraco, has a vacant building because he had doubled the former restaurant’s rent.  The restaurant owner decided to leave and build his own restaurant on Teall Ave.   There were no other tenants even though there was vacant space. After that, Mr. Muraco submitted a request to the Planning Commission to have the building demolished (this falls under the City Zoning Code and NOT the James Street Overlay District).  The Planning Commission denied the request because, under the City of Syracuse Zoning Code, you must have a site re-development plan in place before you can demolish.  The owner did not have a plan.  The owner retaliated against the Planning Commission with a law suit and he lost.  The owner has yet to bring a site plan application under the James Street Overlay District standards to the Planning Commission.  Therefore, the Walkable Eastwood group is absolutely not at fault since they had no control over what the owner does with his property, including failure to upkeep the property, failure to pay taxes on the property, or failure to lease the property (which would ONLY fall under the guidelines if there was any rehabilitation and new use in the old building).

Myth: The Walkable Eastwood group is responsible for the tattoo parlors, bars, salons, and pawn shops.

Fact: These land uses are permitted as-of-right under the City of Syracuse Zoning Code regardless of the Overlay District Design Standards.  Therefore, the Walkable Eastwood group is absolutely powerless over what or who decides to open a business on James Street.

Myth: The Walkable Eastwood group is against development of any kind on James Street.

Fact: There has been one development application for site plan review on James Street that falls under the James Street Overlay District Design Standards (other than those by Mr. Pomphrey of Pomco) who generally complies with the spirit and the intent of the standards), and that is Walgreens (Five Points Development formerly HDL).  The developer of Walgreens, Guy Hart, Jr.,  was on his own schedule and failed to submit a sign plan with his original site plan back in 2005 (the sign plan was NOT approved before).  Therefore, the Walkable Eastwood group simply made sure that the design standards were complied with when he did submit his sign plan four years later. The hold-up was entirely self-created by the developer as he requested 11 waivers from the design standards.  Had he complied (as Mr. Pomphrey does) he would have been through the process in a matter of weeks (as Mr. Pomphrey is).

Myth: The Walkable Eastwood group is responsible for that “hole in the ground that used to be the Bowling Alley” (the southwest corner of James and Midler).

Fact: The owner of that property, Tino Marcoccia, had worked with the original James Street Overlay District Review Board back in the early 2000 period (prior to the review board being dissolved by the City) on a site plan.  The funding for Mr. Marcoccia’s project fell through and he did not return with a site plan.  Therefore, he never went through the review process to have it denied or granted.  The owner was approached with purchase offers, the owner refused to sell.

The Walkable Eastwood group is simply a grassroots volunteer organization of neighbors who value pedestrian-oriented development. This type of development is what is revitalizing Syracuse’s downtown as well as many other cities and towns in the country. It is 21st century-style development. Unfortunately for Mr. Hart, the Walgreens development was the antithesis of a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented, traditional neighborhood Main Street design of which the Overlay District Standards require.

Some of the Eastwood residents are willing to settle for less…or are desperate (which is not a requirement under the Eastwood Overlay Design Standards).  The Walkable Eastwood group is willing to hold out for something better because it knows that it’s possible to develop something uniquely Eastwood that looks and is cohesive, pleasing to explore, and diverse in its businesses. The group, comprised of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, includes professional urban planners, civil engineers, landscape architects, architects, and college professors who know by their training, education and expertise that the alternative, design centered on automobiles, is no longer acceptable. Auto-centric design is unhealthy, unsustainable and bad for property values. Thus they are protecting their own property values as well as those of their neighbors by using the tools and resources available to them. Nothing more, nothing less.