The Near Westside is a classic example of a mixed-use urban neighborhood that has experienced significant disinvestment for more than 50 years, leaving it unable to build on the assets of its history, the talents of its residents, and its proximity to a vibrant, revitalized area of downtown. Its fabric includes an eclectic variety of industrial, residential and commercial buildings, many of which are historic, dilapidated, vacant and/or condemned. Its community of 8,400 residents is one of the most diverse and challenged of any in the country. Within this disinvested neighborhood lies the opportunity to test the premise that art and culture can unite to create a revitalized community that is not only aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sustainable, but that also reflects the social and cultural values of its residents. The SALT District of the Near Westside is being revitalized by weaving together creativity and sustainable urban development. Art and green and clean technology are transforming this historic Syracuse downtown community into a model for future urban living.
The Near Westside Initiative has partnered with the Syracuse University School of Architecture and the UPSTATE: Center for Design, Research and Real Estate to develop a neighborhood plan that focuses on green concepts, and has been able to undertake and complete some green initiatives in the community. This comprehensive neighborhood plan that focuses on circulation networks, green infrastructure, landuse and zoning, lighting, and wayfinding. This plan is nearing completion and has been created in collaboration with the residents of the NWS and the City of Syracuse to ensure that the plan has the ability to be implemented with neighborhood buy-in and cooperation from the city.
Completed & Ongoing Projects
- Otisco Street Green Corridor
- The Otisco Street Green Corridor is the first residential green project to be constructed as part of Onondaga County’s “Save The Rain, Save The Lake” program. The main aspect of the project is that existing curb lines along Otisco Street at the intersections of South Geddes, Ontario, and Seneca streets will be extended approximately 6 feet into the road. The new curb storm water inlets that allow storm water to runoff into new bioretention areas between the new curb and existing curb. This green practice allows for substantial storm water capture. Phase 1 of the Otisco Street Green Corridor Project allows for a runoff reduction of almost 2.25 million gallons of water per year. The new rain gardens that will be constructed within the curb extensions will not only capture storm water, but they will also provide a small amount of treatment to storm water runoff. In other residential green street projects throughout the country, these rain gardens have become community gardens where residents take homage to the rain gardens in front of their homes and provide maintenance when necessary.
- Skiddy Park Improvements
- Parks and green spaces are some of the most important parts of a healthy neighborhood. The NWSI has raised $40,000 to build a new playground at SKiddy Park with $40,000 of matching funds from the City. The Jim Boeheim Foundation sponsored the construction of new basketball courts with impervious paving and new equipment. Additionally, a new soccer court has replaced the unused tennis courts, supporting a new youth soccer league in the neighborhood. The NWSI is also working to rebuild the Skiddy Park concession stand so that it can once again become a central part of the community.
- Native Tree Planting
- The Near Westside’s tree canopy continues has suffered mature trees were removed for industrial development and from the impact of storms and disease. The Neighborhood Plan has developed strategies to restore our urban tree canopy by planting street trees to shade sidewalks, streets and other pavement. Its top priority is planting native canopy trees (includes: oak, maple, tupelo, elm) that, when mature, provide shade to beautify, absorb run-off, provide wildlife habitat and of course cool our streets and sidewalks. Healthy trees improve communities by making outdoor activities such as walking and bicycling more pleasant and they increase property value. The first major installation of this will occur along the Otisco Street Green Corridor. Rain Gardens and Bioswales are landscaping elements that can be used to slow down storm water runoff from impervious surfaces like roofs and paved surfaces and allow it to infiltrate back into the soil instead of entering the sewer system.NWS is in the lower valley of Onondaga Creek and can be prone to flooding and sewer overflow.
- Bicycle and Pedestrian Circulation Networks
- The NWSI is working with the City of Syracuse to make the neighborhood more bicycle-friendly. The “master bike plan” calls for creating new bike lanes and making existing ones safer. This includes various enhancements to the safety and convenience of bicycle and pedestrian travel within the community and to adjacent neighborhoods including downtown.
- Live/Work Zoning
- It is important for the neighborhood to continue supporting its unique diversity through live/work zoning changes. Capitalizing on the variety of residential, commercial and industrial spaces these changes will enable artists and small business owners to both live and work in the neighborhood and even in the same building. This kind of mized used development will support a friendlier neighborhood with more interaction, a healthier lifestyle, less traffic, more convenience, lower stress, a cleaner environment, ease of access, more aesthetically pleasing surroundings, safety and security – any of these, or any combination, can contribute to a better quality of life for neighborhood residents. The Live/Work home designed by Cook+Fox during the From the Ground Up Competition is a prime example of new live/work zoning.
Why is The Near Westside SALT District a “Green Neighborhood?”
- The Near Westside Initiative is a US Green Building Council LEED-Neighborhood Development Pilot Project, which means the neighborhood and its re-development feature:
- Walkable streets, compact development, mixed-use buildings.
- A centralized school (Blodgett Elementary), a centralized park (Skiddy Park), public art, and neighborhood shops and businesses.
- Green buildings and brownfield redevelopment.
- Public transportation, smart location, and community policing.
- Thanks to a collaboration with Syracuse Center of Excellence, building renovations and new construction incorporate sustainable energy and environmental systems, including:
- Demonstrations of residential combined heat and power technology.
- Demonstrations of advanced air conditioning/air purification systems.
- Use of advanced green building techniques, such as structural insulated panels and passive house systems.
- Thanks to collaborations with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Environmental Finance Center at Syracuse University, green infrastructure projects are being undertaken:
- Stormwater Management systems: rain gardens, rainwater capture, bioswales, and porous pavement.
- Green roofs, green façades, and urban farming.
- Building projects are made to USGBC LEED standards and/or with the four pillars of sustainability in mind:
- Residential: three new houses being built in the Near Westside are demonstrations of how to build affordable green homes in an historic neighborhood
- Renovations: Existing post-industrial properties—such as Case Supply and Lincoln Supply—are being renovated to LEED standards as live/work spaces for a mixed-use neighborhood.
- Deconstruction: Near Westside houses that must be torn down are deconstructed, which means sending as little waste to the landfill as possible, and re-using materials in new buildings or as new construction products.
What are the benefits of living in a sustainable urban community?
- Better health by living in homes designed with indoor environmental quality in mind.
- Long-term savings by living in homes with state-of-the-art energy and environmental systems (heaters, a/c, lighting, etc.)
- A deeper, richer connection between you and your neighborhood.