Topic Areas: Village Main Street Revitalization
Project Scale: Village Vision Plan
Accomplished by: Independent Study Class – Faculty: Cheryl Doble and Maren King
Partners: the Village of East Syracuse Vision Advisory Committee
How does a community which grew up around a specific industry that is no longer of significance, and with an image that is not respected, reinvigorate and establish a new identity and belief in itself?
How can a community’s image be modified in ways that respect the memories of older residents but at the same time retain younger residents and attract new ones?
The Center for Community Design Research was approached by the Village of East Syracuse to assist them in preparing a vision plan for the revitalization of their Main Street. Historically, East Syracuse was developed around the railroad and manufacturing industries, with a supportive and stable population that lived in the residential neighborhoods located within easy walking distance of each other and a thriving Main Street. Over the past two decades, while the community has remained tight knit with much of its physical structure intact, population size has been declining and the village struggles with the loss of its traditional economic base and with a business district that is losing both commerce and character to its suburban neighbors. Physical signs of these issues include numerous vacant lots, suburban style development along sections of Main Street, and poorly considered building renovations.
An independent study studio of six graduate and undergraduate students under the direction of the CCDR faculty collaborated with the village to organize and facilitate a participatory planning process. Residents, business owners and other community stakeholders were engaged in a process through which they established the vision and a direction for their collective future that builds on their strengths and resources and addresses the challenges that they are facing. The students facilitated a series of three workshops and a final presentation, conducted inventory and analysis, and prepared a series of design studies to illustrate the community vision.
The mayor believes that the process has far exceeded the village’s goals. Over 100 community members participated in the workshops, many of whom attended every event. He feels that the process allowed people to share what they know and value about the village in a forum that encouraged respectful dialogue and listening. The resulting vision represents the multiple perspectives that are present in the community. The final Vision Plan document provides guidance for actions that the community can begin to implement immediately with local resources and that can be used to support funding proposals for revitalization grants.