Connective Corridor Announces Second Round of Facade Grants

September 26, 2013

Partners with Central New York Community Foundation on new Syracuse Beautification Fund

Syracuse University today announced the recipients of $250,000 in the second round of Connective Corridor Façade Improvement grants to 16 businesses who will make significant investments to improve and redevelop mixed-use properties along the two-mile streetscape and cultural strip that connects University Hill to downtown Syracuse.

The Delavan Art Center was a recipient of Connective Corridor Façade Improvement funding in round one.

The Delavan Art Center was a recipient of Connective Corridor Façade Improvement funding in round one.

Funding for the initiative is provided by Empire State Development, New York State’s chief economic development agency, as a result of the program’s alignment with the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council’s (CNY REDC) Strategic Plan.

The announcement was made by Assemblyman William Magnarelli (D-120), who helped secure funding for the first round of the façade program. He was also joined by owners from many of the 40 businesses who were the recipients of $625,000 in the first round of Connective Corridor façade funding. They were also recognized for projects that included historic preservation, iconic lighting, public art murals, adaptive reuse of first floor space for commercial and retail use and activating public spaces for outdoor dining and other activities.

Second-round recipients include:

  • Armory Arts Associates (enhanced entry courtyard entrance at 319 W. Fayette St.)
  • Cafe Kubal (outdoor bistro seating)
  • CNY Philanthropy Center (lighting project)
  • Erie Canal Museum (historic mural)
  • Everson Museum of Art (outdoor seating and street banner program)
  • Gannon’s Isle (outdoor bistro seating)
  • Hamilton White House (lighting and historic preservation project)
  • Kitty Hoynes (lighting, entry, historic preservation projects)
  • Lafayette Building (complete new façade)
  • Media Unit (complete new façade)
  • Onondaga Tower (lighting project)
  • 430 Park Plaza (historic preservation, lighting and street furniture)
  • Taksum Development (complete new façade)
  • Transitional Living Services (façade elements and green screening)
  • United Methodist Church (lighting, historic preservation, landscaping and creation of new public space)
  • Woodbine Development (historic preservation and adaptive reuse of historic building)

“This program fits perfectly with Governor Cuomo’s vision for the regional councils—a collaborative effort between local businesses, experts and residents that has resulted in improvements to their community,” said Kenneth Adams, Empire State Development president and CEO. “The first round of grants from the Connective Corridor Façade Improvement program has already helped more than 50 businesses and community groups to fix-up their facades to help bolster economic development and growth in downtown Syracuse.”

Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli said, “It is a pleasure to participate in the second round of the Connective Corridor façade improvement grants. These 16 businesses have designed enhancements to their establishments that will provide historic preservation, lighting, curb appeal and outdoor seating that will add immeasurably to the cultural and arts flair of the two-mile streetscape.”

“The Connective Corridor has received national attention for its strategic significance in catalyzing collaboration to revitalize downtown Syracuse,” said SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor, who co-chaired the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council. “These new grants reiterate the importance of continuing to strengthen the Corridor’s brand and underline the role of engaging design in sparking the kind of creativity that has become the corridor’s signature.”

“It’s been a great partnership working with these 56 businesses through the first two façade rounds to develop and implement projects in such a short time frame,” said Linda Hartsock of SU’s Office of Community Engagement and Economic Development, who directs the Connective Corridor. “Working with a community-based façade review committee composed of experts in industrial design, architecture, landscape, historic preservation, real estate and urban development, we were able to help provide technical and creative design assistance to property owners along the corridor and guide them through the state and local approval process. Faculty and students were engaged in the process, which made it a learning experience as well.”

The goal of the façade improvement initiative is to help catalyze private investment along the new streetscapes being constructed through the corridor. The Central New York REDC strategic plan sets of a goal of revitalizing urban cores, main streets and neighborhoods, tied to public infrastructure investments that develop, attract and retain social capital, and leverage the cultural fabric of urban centers. The Connective Corridor Façade Program supports that key goal of the regional plan.

Additionally, it supports another goal of the regional plan to create better linkages between arts, culture, history and heritage organizations—supporting economic development and community revitalization. The Corridor Façade program also helps provide resources to those groups to revitalize their façades in support of a well-defined cultural district, and leverage significant public investment that was made in creating the Connective Corridor as part of a place-based community revitalization and tourism development strategy.

The program encourages redevelopment of urban core properties by businesses and nonprofit organizations in ways that opens them up to higher usage, while respecting, preserving and highlighting the unique or historical character of individual properties.

Rehabilitating underutilized urban properties is a key goal, and a prime example is a Connective Corridor second round façade project by Buffalo-based Taksum Development. The company recently acquired a vacant building at 709 E. Genesee St. and is undertaking an ambitious whole-building renovation and conversion to a mixed-use project, featuring an expansive new first-floor retail for United Uniform. A new façade and first-floor windows, consistent with the look of Redfield’s, is being partially funded through the Corridor Façade Program. Taksum is investing considerable resources into a complete building overhaul facing two streets, and the result will be enhancements to both East Genesee and East Fayette streets with the creation of an improved pedestrian pathway to connect them. Phase Two plans call for second-floor mixed use redevelopment.

Barry Muskat, CEO of Taksum, was attracted to the site because of its location on the corridor and its proximity to Forman Park, and is working toward a late September grand opening for its principal tenant, United Uniform Co., a 65-year-old company with locations in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. It is a uniform and equipment dealer focusing on public safety and corporate segments, making a significant commitment to servicing the Syracuse market with its move to this new location.

“The fact that we might even entertain investing in a mixed-use project like this on East Genesee Street in Syracuse—or that we could believe such a project has the potential to be successful—is a direct result of the time and energy many have put into creating the physical and psychological infrastructure of the Connective Corridor,” said Muskat.

Another mixed-use project receiving assistance through round two is the redevelopment of 430 E. Genesee St. into Park Plaza by developer Mark Swan. The former Syracuse Boys Club (circa 1925), overlooking Fayette Firefighters Memorial Park, is being redeveloped for mixed-use commercial and residential. It has signed new tenants and is actively looking to take on more through tastefully thought out plans. Corridor façade improvements will include façade repair and cleaning, lighting, outdoor seating, planters, and new building signage and branding.

“The Connective Corridor is a driving force behind the continuing resurgence of downtown Syracuse. I am honored to play a small role in this resurgence and am grateful for the support provided by the Connective Corridor, SU, the city, county and state, and especially Assemblyman Magnarelli,” said Swan.

Other dramatic façade changes coming in the second round include complete new façades for the Lafayette Building on East Fayette Street, to include a new stone entry matching the nearby Hills Building, and a historic restoration with new façade for the Media Unit on Montgomery Street.

Inspired by the groundbreaking work by Niagara Mohawk (now National Grid) in lighting its famous art deco headquarters and County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s lighting initiative in Columbus Circle, the committee decided to make that a featured component of this round, and direct funding to help create a “Corridor of Light.” Onondaga Tower, the Hamilton White House, CNY Philanthropy Center and United Methodist Church will be implementing architectural lighting design programs to illuminate their buildings, adding both visual and pedestrian appeal. The Parkview Hotel, the Museum of Science and Technology (MOST), Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Peck and Reid Halls, Red House Arts Center and Temple Concord implemented lighting projects in the first round.

“Syracuse’s rich legacy includes a variety of beautiful architectural styles, including iconic buildings which define our urban landscape,” noted Hartsock. “Lighting these symbols help define our city, and also create a more appealing environment that encourages people to enjoy walking around downtown in the evenings, fostering both culture and commerce along the more vibrant streetscapes.”

Activating public spaces and creating curb appeal are goals of the project, and the Everson Museum will be doing both through a round two grant to create outdoor terrace seating and a banner program. The Erie Canal Museum will be adding a historic mural to its façade on Water Street through the Corridor façade program, along with a new pedestrian plaza entry funded through the Connective Corridor Civic Strip. OHA is also receiving a new outdoor seating and entry streetscape through the Corridor’s Civic Strip project.

Cafe Kubal and Gannon’s Isle Ice Cream added outdoor cafe seating along East Jefferson Street through the second round corridor façade program. The corridor is still seeking to award 22 table and bistro chair sets to business owners along the corridor who want to apply for sidewalk permits and create outdoor seating, similar to the new areas on East Jefferson Street. Interested applicants should contact corridor@syr.edu.

Syracuse Beautification Fund announced in partnership with CNY Community Foundation

In conjunction with improving building front facades, a new Syracuse Beautification Fund/Connective Corridor has been established with the Central New York Community Foundation to “improve the front yards” along the Connective Corridor. The multi-donor field of interest fund will be both endowment and directed gifts to provide services, improvements and beautification projects along the Connective Corridor that fall outside the scope of services provided through special assessment districts.

An advisory board of three members will be established in conjunction with the fund to make recommendations about distributions. Initial members of the advisory committee will be nominated by Syracuse University and appointed by the CNY Community Foundation based on their interest in the overall aesthetic of the properties along the Connective Corridor, as well as such factors as their professional expertise and knowledge of neighborhoods served by the Connective Corridor.

Information about the fund, and on-line giving is available at cnycf.org/syracusebeauty#.

“The Community Foundation is honored to help move this project forward as a charitable fund manager. The preservation and beautification of our important public spaces is very much aligned with our commitment to improve the quality of life in our local community,” said CNY Community Foundation President and CEO Peter Dunn.

“We are very pleased to partner with the CNY Community Foundation on the creation of this fund,” added Linda Hartsock. “The Community Foundation encourages smart and effective collaborations that build shared futures, and this fund is a great way to ensure that Syracuse continues to be a beautiful place for generations to enjoy. It’s truly an example of building together.”