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Elevating Erie: International Ideas Competition to Solicit Proposals for the Future of Erie Boulevard

SYRACUSE, NY – In observance of the Erie Canal’s bicentennial in 2017, the City of Syracuse and Town of DeWitt are launching Elevating Erie, a competition to identify innovative ideas that will stimulate and guide the future development of the historical Canalway corridor within both the City and Town. This jointly-sponsored ideas competition–made possible with funding from the New York State Department of State–invites proposals from designers and ecologists, students and experts from around the world for connecting one of the most urbanized areas of the Erie Canalway Trail.

While the former route of the Erie Canal through Syracuse and DeWitt has been paved over for 100 years, the corridor has remained significant to the region by transporting people and goods, and has the potential to become part of the longest continuous bicycle and pedestrian trail in North America. The Boulevard is poised for a rebirth: to become a new example for how cities throughout the Northeast can repurpose a single-use typology and leverage the rich history of the canal into a corridor with social, ecological, and strong economic purpose.

The competition will focus on four sites:

  • Boulevard, a 4-mile stretch of Erie Boulevard between Syracuse and DeWitt representing part of the 14-mile gap of the Erie Canalway Trail in Central New York;
  • Block, a one block area located between Teall Avenue and Peat Street in the City of Syracuse;
  • Branch, the intersection of Erie Boulevard East and Towpath Road is the location of a former widewaters for the historical Erie Canal;
  • Bridge, this site connects the terminus of the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park over Interstate 481 to Towpath Road.

All submissions must address the program at the Boulevard-scale as the primary category. Entrants may submit to multiple categories, increasing chances of recognition and being selected as a finalist. Finalists will be specifically highlighted in an exhibition opening in the Spring of 2016 at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse NY, discussed publicly by the Jury at a gallery talk, and included in a forthcoming publication on the competition. All admissible entries will be displayed digitally during the exhibit and also displayed in an online gallery on the competition website. Four winners will be selected, one from each category. The winning team for the overall connector will be provided a $3,000 cash award. Winning teams for the individual sites will each be awarded a new iPad Pro. Up to eight Honorable Mentions will be selected.

Submissions must be entered by December 22 2015.

“The Erie Canal was the critical piece of infrastructure that prompted the rapid growth and development of the City of Syracuse,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “The Elevating Erie project will provide innovative new ideas on how the Erie Boulevard East corridor can continue to positively affect quality of life, recreation, and economic development in the City of Syracuse. We look forward to our close collaboration with the Town of DeWitt on this project.”

Dewitt Town Center
Dewitt Town Center

“This project in an exciting step forward for our efforts in the Town of DeWitt to make the community more pedestrian and bicycle friendly,” said Edward Michelanko, PhD. Town Supervisor for DeWitt, “The historical Canal corridor lies at the heart of DeWitt and has the potential to link our neighborhoods to our commercial centers along Erie Boulevard, making them more accessible and more attractive for our residents and property owners. The focus on increasing biodiversity and improving ecological function will help to improve the quality of life for all of Central New York as well.”

“The New York Department of State is pleased to partner with the City of Syracuse and the Town Dewitt to launch Elevating Erie, a Big Ideas competition to improve the Canalway corridor,” said New York State Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales. “We expect innovative proposals from the competition will guide the future development of the corridor and encourage everyone with an idea to participate.”

“The Elevating Erie Competition will have a profound impact on the future of one of the most heavily traveled roads in Onondaga County,” said Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney.  “I look forward to seeing the ideas that will be submitted as we work together to plan the improvements to this section of the Erie Canal Trail.”

“This open, public process will ensure that the entire community and region is engaged during the planning period of the Canal Corridor,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I previously wrote to the Chairman of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council to fund the development project connecting the Erie Canalway Trail between DeWitt and Downtown Syracuse. The Elevating Erie competition will help revitalize the community preserving our historical resources and maintaining the Erie Canal as a major resource in New York State.”

Joe Sisko, Founding Partner of LOCUS, competition coordinator for Elevating Erie added, “Foregrounding the future impact of biodiversity alongside the historic significance of the Erie Canalway Trail creates a pretty unique opportunity. Not just for designers, but for the entire community.  We hope to generate a conversation about how we should leverage our infrastructure to create a more connected, exciting, and productive future. We are asking the questions: what is our new Erie Canal? What is appropriate, transformative, innovative, bold, and uniquely Syracuse? This competition and these questions are open to anyone with a great idea for the corridor to answer. We hope you click submit.”

About the Canalway Trail

NYS Erie Canal Bike Trail
NYS Erie Canal Bike Trail

The Canalway Trail is a network of approximately 400-miles of multi-use trails across upstate New York. The Canalway Trail follows the towpaths of both active and historic sections of the New York State Canal System, as well as adjacent abandoned rail corridors. Major portions of the Canalway Trail follow the legendary Erie Canal route from Buffalo to Albany.  Along the way, the Erie Canalway Trail links the cities of Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica.  Over 75% of the Erie Canalway Trail is completed off-road.

The Canalway Trail is not only a long-distance bicycling destination, but also a recreational resource for biking, walking, jogging, and other types of seasonal trail activities.  Trailhead parking and interpretive kiosks with historic information about the Erie Canal and New York State Canal System are located at many points along the Erie Canalway Trail.  The Canalway Trail primarily consists of a stone dust surface with some asphalt segments. (Source: http://www.canals.ny.gov/trails/about.html)

In Syracuse the Canalway Trail has an entry point in DeWitt heading east and an entry point in Camillus heading west with a roughly 14-mile gap between them. Arguably the most challenging section of that gap, and the area with the most opportunity, is the segment of Erie Boulevard in question.

Trail along the original Erie Canal
Trail along the original Erie Canal

Bicycle tourism is one of the fastest growing forms of tourism in North America. When cyclists come to town, they do so seeking good food, drink, sightseeing, a good place to sleep, and a safe place to store their bike(s). According to a recent study conducted by Park and Trails NY, the Erie Canalway Trail gets more than 1.58 million visits per year. Spending by those visitors generates $253 million annually in economic impact and $28.5 million in sales and income taxes. Trail traffic also supports 3,440 jobs in the local economies within the trail corridor.

About LOCUS

LOCUS is serving as the competition coordinator for Elevating Erie. LOCUS partners Joe Sisko and Trevor Lee are urban, architectural, graphic, and landscape designers who help clients make a positive social, cultural or ecological impact.  Locus develops visual communication and design strategies that enable organizations to effectively tell their story.

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