To Grid or Not to Grid? That’s No Longer a Question


For years we’ve been discussing merits and disadvantages of either taking down Interstate 81’s elevated section, or replacing the aging portion with a new section that conforms to today’s highway standards. Throughout the country, cities have been reversing the mistake of running an expressway through its core.  Unlike the initial construction of the highway which resulted in the destruction of neighborhoods, this time all stakeholders had a seat at the table. Community engagement at all levels with focus groups and studies, there’s a community consensus for taking down the aging highway.

Again, millions if not billions are going to be invested in our city. With the rapid growth of our largest employers; medical and educational institutions, it’s time to take advantage of the convergence of circumstances to re-imagine our city.

Community Grid at Adams and Almond click on image to enlarge

Plans have been flying like the Eagles congregating by Destiny USA; the Syracuse Surge, re-routing Interstate 81, and Syracuse Housing Authority changing public housing as we know it with Blueprint 15.

According to Syracuse Housing Authority tenants will have a say in what the new community will be. City officials assuring Syracuse residents, that this is the beginning of a long process and major decisions have not been made yet. Once Blueprint 15 leadership is in place, the plan will take shape.

Syracuse Housing Authority making major changes with Pioneer Homes and beyond was going to happen regardless of Interstate 81, grid or no grid; SHA has been working on these plans for years. The Allyn Family Foundation lent support to get the project started. Other foundations, organizations and government will have to be at the table for any of these proposals to come to fruition.

Interstate 81 new viaduct

The 15th Ward is gone. Nothing can bring back the businesses, organizations and sense of community from the past. However, we now have the opportunity to once again shape the city of Syracuse in the diverse image of our overall city. Not with expensive community-in-a-box luxury domiciles, but with a planned eclectic mixture of urban life along with its cultural textures.

This is about the future of Syracuse, and how it develops is really up to residents and their engagement in the planning process. Devil being in the details, make sure that all commitments to the delivery of tangible community assets be written into legislation. These legally enforceable commitments must be made in line with authorized funding for any changes to Interstate 81. The last time this happened there were all kinds of beautiful plans and a great big book with signatures of the stakeholders of the day, giving their approval.  Most of the promises never left the printed page, but the people were removed. Let’s not repeat bad history.  The community grid or no grid, that’s no longer a question, the community has spoken, take the highway down.