So much can happen in a year. You know that. I know that. But have you ever sat down and made a list of what actually went down in your life, your city and your world? It’s overwhelming, but oh so necessary. In order to move forward into the future, it’s important to reflect on what’s past. Though we are well into February already, it’s not too late to take a quick look at some of the economic and design-related trends that happened across cities in Upstate/Central New York last year:
1. When in doubt, ask for a billion dollars.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2012 gift to Buffalo couldn’t go unattested for long. In the last few months, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany have given individual statements to spark the governor’s interest in investment. But he’s serious. Cuomo announced last month that an additional $1.5 billion dollars would be divided among three upstate areas in a state-wide competition. This has nothing to do with the annual funds given out by the Regional Economic Development Council, but instead will bring economic resurgence and job growth to the regions that market their proposals best.
“Why did we start in Buffalo?,” the governor asked. “Because Buffalo had the worst problems, period.” Well, now Buffalo is ranked among the top cities for young people to live in the country. No wonder the rest of us are scrambling to get a slice of Cuomo’s $1.5 billion pie. Could Syracuse become a youth magnet?
If you live in the suburbs, don’t freak yet. People still love their space. But it’s true that more and more people are moving to downtowns across the country and worldwide. By 2050, one in seven people will live in urban areas. You’re thinking this means just an extra batch moving to New York City, right? Try again. Nearly half of the world’s 3.9 billion city residents live in cities with less than 500,000 people now, according to the United Nations. Imagine what this could look like in four decades.
Mixed-use development and downtown apartment growth has also skyrocketed in the last year among New York State cities. Although mounds of snow on downtown sidewalks frustrate the daily winter commute, people still seem to be interested in the proximity of a downtown live-close/work-close environment.
On another note, new restaurants opening in Syracuse itself signal an upswing in downtown attraction. People are flocking to Armory Square and its surrounding streets to check out new hotspots including Modern Malt, the new downtown Funk n’ Waffles, Maxwell’s and Byblos Bar and Grill. Downtown Dining Week 2015, which began yesterday, encourages locals to get out for a night on the town.
3. Work to be a lean, green fighting machine.
People, we’re talking technology, energy, sustainability, medicine and jobs – and not just in New York City. The downtrodden and nostalgic Rust Belt cities of the 20th century are perfect places for tech company start-ups. Why? Our education is focused, we’re trying to be environmentally considerate – although that’s increasingly challenging in Syracuse – and we’ve got room for new businesses. Money is being spent statewide on projects in green infrustructure (Syracuse) and on nanotechnology (Albany).
Cuomo also announced Tuesday that five Upstate cities would compete for up to $20 million in funding for energy projects as part of the Five Cities Energy Plans. More government support hopefully equals a better chance at achieving these many goals.
So, now is obviously the time to invest in our sustainable future. I say this not just because we might not have a strongish economy without the surge of interest in technology, but because we have the chance to regionalize our collective offerings to the country once again. As former hubs of national manufacturing corporations, we probably haven’t forgotten how to lead an industry just yet. Let’s become sustainable innovation districts. Let’s brand ourselves as forces to be reckoned with in this field.
Looking toward the next ten months…