Syracusans know Hawley-Green as many things – LGBT-friendly, rich in historic rowhouses, the site of the popular tapas bar Laci’s. But what you may not know about this district is that its residents consider it the “first neighborhood in Syracuse.”
The triangular-shaped district lies between where both Erie Canal and the city trolley lines ran after its first residents moved there in the 1840s. It’s arguable that Hawley Green could have been the neighborhood where our first locals lived. Fun fact.
This week I sat down with Mike La Flair, executive director of Northeast Hawley Development Association (NEDHA), to learn more about the Hawley-Green neighborhood in Syracuse’s Northside.
Because Hawley-Green is right next to both downtown and Syracuse University, Hawley-Green is the perfect place to settle in and get involved, according to La Flair. He described its identity as a “bedroom community” in the city where major developments are happening and bring quality business and young people to the district.
A History for the Future
La Flair began working with NEDHA last year and has many plans to continue their strong momentum of neighborhood revitalization. He wants to brand and market the community next year, putting up signage and designating all of its historic structures.
La Flair said the city is trying to expand Hawley-Green’s historic district, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Over 50 structures have been identified. Click on either of these links to learn more about these buildings: HG Syracuse Landmarks and Hawley-Green Street Historic District 1979
Everyone seems to be involved. The neighborhood hosts block parties, brunches, picnics, biannual cleanups and monthly neighborhood meetings to boost morale and get people talking to one another. La Flair said people just want to be aware of what’s going on.
“If you’re new at these meetings, will just come right up to you and introduce themselves and tell you everything about Hawley-Green,” he said.
A Progressive Development
In most cases, developers compete heavily for neighborhood real estate, but bidding wars are not an issue in Hawley-Green. Everyone wants what’s best for the whole street, not just one particular plot, according to La Flair. How rare this really is.
NEDHA acts as a communications middleman for development in the Northside. La Flair said they want to “improve and sustain the quality of life for all stakeholders on the Northside of the city.”
But there’s one major issue halting development in Hawley Green – I-81. The neighborhood is right next to the 690 and 81 interchange. If any restructuring is done to the highway, a handful of the district’s buildings could be demolished.
Until a decision is made about the highway’s future – which could be in a few years – La Flair and the residents of Hawley-Green have to wait. If they take a chance on trying to sell or develop a property alongside the highway, it could potentially backfire.
“It’s tough to market certain properties for the future,” La Flair said. “We just don’t know what’s going to happen. People are hesitant and it puts progressive development on hold.”
No matter what happens, La Flair agrees the highway needs to come down. And Hawley-Green will be changed, no doubt. But what he really doesn’t want is for the highway to create more walls, barricading Hawley-Green and the Northside from connecting easily with the rest of the city.
So, what is it about Hawley-Green’s identity?
Friendliness, community, location and development. As a major artery for the Northside, Hawley-Green is a key player in the resurgence of this district. History bleeds through the historic structures in this neighborhood, but its future is in the hands of the people and its newest developments.
To continue revitalizing this community, NEDHA needs volunteers interested in everything from architecture, history and economic development.
This post is part of our district identities series.