The precursor to the waves of development that typically are associated with urban rebirth, are historic confluence of conditions that lead to the demise of a neighborhood, or entire cities, in the first place. For what ever reason, buildings were vacated and neighborhoods abandoned and left with little economic sustenance, lots of poverty and crime, and little hope. The only thing remaining of value are the buildings, boulevards and decayed infrastructure. The First Wave of rebirth are typically the artists, bohemians, independents and those willing to take a risk. They move in and make something habitable out of chaos and decay. Typically the vacated buildings are spruced up a bit, all be it funky and artistic, and a buzz begins to happen. A lot of innovative thinking goes on, this is where grand ideas begin to take shape.
The Second Wave are the small risk taking developers who tend to see the signs as positive movement in the community and believe they can make a difference. Their energy, money and belief in humanity for the greater good drive them. They wont’ make a whole lot of return on their investment, but they will make some and they are OK with that. Vacated buildings are refurbished, inexpensively due to low return on investments, but something begins to take place. Most of the new developments during this second wave are not high end, but merely something that the average person living on their own can afford. Families wont’ be moving into these neighborhoods, yet, so most of the apartments tend to be one and two bedrooms, with maybe some three bedrooms. The designs are rather shabby, but they serve their purpose. Retail slowly begins to move in as well during this phase, small boutique shops, coffee shops and restaurants. Again, not high end, but sufficient to entice more people to consider the area as habitable and of value.
The Third Wave are the less risky business conglomerates who know that established neighborhoods will yield high returns. They’ll put in higher end finishes, larger units, better designs and are willing to pay a bit more for quality because they know in the long run they will yield very good returns.
Syracuse is right now in between the first and second wave of downtown developments. Those who are undertaking projects are doing so with caution, pragmatism and an eye on lower cost construction. This wave may last a few years. If Syracuse is going to be a successful city, it will need to some day move into the third wave, but for now it’s an amazing step in the right direction.
One of the unique features that Syracuse has is Syracuse University and the vision that Nancy Cantor brought to the area with an integrated university city connection. I’m not sure we would be seeing this kind of growth as quickly without that symbiotic of relationship.