The Connective Corridor, one of the largest infrastructure projects built in New York in several decades, was completed in 2017. Its purpose: linking the campus community with downtown Syracuse and all that it offers. Giving students, faculty and staff a free shuttle from campus, as well as an illuminated pedestrian and bicycle-friendly path, the Connective Corridor has been nationally and internationally recognized for its pioneering, collaborative approach. An example of civic entrepreneurship, the Corridor has strengthened the bond between the City of Syracuse and the University and positively influenced downtown development. Syracuse’s downtown is doing well, attracting galleries, museums, businesses, restaurants and cultural opportunities—as well as being home to several programs in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and more than 70 employees in the University’s Division of Marketing and Communications who share space in the Warehouse building located at 350 West Fayette Street.
The Connective Corridor has given Syracuse University students the ability to connect with experiences and perspectives outside the classroom, including volunteer opportunities.
“It creates an opportunity for connectivity and engagement,” says Bea González, vice president for community engagement. González offers La Casita Cultural Center , a program of the College of Arts and Sciences , as one example. La Casita aims to be a bridge between the Hispanic communities of Syracuse University and Central New York, attracting so many people during Hispanic Heritage Month, there is standing room only at events. More than 200 Syracuse University students perform service work out of La Casita, González says.
The free shuttle portion of the project runs from campus through downtown, and in addition to La Casita, passes the Erie Canal Museum, Community Folk Art Center, Syracuse Stage, Jazz Central, Everson Museum of Art and the Museum of Science and Technology. These stops are just a few of the 22 cultural venues along the route.
For faculty and staff, the Connective Corridor and the shuttle make living downtown easier. After being appointed dean of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management in May 2017, Eugene “Gene” Anderson moved into an apartment about a block from the Connective Corridor shuttle route. He says that the shuttle, in particular, is a huge convenience, although he also travels on foot. “I use it more in the winter than the summer, I find. In good weather, I just walk. It's maybe 20 minutes from here to there,” says Anderson. “I'll tell you, in the winter it comes in real handy.”
The results have been universally positive for residents of downtown like Anderson.
“I love the fact that it's made downtown more livable for more people. Because I know that there are not only students, but also a lot of faculty and staff that are starting to live downtown as well,” he says. “And that just makes it so much easier, so much more livable, and it's a good, green commute.”
Aside from the convenience getting to and from campus, the Connective Corridor as a whole has also improved the surrounding area.
“Syracuse University benefits from the City of Syracuse being healthy and thriving, a place that faculty are going to want to live, that students are going to want to go to, that parents are going to want to send their kids to,” says Maarten Jacobs, currently the director of community prosperity for the Allyn Family Foundation . Jacobs worked for the Near Westside Initiative, a community partnership involving Syracuse University, while the Connective Corridor was being developed. Jacobs looks at the University’s purchase of the Warehouse—a previously abandoned building—as a major step in revitalizing the area. “That has had such a ripple effect throughout our downtown to see it now become a more thriving and vibrant neighborhood,” he says. By first purchasing the Warehouse, Syracuse University helped create more opportunities in the Near Westside to build an economic base, says Jacobs.
While a Syracuse University-led project, the Connective Corridor is not dominated by Syracuse University’s look and feel. Jacobs says the Connective Corridor has a feel of something done in partnership with and for the community, rather than the University pushing itself onto the community. “Particularly when you look at the public art, you see murals up and down Fayette Street. They've just become part of the character and the landscape of our city,” says Jacobs.
The Connective Corridor has made an area once plagued with abandoned buildings and urban decay into a thriving neighborhood with cultural and historical offerings easily accessed from campus. “It’s about understanding where people are, meeting them there and creating the opportunity,” says González.