Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainable Development

Standing the Test of Time: 6 Key Factors for Well Managed and Maintained Public Infrastructure

June 10, 2013 at 11:34 AM

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Case Study: CONNECTIVE CORRIDOR
Location: SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

The recent and growing opposition reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard to the proposed maintenance fees associated with the upkeep of the Syracuse Connective Corridor highlight a persistent problem in community and economic revitalization efforts relating to long-term sustainability and upkeep costs.

The Connective Corridor is a multi-phase project overseen by Syracuse University, which amassed $42.5 million in funding for the overall project. Construction on the next phase, which will extend further into downtown, could begin by late summer.

The corridor is intended to be a distinctive path from Syracuse University across downtown Syracuse that includes public art, bike paths, new vegetation and special transportation services, among other amenities. Designers hope it will create more connections between the university and its host city.

East Side business owners along the spruced up Connective Corridor are continuing to come forward to oppose a new city fee for maintenance of the street improvements.

If the Syracuse Common Council approves the proposed maintenance assessment for 48 properties along the corridor - mostly on East Genesee Street and University Avenue - it would double what some of the property owners pay in city taxes. The proposal before the council would merge properties along the Connective Corridor into the Downtown Special Assessment District. Since the district was created in 1976, downtown businesses have paid an extra fee on their taxes for maintenance and other services provided by the nonprofit Downtown Committee of Syracuse. This would be the first expansion of the special district.

READ NEWS COVERAGE:

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BACKGROUND: What is the Connective Corridor?

The Connective Corridor is a multi-modal transportation and urban design project connecting the major economic and cultural institutions in the City of Syracuse. The Connective Corridor encompasses the University Hill area and Downtown Syracuse, home the region’s largest concentration of employers and cultural destinations:

  • Syracuse University, Upstate Medical University, and State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry,
  • Four major hospitals serving the entire Central New York Region;
  • Over 25 cultural venues,
  • Five hotels,
  • The region’s largest convention and entertainment complex,
  • The city’s central business district,

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Long-Term Project Maintenance Issues:

Like all questions of municipal governance and management, operating the Corridor will raise issues of public versus private control and ultimately of accountability, effectiveness and equity. Today’s reality is that the public sector is facing severe budgetary cuts. Citizens today are viewing smaller departments severely limited by the constraints of the municipal budget, which have raised questions about the long-term continuance of public sector management over the long-term. At the same time, imaginative options exist for new management strategies and initiatives, some already underway within the existing framework of municipal government.

6 Key Factors for Well Managed and Maintained Public Infrastructure:

  1. Committed long-term public and private sector leadership and resources
  2. Dedicated and innovative funding for long-term capital, maintenance and operating costs
  3. Clear articulated mission and means to achieve it
  4. Integrated management structure for maintenance
  5. Site-based maintenance and budgeting initiatives
  6. Private sector support

The management of the Corridor is an exciting and formidable urban design management challenge.

Portions of the ‘site’ will be constructed as public parks or urban plazas, while the majority of the design is comprised of streetscape enhancement. Maintenance creates a dynamic tension: Can the Corridor have landscape areas, serve the numbers of users anticipated and deliver a high quality maintained urban design? Perhaps one of the most demanding tasks for the Connective Corridor will be the high level of resources needed for seasonal snow removal. The anticipated number of users will also mean that an increased level of resources will need to be committed toward simple daily cleaning of the Corridor. The Connective Corridor is not an unusual urban design project in that it will need to make decisions based on labor-intensive maintenance servicing and streetscape usage as well as aesthetics and function.

Any physical plan should have a supporting management plan that includes overall management and user service strategies, as well as articulating maintenance and operations needs.

Many important questions need to be answered, probably the most important of which are:

  • What is the extent and level of maintenance required for the Corridor?
  • What are the short-term solutions for maintaining capital improvements on the Corridor with existing entities (City, County, State, University, BID)?
  • What is the long-term management strategy/ structure that will ensure the Connective Corridor’s perpetual care?

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