Elevating Erie: An Exhibition of Big Ideas

In the Fall of 2015, the City of Syracuse and Town of DeWitt launched Elevating Erie, a competition to identify innovative ideas that could stimulate and guide the future development of the Canalway corridor within both the Town and the City. This jointly-sponsored solicitation, made possible with funding from the New York State Department of State and the Central New York Community Foundation, solicited ideas from the international design community through an open call for ideas. 64 different proposals were received representing ideas from 16 different countries.

The Town of Dewitt and the City of Syracuse are showcasing the Elevating Erie proposals during a public exhibition at the Erie Canal Museum in Downtown Syracuse from May 5 – August 14 2016. The ELEVATING ERIE: Exhibition of Big Ideas opens Thursday May 5th at 4:30pm. At 5:45pm a panel discussion featuring national experts Chris Reed of the design firm Stoss of Boston and Jeff Olson a principal with ALTA, one of the premier alternative transportation planning firms in North America will discuss these ideas and their application along the Erie Boulevard East corridor. 

A jury of local and national experts reviewed the submissions and awarded winners based on the project sites of BLVD, BLOCK, BRANCH, and BRIDGE. The winner of the BLVD received $3,000, and the others were awarded IPad Pros.

While the original Erie Canal has been paved over for 100 years, the corridor has remained significant to the region by transporting people and goods. It now has the potential to become part of the longest continuous bicycle and pedestrian trail in North America. The Canalway Trail is a network of approximately 400-miles of multi-use trails across upstate New York. The Canalway Trail follows the towpaths of both active and historic sections of the New York State Canal System, as well as adjacent abandoned rail corridors. Major portions of the Canalway Trail follow the legendary Erie Canal route from Buffalo to Albany.  Along the way, the Erie Canalway Trail links the cities of Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica.  Over 75% of the Erie Canalway Trail is completed off-road. 

The Canalway Trail is not only a long-distance bicycling destination, but also a recreational resource for biking, walking, jogging, and other types of seasonal trail activities.  In Syracuse the Canalway Trail has an entry point in DeWitt heading east and an entry point in Camillus heading west with a roughly 14-mile gap between them. Arguably the most challenging section of that gap, and the area with the most opportunity, is the segment of Erie Boulevard in question.

Bicycle tourism is one of the fastest growing forms of tourism in North America. When cyclists come to town, they do so seeking good food, drink, sightseeing, a good place to sleep, and a safe place to store their bike(s). According to a recent study conducted by Park and Trails NY, the Erie Canalway Trail gets more than 1.58 million visits per year. Spending by those visitors generates $253 million annually in economic impact and $28.5 million in sales and income taxes. Trail traffic also supports 3,440 jobs in the local economies within the trail corridor.

Additional information on the competition, as well as the submissions, are available to be viewed through the competition website www.elevatingerie.com. The website also includes a link to a public survey to solicit feedback on the ideas that were submitted, as well as to help to gauge community priorities for the corridor.