Fast Forward Syracuse

How the city of Syracuse works with Syracuse University to develop the Campus Framework

Emmy Gnat | Head Illustrator

To implement the Campus Framework, Syracuse University must get approval from various city regulation boards.

To implement the Campus Framework, Syracuse University must work with and get approval from the city of Syracuse through different zoning and regulation boards.

Every time SU wants to make a change to its campus, it must submit an application to the City Planning Commission. The changes it wants to make must be in line with the Planned Institutional District zoning regulations. Depending on the nature of the project, the proposal may need to go through other boards as well, such as the Landmark Preservation Board.

“For any major construction project, leaders from all city departments and the mayor’s office will meet with University staff, project architects and engineers to go over all aspects of a project’s development,” said Pete Sala, vice president and chief campus facilities officer, and Kevin Quinn, senior vice president for public affairs at SU, in an email.

Sala, Quinn and city officials have all said the relationship between the city and the university has been professional and positive.

The Campus Framework is one of three parts of Chancellor Kent Syverud’s Fast Forward Syracuse initiative. The framework is a 20-year roadmap of the physical campus changes and renovations. The other two parts are the Academic Strategic Plan and Operational Excellence Program.

The current parts of the Framework the university is working on right now are the Arch and National Veterans Resource Complex, Sala and Quinn said. But SU has not been on the agenda for the last two City Planning Commission meetings.

They said the university is working with the city to develop a district stormwater approach to reduce stormwater flow to the combined sewer west of campus, and to improve the utility structure the new NVRC will connect to. A stormwater management system helps distribute runoff from precipitation and snowmelt. The Hoople Building — which is currently standing where the NVRC will be — has not yet been demolished. SU officials had said it would be demolished in late October or early November. Planning for the Arch remains ongoing, Sala and Quinn said.

The last completed project of the Framework the university worked on with the city was the University Place promenade, in which SU and the city collaborated to replace the water main and renew the sewer main running along that street.

Nader Maroun, a Syracuse Common Councilor, said the university must go through the same process with the city whether it wants to renovate a part of campus or expand it. The process of submitting an application and following up with inspections by the city usually takes around three months, he said.

“The timing would depend on how well the plans that are submitted meet with the request that the permit has been filled out,” Maroun said. “So if the plans are thorough and reflect accurately what they are trying to do, if those meet code then it’s not a difficult process on timing-wise.”

To initially establish a Planned Institutional District, the initiator — an institution, group of institutions, private individuals and/or the city of Syracuse — must submit a sketch plan to the City Planning Commission, according to a zoning review document. Then the district area must be decided, a district plan developed and a public hearing held and approved by the Common Councils to have the PID established.

A project plan then must be submitted, which has details such as the site plans for construction, the areas for planned landscape and plans for utility patterns. There are certain development requirements a PID must have, such as structures can only cover up to 50 percent of the district and 80 percent of the required off-street parking be provided in parking garages.

Some of SU’s projects often need to be reviewed by the Landmark Preservation Board. Don Radke, the board’s chairman, said the board will get involved in two instances: If it is a historical building or appears on a state, national or local register; or if the applicant wants feedback and input.

This was the case with the Arch project, which is SU’s plan to turn Archbold Gymnasium into a new health and wellness center. Archbold is currently listed in the Comstock Tract National Register District. Radke said the university will usually give a presentation to the board when it needs to get something approved and then the board comments. Depending on the project it can take one to several meetings, he said, and the board meets twice a month.

Sala and Quinn said the input from the Landmark Preservation Board did not slow down efforts to implement the Arch.

“There are typically several regulatory approval steps to take to get approval for a major renovation or new constriction, and this timeline is part of a projects schedule,” the two SU officials said.

The relationship between the city and the university has been a “very good working relationship,” said Heather Lamendola, zoning administrator in the Office of Zoning Administration. The zoning office specifically has a strong relationship with SU’s Office of Campus Planning, Design and Construction.

Maroun said the relationship between the city and university is mutually beneficial: The city wants to draw students and give them a great experience, and in the meantime the university provides jobs and the students support local businesses.

“It’s in both parties’ best interest to have a very fluid, working, respectful relationship, that has been the case,” he said. “Occasionally there has been a hiccup, (but) the relationship has been good.”

Paul Driscoll, commissioner of the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, referenced the proposals to renovate the Carrier Dome in late 2013 as one possible disagreement between the university and the city.

Yet he said former Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s initiatives to integrate the university and the city were positive. Cantor created the Centro Connective Corridor route, reestablished the Warehouse — now formally named the Nancy Cantor Warehouse — and helped establish the Syracuse Say Yes to Education program, which helps prepare students in the Syracuse City School District for college.

To have SU in the city limits is nothing sneeze at, Driscoll said, and there has been no malice from either the city or university.

“It’s symbiotic,” he said. “We need each other.”


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