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Raised Intersections, A Pedestrian Mall, Better Sidewalks Among the Ideas to Improve Armory Square

Syracuse’s Armory Square is already one of the area’s most popular destinations, where people shop, eat, drink, or catch a show.  But what can make it more pedestrian friendly and attractive? 

The City of Syracuse and the Metropolitan Transportation Council have been working on a number of ideas.  This sheds light on some of them, and what stakeholders have to say.

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
The Jeffreson Clinton Hotel sits at one of the main entrances to the Armory Square district.

Walt Deskiewicz is the long-time owner of the Jefferson Clinton Hotel.  He has no shortage of opinions for how to improve pedestrian access and slow down traffic.

“This particular crosswalk is useless.  I don’t know who painted that…probably just for good luck.  We definitely need one here and one here, and the reason is for safety,”  he said, pointing to one of the many draft ideas.        

He and others were sharing their thoughts at a recent public meeting on the Armory Square Mobility Plan put on by the SMTC.  Senior transportation planner Aaron McKeon set the stage:

“This was a study requested by the City of Syracuse.  The asked us essentially, Armory Square is great for pedestrians.  But what can be done to make it more pedestrian friendly and more accessible for people with disabilities.  Could we find more room for café seating, for example?  You have a public right of way, and how can we re-distribute the uses of that right of way to benefit everybody.

City of Syracuse DPW Transportation Planner Neil Burke says they’re not looking to make wholesale change about how people get to and through Armory Square.

“We want to take a holistic look at how everyone is moving around Armory Square, and are there things we can do to improve upon that.”

McKeon with the SMTC wants to capitalize on an area that’s already pedestrian friendly.

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Some notes on this draft concept point out the need for an additional crosswalk in front of the Jefferson Clinton Hotel and wider sidewalks. This concept shows Jefferson as a one-way street.

“These are some numbers from the Franklin and Walton intersection.  On a given weekday around lunchtime, there are actually more pedestrians walking through the intersection than there are cars.  Our feeling is that the design of the infrastructure should reflect that pedestrians are an equal footing, if you will, with vehicles.”              

Draft plans suggest making Clinton Street two-way to calm traffic, add parking, and enhance pedestrian use.  Walt Deskiewicz with the Jefferson Clinton Hotel agrees.

If you’re coming this way from 81…did you ever drive through there?  You go in, out, in, out because the lanes are changing constantly because of the widths and parking.  Bring the two-way all the way to Fayette Street.  Then the rest of it is much easier to manage,” he said.

Then he changed his focus to Walton Street.

“Walton, of course, has to be changed because of the stairs.  On the other side, you have the Blue Tusk with tables on Walton.   You can’t blame them.  How much sidewalk does that leave you…two feet?  Three feet?  Make the sidewalk so it’s appropriate for people to walk, and let them sit over there, too.   You want to be people friendly.”

Ryan Goodfellow is a realtor and represents the Center Armory Homeowner’s Association.  He’s lived in the district for 13 years.

“The parking along Walton Street…I walk by there a dozen times a day.  It’s the same vehicles that feed the meters all day.  They’re not being used for the patrons that you want to visit,” he said. 

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Should Walton St. between Franklin and Clinton become a pedestrian mall?

“Walton Street should be closed down.  Have deliveries only in the early mornings, and make it a pedestrian friendly mall.  Give the space back to the shops and the restaurants.  You’re only talking about [losing] a few parking spaces.  Close it down block to block, and make it an open public space.  Church Street in Burlington, Vermont is a great example of that.”

SMTC planner Aaron McKeon says there is a plan that leans that direction, though he says they’re approaching any pedestrian mall concept with caution.

There’s idea of using bollards on either end of the 100 block of Walton Street.   On Friday and Saturday nights, that block is closed by Syracuse Police.  They use police vehicles, sawhorses and a police presence to close it off to traffic.  A few businesses said that’s not necessarily a great fit for a nice, upscale entertainment district.” 

Bollards are shorts posts, sometimes removable, that can control traffic.  Other concepts include bike lanes, raised intersections, curbless streets, and more sidewalks around Jefferson Circle near the railroad bridge to encourage people to feel more comfortable parking in the underused Trolley lot.  The SMTC is wrapping up its work and will present their recommendations to the city before summer.  The city can decide what, if any, plan to adopt. 

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Bollards could be used to cordon off Walton St. instead of police cars and sawhorses.