SUNY-ESF

SUNY-ESF students have partnered with OC3 group to revitalize downtown Oneida

Lucy Naland | Presentation Director

According to the real estate website Neighborhood Scout, most of the buildings in the area OC3 has focused on restoring in Oneida were built before 1939 and have a 12.4 percent vacancy rate.

Students at SUNY-ESF are working with the Oneida City Center Committee, or OC3, to revitalize a historic section of downtown Oneida.

Oneida is a small city located about 30 miles east of Syracuse. The students working with OC3 are members of a State University of New York School of Environmental Science and Forestry landscape architecture course.

Maren King, the director of SUNY-ESF’s Center for Community Design Research, said the class — which consists of nine undergraduate and graduate students — is in the process of synthesizing large volumes of data, community insight and other information to create cohesive designs for the future rehabilitation of the city center.

According to the real estate website Neighborhood Scout, most of the buildings in the area OC3 has focused on restoring in Oneida were built before 1939 and have a 12.4 percent vacancy rate. The SUNY-ESF students went on an observational walk at the beginning of the semester around the area OC3 calls “the city center” to assess the area’s condition, according to The Oneida Daily Dispatch.

Cassie Rose, director of planning and development for the city of Oneida and an OC3 board member, said OC3 has a New York Main Street grant that the group will use for the revitalization project and that all of the project’s construction will be finished by December 2018.

The students are planning to hold two upcoming community workshops under the themes “rethink and realize,” that will allow them to engage with the downtown community, King said. Another workshop previously took place on Feb. 11 at the Oneida City Hall, and the students said they received plenty of helpful feedback from the meeting.

“The whole community design thing is not so much about us getting their information and then giving them an option. It’s about us getting their information and educating them about their responses,” said Jon Matz, a second-year graduate student and class member.

The next workshop, which will be focused on “rethinking” the city center, is tentatively planned for March 25. The students will be presenting to community members the visuals based off of the information they collected in the first meeting, King said.

For the project’s final stage, King said students will have to fully document the project and give digital copies of information to OC3.

OC3 is also currently pursuing a National Register of Historic Places status for the city center’s commercial buildings that, as reported by The Oneida Daily Dispatch, would cut back on renovation expenses mandated by the New York State Historic Preservation Office by 40 percent.

The landscape architecture students from SUNY-ESF said they are keeping this possible historic status in mind as they craft their designs.

“We got a lot of information from them,” said Jeromy Wegrzyn, a graduate student that is part of the SUNY-ESF architecture class. “Basically, right now, we’re consolidating the information into graphic components in order to present what they said in a visual format for next time.”

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