PRoject overview

Elevating Erie posed a timely, yet multivalent challenge that required innovative and collaborative thinking across disciplines. As such, this competition was open to everyone with a great idea supported by a defensible position—designers, artists, economists, ecologists, engineers, public health experts, students, professionals. A qualified entry to the Elevating Erie design competition could be submitted in the form of a drawn design proposal, a policy paper, an essay, or an integrative plan, as long as the proposal addresses the criteria listed below. Winning proposals would be judged on how that could be both paradigm-shifting and pragmatic. Each proposal was asked to:


+ Provide a legible extension of the current Erie Canalway Trail terminus on the east toward the western terminus within the project site boundaries.

+ Elevate Erie beyond an automobile-centric landscape to that of a mixed use, multimodal, biodiverse, and recreational corridor. Strategies should encourage urban, social, and ecological connectivity to the existing Canalway Trail and to the community on either side.

+ Prevent negative impacts to the environment. Each proposal must provide at least a brief (approx. 200 words) environmental impact assessment as part of a written description, in order to determine the effects of the project on the natural ecosystems.

+ Consider that over 95% of the habitat in this ecoregion has been lost to suburban development and pollution. Much of the remaining habitat consists of wetlands or abandoned farmlands undergoing reforestation. Other areas continue to be converted to agriculture or are succumbing to urbanization, causing the World Wildlife Foundation to deem the ecoregion containing the Boulevard as critical to endangered.

+ Be well informed by a thorough understanding of history, geography, details of the design site(s) and the broader contexts of Erie Boulevard and the Canal infrastructural system.


+ Sensationalize natural, ecological, and mutualistic systems while integrating them with the infrastructural needs of the Boulevard (bike lanes, driving lanes, multimodal potentials, etc).

+ Employ technology that can be scalable and tested. There is no limit on the type of technology that can be specified.

+ Consider solutions that would encourage a shift from the existing single-story commercial development fronted by large parking lots to that of mixed use, mixed income development with a relationship to the street that encourages pedestrian transit.

+ Propose interventions that creatively address the historical significance of the corridor.



A 4-mile stretch of suburban boulevard that represents part of the 14-mile gap of the Erie Canalway Trail in Syracuse.  The site covers roughly 2 miles in the town of DeWitt and 2 miles in the city of Syracuse. Conditions along this route shift in a variety of ways: changing roadway widths (from 100’ to 180’ to 60’), adjacent use (from shopping mall to strip centers to big box retail to single commercial use with ample onsite parking, to light industrial), and socioeconomic conditions. The area to the south outside the site boundaries is primarily residential (single and multifamily), and to the area to the north outside the site boundaries is primarily commercial and industrial with several office parks. Interventions at this scale can be general in nature, taking care to deploy a legible, coherent, and adaptable strategy for the 4 miles.

Each team had to submit a proposal for the Boulevard. However, since the area that both influences and encapsulates the design challenge is quite large, teams were given the additional opportunity to engage the program at smaller scales if they wished. All sites and adjacent parcels are outlined in the Project Boundaries drawing. This drawing shows a street right-of-way extending many miles through both DeWitt and Syracuse with the smaller site areas identified for possible study.


Within the city of Syracuse portion of the project area, this site is used to depict your program strategies at the block scale. This section of right-of-way is the widest portion of Erie measuring over 180’. Six lanes of travel typically move faster than the posted speed of 40-mph speed limit on either side of an 80’ unused median. The north edge of the site is currently zoned for industrial use, while the south is commercial. Proposals should consider strategies that can be replicated along the route while also leveraging the unique opportunity of this extreme width. Proposals may consider land or building development options for adjacent areas that would reinforce your position and suggest future growth patterns.


Widewaters is located at the intersection of the still day-lit but completely hidden section of the Erie Canal and Erie Boulevard. This is where the Canalway Trail will officially intersect with the Boulevard. The area is bordered by big box retail, an office park, small scale commercial buildings, and fast food establishments.  Proposals should find ways to leverage the undervalued asset and may consider land or building development options for the vacant lot on the east side of the intersection that would reinforce your position by suggesting future growth patterns.


Situated at the terminus of the current Erie Canalway Trail. People and habitats need an effective and deployable method for crossing over the four-lane expressway so they can effectively integrate with the Erie system. So while not officially on the Boulevard, this site offers the unique challenge of spanning a depressed highway with strategies that work in conjunction with those that you employed along the boulevard. Proposals should provide a unique experience that confronts the noise and environmental pollutions.