UNL students present Downtown Revitalization Plan to the community for feedback

Veronica Barreto-Rosa, CherryRoad Media

UNL Community and Regional Planning students Nathan Al Hajri, Ryan Kendall, and Professor Zhenghong Tang hosted an Open House for Syracuse residents to review and comment on the Downtown Revitalization Plan that they have designed.

More than 40 people attended the reunion that took place at the Syracuse Public Library. Different community sectors were represented, like city officials and even hgih school students.

The master’s program students partnered with the City of Syracuse and Southeast Nebraska Development District to create the plan. Its main goal is to apply for funds to support the growth and development of the city.

Kendall said there are different grant opportunities with different government entities within the state, and with the federal government.

 The plan considers the community economy, downtown’s current condition, history, and cultural features.

Early in the summer, Dr. Tang met with community leaders to establish the survey on the resident’s overview.

The planning team presented recommendations that align with the priorities and goals identified by city members.

The first recommendation is for infrastructure improvements. This includes streetscape improvements, facade and building improvements, and the creation of a new community park downtown.

The second oversaw economic development like incentivizing businesses to adjust hours of operation and recruit retail and food-services businesses.

Another recommendation was the establishment of signature community events. The plan says that “one of the cornerstones of a thriving downtown are community events that provide opportunities for residents, visitors, and local businesses to gather together in celebration and fellowship.”

Students said that with these activities happening more often, the downtown area will become more vital.

Last, the students made recommendations on policy: update signage ordinance, update zoning ordinance or areas adjacent to downtown, and design standards for new construction.

Based on the analysis, the students also saw that some downtown buildings- in fair or poor conditions- needed improvement.  They also considered the problem of lighting.

The students also recommended that the city could add some banners to help with the city’s identity and beautification. They also recommended that the downtown area could have more spaces for gatherings, which could bring more people to the area.

The planners said that they want Syracuse to continue to be an inventive and welcome city with an inclusive environment.

The planning team will add all the new ideas shared at the open house to present the final project to the community in December.

UNL studednts Ryan Kendall (left) and Nabhan Al Hajri (right) presenting the revitalization project.