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Business

How University Hill hopes to continue economic influence

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The Hall of Languages at Syracuse University.

The University Hill section of Syracuse is home to two colleges, three hospitals and several businesses that support them. It’s also a quarter of Syracuse’s economy.

There's $650 million worth of investment underway on the hill, according to Dave Mankiewitz, president of the University Hill Corporation.

The University Hill Corporation has been advised that Interstate 81 needs to be removed for the neighborhood to thrive. But the group is waiting to weigh in on the project.

Syracuse University and Upstate University Hospital have been slowly expanding their footprint toward the elevated stretch of Interstate 81, which marks the furthest point west they can grow. Some new buildings get about as close as possible. 

He says connecting downtown with the university would be a key to that.

"The community expects the leaders of University Hill to be out in front of this public policy issue," Mankiewitz said. "That can present us with some unique challenges. And since University Hill is a community that values research and decisions based on facts and not opinions, our board is taking time to analyze those issues involving the highway."

Mankiewitz told the group's annual meeting Wednesday the future of University Hill is as an innovation district, which means integrating several economic assets in close proximity of each other.

"These innovation districts are physically compact, walkable, transit accessible, wired for technology and offer mixed use housing, office and retail," he said. "They are the vanguard of the innovation economy, and they are focused in cities."

The keynote speaker at the corporation's luncheon was Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud. He said he’s trying to get the college to be more involved in international research and scholarship, which could be the greatest contribution SU can make to the community.

Syverud says Syracuse University needs to be excellent in what it delivers to its students. He says the school should attract great people to the region by engaging the community, particularly communities in need. He says doing that would be hard even in stable times.

"These are not stable times for higher education," he said. "Higher education is a sector of our economy that, in many ways, has changed the least with the various revolutions of technology and economy." 

Syverud would not take questions from reporters after his speech. Even as he spoke of community engagement and scholarship, a large group of students are staging a sit-in outside his offices to call for more student support and administrative transparency.

Syverud has been chancellor since January.