SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Officials gathered. Speeches were delivered. The heavy equipment waits as golden shovels perform the ceremonial task of groundbreaking.
Fourteen acres along East Fayette Street in Syracuse will change. A new biotech research center is coming, created by two state university schools.
“We're going to attract, I think, additional businesses that will be incubators that will carry some of this research forward,” said SUNY ESF President Neil Murphy.
“This will be the first biotech center in the country that will really be of its kind, creating jobs here in Syracuse and Central New York. So, it's a real big deal for us in this community,” said Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll.
The area has seen it all before, as streets gave way to canals. Canals to trains. Businesses moving in and out. Each time, a bit more of the neighborhood lost and people displaced. In the 1970s, in an attempt to bring people back, a massive housing project covered the site -- Kennedy Square.
By the time the 21st Century arrived, complexes like Kennedy Square were in disrepair. They found themselves the center of problems related to poverty, drugs and crime. Again, people were moved out, clearing the way for new development.
The people behind the biotech center say they have not forgotten history. This time, people are part of the plan. There is room for new, affordable housing. Room for other community efforts, perhaps a center offering education programs.
“The community will have a place to come together, number one. But, number two is some value added opportunities that education can do,” said SUNY Upstate Medical University President Dr. David Smith.
The promises are in place. The neighborhood says it's keeping watch.
“It is a major concern. And I guess we advocates come into the picture to make sure that the politicians and everyone do what they say they're going to do,” said Julius Lawrence of PEACE, Inc.
Researchers, government, business and the neighborhood are hoping this is a story of promises kept.
The first phase of the new development, the 60,000 square foot research center, has a price tag of $20 million.