Walkable urban trend strengthens struggling Upstate NY downtowns
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Upstate New York cities have been among the most economically hard-hit — suffering from long-term decline of industry, a location outside of the prospering Northeast corridor, and relatively high taxes.
If these small- to mid-sized cities (Buffalo is the largest at 261,000 population) are feeling positive effects from the trend toward walkable urban places that researchers have reported (see article on page 1) — they provide evidence that this trend is widespread and reaching beyond major cities with global markets.
In early October I spoke at a conference of the New York State Conference of Mayors and the Urban Council in a panel with developers from Syracuse, Rochester, and Watertown. Developers all reported that the downtown residential market had gained strength in recent years — in some cases for the first time in decades.
Then I examined recent market studies in three other Upstate New York cities — Buffalo, Albany, and Ithaca. Here’s what I found:
• Downtown rental occupancy is exceedingly tight.
• Rental demand is up substanially.
• Younger singles and couples represent a growing share, and the lion’s share, of the market. In Albany, for example, the downtown market consists of 74 percent younger singles and couples — up from 52 percent