Rust2Green Utica's story

In 2010, with funding provided by the From Rust to Green Places and Networks Hatch grant, a team of Cornell faculty and students led by Landscape Architecture Professor Paula Horrigan began working with community partners in Utica, NY.  Later that year, R2G Utica was formally established locally and became a new program area of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County (CCEO).  By 2015, funding from the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties enabled establishing of the R2G Utica Urban Studio–staffed by CCEO and AmeriCorps Vistas with an office and meeting space in Utica’s City Hall. This innovative organizational structure, which is itself a direct outcome of R2G's success, has helped to further and advance R2G’s university-community cross-sector networking and collaborations, link R2G Utica projects to funding streams, leverage available resources and advance project implementation across the extended timeframes that are commonplace in community-driven development efforts. In 2018, R2G Utica incorporated as a non-profit and is now fiscally sponsored by the Community Foundation. It is overseen by a Board of Directors and is now operating with its headquarters at Mohawk Valley Community College's thINCubator where it is  continuing to evolve and develop in an emergent and dynamic manner. 

Sustained engagement over time

R2G Utica has thrived due to a high level of local investment and commitment from Utica leaders, organizations and individuals. The founding CORE of Utica partners, who first joined together with Cornell to collectively conceive and launch R2G, are credited with setting it in motion and creating the foundation and principles from which it has grown and evolved. As they underscored early on, to be successful, R2G Utica must be visible, action-oriented and 'viral' and take a positive role in helping to shift the then prevailing local narrative, from doom and gloom, towards possibility and promise. As they so aptly put it... "don't talk rust, act green."

R2G Utica's progress has been further enabled by the sustained engagement of Cornell and support coming from the Landscape Architecture Department, CaRDI, the Public Service Center, Engaged Cornell, the Atkinson Center and of course, students and faculty.  The longtime leadership and involvement of R2G lead faculty member Professor Paula Horrigan has created continuity and helped sustain Cornell's engagement over time. This has enabled the building of strong and lasting relationships between Cornell and Utica. Since 2010, over 200 university students– from Cornell and also other Utica-area colleges–have been engaged in R2G Utica projects. They have served as R2G Civic Research Fellows and participated in engaged courses conducting community-design and placemaking in Utica.  Working together with hundreds of local people, organizations and agencies on community development projects, Cornell's R2G Utica students and faculty have helped foster Utica's greater sustainability, resilience and transition from 'rust to green.'

Placemaking from the ground up!

Since 2010 R2G Utica's university-community partners have worked together on community placemaking projects related to sustainable neighborhood planning, arts and culture, parks and public spaces, food systems, downtown revitalization, streetscape design, creative placemaking and more. They have generated policies, design plans and reports, design creations, built works, community events, workshops, funding, jobs, social enterprises and collaborations and exchanges that have helped build and strengthen community capital, leverage resources and advance beneficial relationships and actions. Over the years R2G's community-university partners have collaborated in preparing and submitting a dozen NYS Consolidated Funding  grant applications and another 10 million in grant proposals,  and secured upwards of 5M in state and federal grant monies and leveraged that and more in the form of matching funds and in-kind contributions. This funding is enabling the implementation of a broad range of community development projects, like the examples mentioned below, that have arisen directly from the Cornell-Utica R2G partnership. These can also be found by linking to the R2G Utica website. 

R2G Utica Project Examples

MV Food Action Network and Food Policy Council

With funding from USDA, R2G Utica partners facilitated a two-year action research process enabling the launch and development of the Mohawk Valley Food Action Network and the Mohawk Valley region’s first Food Policy Advisory Council to promote a more sustainable and resilient area food system.

Kemble Park

With plans and cost estimates generated in R2G's 2013 Kemble Park community design visioning process, the Cornhill neighborhood worked to secure the land and funding to construct this new neighborhood park which opened in 2018.  Kemble Park reclaims disused land, greens and revitalizes the neighborhood and creates a safe and welcoming space for residents seeking recreation, community gathering and contact with nature.

One World Garden

In pluralistic Utica, the One World Garden project, which R2G has had in the works since 2012, promotes multi-cultural expression and inclusion and celebrates Utica's immigrant legacy and newest refugee population. R2G partners have secured $1.4 M, from NYS Parks and the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation, to transform several vacant city lots into a major arts and culture destination in the heart of downtown Utica's Art's District with hopes of breaking ground in 2020. 

Creative Placemaking in Oneida Square

R2G's long-term focus on promoting creative placemaking in the Oneida Square neighborhood and Arts' District, began in 2011 with designing two small parks in DOT's new roundabout, followed by a 2013 creative clacemaking planning process which led, in 2015, to mounting four consecutive annual neighborhood One World Flower Festivals. Then, in 2016, under R2G's leadership, the neighborhood secured the first of what in 2020 will be 5 annual grants from the Levitt Foundation to host a Levitt Amp Utica 10-week free summer concert series in the heart of the Oneida Square Neighborhood.