Chris Merritt (MLA ’17) named finalist in Elevating Erie competition

Harvard Graduate School of Design student Chris Merritt (MLA ’17) was named a finalist in the recent Elevating Erie competition, launched in October 2015 by the City of Syracuse and the Town of DeWitt, New York. The competition sought plans to revitalize Erie Boulevard, a 4-mile stretch of road along the 14-mile gap of the Erie Canalway Trail in Syracuse. Entrants were encouraged to consider questions like how the Erie Canalway Trail can inspire quality of life and community through design, and how it can act as an ecological corridor while also providing social and urban programming along its length.

Merritt’s proposal, titled “Erie Eco-Transect,” was one of 12 finalists selected from 64 entries, with 16 countries represented. His project is now being exhibited at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse alongside other finalists’ work, with a companion publication to follow.

Ideas from Merritt’s and other finalist projects will also be presented to local officials to help guide future decisions regarding the design and development of the Erie Boulevard East corridor. Plans are for the exhibition to travel to other communities along the canal and to be showcased at the 2017 World Canal Conference in Syracuse.

Merritt’s “Erie Eco-Transect” project repositions the section of the Erie Canal between Syracuse and DeWitt as a vibrant, public, open space. The project proposes a landscape framework developed from collecting and curating the ecological gradient experienced along the Erie Canal. This “eco-transect” is recreated on-site, resulting in new public open space that connects to its natural context.


In addition, paving, site walls, structures, and event spaces are crafted as an abstraction from the forms and materials of the historic Erie Canal creating a unique open space experience for work and play.

Each block along the proposed Erie Boulevard will provide a unique landscape experience of the “eco-transect” while maintaining a consistent character along the Erie Canalway Trail. The trail is extended along the boulevard as part of a new street section. Traffic lanes are reorganized to provide a pedestrian and bike friendly boulevard with narrowed lanes, parallel parking, separated bike lanes, consistent street trees, and new building setbacks.

Merritt was also honored recently in the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) 2016 Hines Student Competition, where the GSD team he led, “Midtown Beat,” took the top prize.

To learn more about the Elevating Erie competition and “Erie Eco-Transect,” please visit the competition website.

All images courtesy Chris Merritt