The publisher has now acknowledged not one but two significant conflicts of interest that the original print article did NOT disclose: One, her company is a "substantial" (her word) donor to one of the parties to the controversy. Two, as a competing provider of rental housing in the same market, she has a financial stake in the outcome.
To what extent either of these circumstances influenced the article is an interesting question, but not the main point. Any credible code of ethics mandates avoiding even the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest. Accordingly, at an absolute minimum these conflicts should have been disclosed early and often.
Douglas Fisher - As to "debasing" the Eastman House, one might argue that tacking on the museum wing has already accomplished that debasement. And since the Eastman House management themselves are the folks who threw away their best chance to preserve the, "original creative vision" of the site (assuming that the original early 1900s vision contemplated adding the aforementioned museum wing in the 1980s) perhaps you should be chastising them.
Henry Hope Reed, who died on Wednesday at 97, pioneered the concept of urban walking tours, such that the New York Times once covered his doing this. His lessons are relevant for Rochester.
Whereas the walking tour that I gave in Victor village on Saturday focused on historical aspects of the locale's 19th-century buildings and their occupants -- such as my identifying the long-ago business in one building and the long-ago businessman's home in his nearby house -- Henry Hope Reed's walking tours were a mobile critique of his subject locale in terms of his own architectural lens.
Reed was an unabashed classicist, and rebelled against what he considered to be an unthinking contemporary treatment in adaptive reuses of historic buildings. For a half century, contemporary "updating" via adaptive reuse has been the favored philosophy in utilizing buildings of our historic architectural heritage, following the precepts of Frederick Rath, promulgated nationwide during his tenure at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Back in the day, I took one of Henry Hope Reed's Manhattan walking tours, this one wending through Greenwich Village. I recall particularly his insights into the alternate preservation philosophy embodied in the Jefferson Market Courthouse, repurposed as a branch of the New York Public Library.
While praising the conservation of the Ruskinian Gothic detailing of the 1870s structure, he railed against the blanket insertions of large single-pane window glass replacing the multi-paned window treatment originally used. He felt that it changed the entire massing of the building to have such a series of large blank spaces spread across the walls.
Henry Hope Reed's classical orientation seems to be a lonely voice today. Many in the general population have no compunction about clamoring to debase -- or even destroy -- significant architectural landmarks as they see fit, giving minimal respect to the carefully thought-through architectural vision which created the structure at issue.
Thus, a nationally-significant 1889 brewery castle was destroyed in Rochester last year for a parking lot, with the complicity of City Hall.
Many others have no problem with debasing an important National Historical Landmark locally in favor of inserting next door a 102-unit four-story apartment house looming over the carefully restored and tended historic lawn and gardens. They even support having a swimming pool abutting these historic gardens, while the brick and glass reflect the shouts of swimming children into the intended contemplative repose of the historic gardens.
Oh, sure, the apartment house supporters have their arguments, some of which may sound compelling in the abstract, but they all gloss over their implicit disrespect for the original creative vision of the landmark site which some are seeking to preserve for the benefit of posterity.
RE: Christopher--Great reasoned OPPOSITION! Ms. Towler's statement "adding density to an area of the city that doesn't need more" is ambiguous since "area" could refer to NOTA or the whole Park/East Ave area. But. . .
it's really not unfounded for either considering their one-lane roads can't accommodate current traffic that backs up from Portsmouth to Culver when the Gleason Works lets out or such shortage of parking that one of the businesses on University is considering relocating because clients can't find a place to park. The same is true for traffic now backing up from East Ave all the way to the 490 entrance to get out of the Park Ave area and sometimes over 30 cars waiting in line on the 490 exit to get on Culver at rush hour; of course, finding parking spots for tenants or business customers in the Park Ave. area has always been a major problem. I agree with everything Christopher says: perceptive, important, and balanced.
The city really does need to reassess its values, goals, and planning (as Ken discusses). During the last year the City approved demolition of the Cataract Building (now a parking lot built by NYC developers who never actually came here) after it spent millions to create the faltering High Falls area across the bridge. The 19th century stores there, across from the original Kodak building which could become MCC, have just been restored. Why the demolition? the complete lack of vision?
The City also approved the demolition of the last remaining historic buildings from "Old Brighton" on East Ave. so Wegmans could build its unnecessarily HUGE store which tries unsuccessfully to imitate old buildings now lost forever. So how much more of our city history will be demolished? Will 933 University be next? It certainly is change, but is it worth this ongoing destruction of Rochester's historical "fabric" (borrowing Ms. Towler's word). She's dead-on right in observing this 933 University Ave. proposal of demolition and over-development is a potentially dangerous precedent and potentially (more) bad City planning.
To Rochester Resident: I do indeed live near the East Avenue Preservation District. I hope that proximity hasn't influenced my decision, but it's hard for any journalist to be certain that we're completely objective about the things we cover. I do think my long-time residence there informs my writing. And I'm not at all against apartments; we lived in one, two doors from our current home, when we moved to Rochester. And we own a rental double next door. We like living in a neighborhood that includes a variety of ages and uses. That's why we settled there. That's why we have stayed.
Several readers have noted that I didn't oppose the demolition of the Cataract Building. That was a hard decision for me, personally, because I agree that the building was an important one, and we've lost far, far too many important buildings in this city. This newspaper has campaigned to save many of them. And we fought hard for one of the city's most controversial preservation districts, Corn Hill. But in each case, we've tried to consider the feasibility of the project. Others disagree, but in our opinion, no firm, feasible alternatives had been presented.
Mary Anna, might your opinion on this project have something to do with the fact that you live near the East Avenue Preservation District? Given your lack of interest in saving the Cataract Building, I find it hard to believe that your viewpoint is based on your concern for preservation.
"While this project isn't appropriate for the East Avenue Preservation District, it could be a real boon to other areas." I think what you're really trying to say is that you don't want apartment dwellers moving into your neighborhood. This provincial attitude is a big part of what prevents Rochester from reaching its full potential. You should consider thinking of Rochester as a city, not as a collection of preservation districts.
By the way, I own a house in the East Avenue Preservation District, and I welcome this potential new addition to our neighborhood. I'm not sure where you are getting your data (I suspect you don't have any) on "traffic problems and parking problems", but a good city planner will tell you that we have a long way to go before reaching our "apartment saturation point." If you care about the future of Rochester, you should rethink your opinion. We should encourage the approval of this project, which will bring vibrancy to our neighborhood and to the CITY of Rochester.
I agree with not having an apartment complex built in t he spot proposed.
I have a better idea. Instead of building something new, Let Morgan take the Savannah complex next to Manhattan Square Park and turn it into high range apartments / condos. There are already 126 units there within walking distance of the East End. The Section 8 housing there does no good as all of the jobs downtown have dried up and moved to the Burbs thereby defeating the purpose of having low income people live there. That should be step 1 in bringing people with money back downtown and it also helps to increase momentum on the gentrification that has already started. The restaurants and bars will follow.
Mary Anna, I find your argument against the addition of density in NOTA unfounded. Density gives vibrancy. Also with increasing density and walk-ability the use of automobiles inherently decreases. Furthermore, the parking added by this building is self-contained. While I disagree with your density sentiments I absolutely agree with the notion that the Voiture Building should not be torn down. Hanlon Architects should try to be a bit more creative in the inclusion and rehabilitation of this building into design of the site. I also would stress that the preservation board be pointed in their criticism and recommendations,as this project demands a significant level of care and detail. Bring on the density and the main building, but save the Voiture Building!
As a further point of contention, where was the lengthy and supporting article for the Cataract Building. Why be so vehement for the opposition of the demolition of a relatively non-descript tudor revival, but yet be quiet and even supporting of the demolition of a significantly sited and unique landmark that was important not only to local cultural heritage, but also national brewery architecture as a whole. If you and or CITY are going to battle for the good of preservation, there is much needed reassessment of your values.
"At what point does the density become too much?"
Walkscore.com gives 900 East Ave a score of 84. Pretty good. I moved here from DC where my place had a walk score of 94 so there is plenty of room to go.
"Has this part of the city's southeast area reached its apartment saturation point? "
There is actually a really easy way to tell when a neighborhood has reached its apartment saturation point. When people no longer want to pay $1500 a month to live in an apartment in the neighborhood and prices start falling because supply has soaked up the demand. Erie Harbor is charging high rents. Hickory Place is charging high rents. People clearly want to live in the East Ave area because rents are high. Adding more housing in that area will help more people live there and it will bring even more amenities to the area.
"It is encouraging that Morgan is willing to invest in the city. But the city has other properties that could be developed." Yes. Perhaps Morgan should build some luxury apartments on Wilkins St. However I think that street may have already reached its luxury apartment saturation point.
There are NIMBYs in every neighborhood. Every project will have some reason to be shot down because nothing should ever change because change is baaaad. I see opposition to this by neighborhood groups as complete NIMBYism. "I got mine, screw everyone else." And yes, ParkResident, it's the same self-centeredness as in Pittsford with the Mark IV project.
Mary Anna Fowler writes a well-researched, thorough, balanced presention of this issue. Then she has the courage to draw a conclusion and state her OPPOSITION to this proposal. I live here, I've been to the meetings and full discussions about this development, and I agree with her. The majority of resisdents here are opposed
to thsis proposal becasue a Preservation District has buildings and an atmsophere that are supposed to be
preserved--the Morgan building isn't right for thjis location. It would be fine in the new College Town, or th enew Midtown, etc. That doesn't mean residents don't want appropraite change. This was orinally all single and double houses, so six new town houses or condos would presrebve the characterr of the mebeighborhood--and
Park and East Ave., NOTA, ABC Streets, Upper Monroe, etc. are NEIGHBORHOODS, not districts or urban centers. They all have been brough back to life proimariily by normal working people, not developers, who
bought neglected old houses and fixed themn up with hard wirk and their oown money. It's the historic houses and atmsohere that draws people--not 102 unit commercial apartment buildings. The Voiture building was built as a small mansion by the same architect who designed Oak Hill Country Club. The wife was a descendent of Nathaniel Rochester. The additions added to the front of the huse by the veterans who bought it in 1941 are ugly, but the house isn't, it's not inn riuins, or gutted by fire--it can easily be restored like most every building here has been. The Voiture group, however, doesn't have the money to pay fror a new roodf, kitchen, bar room and other repairs. Demolishing the house and ruining the beauty of GEH and the historic charcater of this
area is not necessaruy or acceptable in a real Preservation District. The Morgans can build theitr apartments somewhere else; GEH and the Greek Orthodox Church are willing to pay for restoration, maintenasce, and at least 20 years or more of their full use: other developers are also interseted in working with the property.
I don't know whether this apartment looks good across the street from the Gleason Works or not. I don't know if its a good idea or not. My neighbors don't like it so I'll go along with that.
Me and a lot of other neighbors would definitely prefer to see something go up in the empty parking lot between Anderson and Atlantic. But we're not developers. Maybe we'll get frustrated enough and develop it ourselves.
On the other hand, the high rise on the corner of Goodman and University is totally incongruent and we don't care. It's a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. It keeps the corner store open and I want that corner store there when I need it.
One thing for certain - density isn't a reason to oppose this. My folks live in high rises in Manhattan, which, by all accounts, seems to be surviving the density quite well.
@Parkresident "but the neighborhood surrounding Starry Nites, while up and coming, is still pretty dicey (wouldn't want my daughter walking around there at night)."
Well, my daughters have grown up in this neighborhood and one thing is for certain - I wouldn't allow my daughters to walk around at night on Park Avenue either.
What I see is a fairly good-looking apartment complex being built on an almost nasty site across from the Gleason Works. How is that a bad thing? That the George Eastman House would prefer to have ownership of the site, but has clearly been unwilling to deal honestly with the folks who own it, well, huh, too bad. Right now, if you are visiting the GEH grounds, the view is "impacted" by the unsightly lot on University.
Clarification: low income actual houses, not apartments. Even better to help them into the middle class, though.
Remember the bust "low income housing" has been? How many cities in the 60s and 70s this flawed concept wrecked? This was one of the biggest flaws of late-60s - early 90s era liberalism, an era that has thankfully passed. It's a great thing cities got smart and started to encourage high-income housing. We need to continue to build affordable housing for low income families, and that, like high income housing has its limits, too. It seems on this immediate subject, 100 units awfully high, and zero units awfully low. MUST it be this all-or-nothing?
Written it on another story, will write it again: We don't need another high-end apartment complex in the city. How many well-to-do Mendonites and Brightonites do people think need a pied-a-terre in the city? Why not build affordable housing for the masses of poor people in the city?
After talking with a collegue, I think the most important consideration should be the George Eastman House. I read on RochesterSubway Jackie's comments about it being Rochester's own White House and I agree. Everything in the immediate area surrounding the GEH should be subject to the museum's enhancement. Yes, I understand this is undemocratic/uncapitalistic, but I think GEH is an asset that is much to valuable that it should take over the American Legion's plot. Too bad GEH dropped the ball on this. I hope the American Legion can forgive the GEH and work something out. Who knows, perhaps in several years the GEH could build a massive new Exhibit wing, drawing visitors from around the world especially those passionaite about photography and film.
OK, so we turn down the Morgan Management proposal. Then what? More years of looking at a large expanse of cracked asphalt and a decaying Tudor? More years listening to how the Eastman House blew their opportunity? More years of conflict between economic reality and the striving for an unobtainable perfect architectural and cultural use for the property?
When Lincoln was looking for a new general to lead the Union armies his critics told him to pick anybody. Lincoln replied, "Anybody will do for you, but not for me. I must have somebody”. The same philosophy applies to the Monroe Voiture property. We can not afford to wait for that perfect “anybody”, we must have “somebody.”
@Mrs Towler: I'll leave that between you and your conscience. All I can tell from the piece is that you're carrying GEH's water on this one, because, as others pointed out, your arguments are nonsensical. Example:
"At what point does the density become too much? Has this part of the city's southeast area reached its apartment saturation point? Is it time to cap the expansion of apartments in that neighborhood, letting them spread to other areas?"
Apartment saturation point? What does that mean? Do you have any statistics to quantify this elusive tipping point? Or, am I mistaken and the name of your newspaper is "Suburb"? Because it's suburbs that want single occupancy stand alone dwellings, And what neighborhood are we talking about, the whole SE side or NOTA? Because the only NOTA apartment expansion that I've seen is near Village Gate (unless you're counting the low-income high-rise between Goodman and Upton Place). There's no apartment expansion going on near this proposed development. That's what makes it a good location for an apartment complex, even if its neighbors like GEH and the churches don't like it.
To Rotten: Advertising has no impact on my decisions, but so that we're dealing in facts, not fiction: the George Eastman House is by no means a major advertiser for City. In fact, we donate a substantial amount of advertising to the museum's film program.
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