Kudos to City newspaper for its trenchant analysis of issues relating to the future of our regional core. These issues deserve strong community input, with respect paid to the conclusions.
Our Planning & Zoning Director notes that "we have to serve three categories: workers, residents, and tourism." These categories should not be considered mutually exclusive.
Rather, each of these categories should reinforce each other, making downtown more desirable for workers, residents and tourists alike. Doing this will enhance the tax base. Seeking tax base first will actually undercut tax base growth, by truncating the appeal in each of these categories.
Today’s concepts of “new urbanism” evoke the relative self-sufficiency of olden villages, where a person worked and lived within an easy walk of each other, in an environment appealing to all. “Planned communities,” such as Columbia, Maryland, followed this concept.
Downtown Rochester has this potential, if only it offered a warmer, more human, feel than the straight lines, hard surfaces and over-illumination that define today’s downtown emotional experience.
Older buildings may offer the requisite ambience, as City been foresightedly noting for many decades, as exemplified in the place-making buildings pictured. They don’t build banks like that anymore.
The Cook’s Opera House could once have been restored into an ornate, acoustically excellent 1,000-seat downtown theater for about $2 million. Contrast that with the stated $90 million cost for a downtown roadhouse theater today.
South Water Street, a winding cobblestone street between those two demolished buildings, was an appealing alternative to the normal straight city streets.
This Canaltown project would have restored components of the 1820s Erie Canal through downtown, together with related buildings of that era, with a unique resulting tourism draw. We now watch Buffalo investing in what Rochester once had first.
As noted, the core of this 19th-century riverside complex was destroyed in order to make way for a box of a convention center, which did not have to be located right there. A place for people to congregate was provided, while simultaneously removing a reason for people to come to downtown in the first place.
City landmark laws even today would not have protected this wonderful complex, given a municipal mindset to demolish. The City Code establishes that preservation will not happen on its own merits, but shall conform to external plans for the site. This rather defeats the purpose of landmark legislation.
Other good and important place-makers are routinely at risk today unless this unfortunate loophole is closed in the City Code.
City policy ought to be cherishing and protecting its worthy landmarks, instead of destroying them or allowing abutting projects to diminish the landmark experience.
By capitalizing better on such quality of live issues, city policy could better enhance its ostensible goals of serving “workers, residents, and tourism” in a manner which genuinely reinforces and benefits each of the categories.
Douglas A. Fisher
I must have missed something.. if the planners/government officials in Rochester are so determined to fix our city then why was nothing done about CityGate? Why is nothing being done about the 3 story office buildings being built at midtown when in this article they talk about creating a truly urban city and not a suburban office park. Frankly, the new D&C building and Windstream building look like an office park to me. And they both go against the CURRENT zoning code. What makes that okay? To me it seems that the city knows what it wants to be but doesn't know how to do it. They need to take some ideas from Buffalo because their city is seeing a major revival. Unfortunately I can't say the same about Rochester. I would never comment on this but I am an environmental design student at UB and I've grown up in Rochester. Everything the city is doing is not impressing me.
Interesting. I think I'll attend the presentation.
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