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East Avenue Wegmans: keep it 'special' 

            I was shocked and dismayed to read of your proposal to demolish buildings on East Avenue extending from your store to Winton Road. The parcel contains a number of small structures that are assets to the community and could be an asset to your expansion project if they were saved and cleverly incorporated into your plans.

            From what I read in City Newspaper, you plan to double your existing floor space and fix the parking shortage. Being a long-time shopper there, I understand the importance of those problems. But part of why I enjoy going there to shop is that the location itself is so special. In fact, it's the very sort of high-density, small-scale surroundings you plan to demolish that make the East Avenue store worth visiting.

            Surely with all its resources, Wegmans could find a way to include the shops and historic structures along East Avenue in this project --- in their entirety, not as mere facades. This is admittedly a tough problem, one that will require creative thinking, cooperation, and compromise. But it is also a real opportunity for Wegmans to show the same progressive thinking in designing an urban-friendly shopping experience that it has shown so consistently over the years in the suburbs.

            You have a lot to work with here. Within a block of your store are an old church, a factory, a restaurant, numerous small stores, tidy residences, a gas station, and mature street trees. Your central location could tie it all together.

            You could do some really neat things. As you are no doubt aware, the site was once the center of the original Brighton village. At least one of the structures dates to that time. You could design a shopping experience that would include browsing the street of shops, something a bit like Boston's Faneuil Hall. Maybe you could use that parking structure behind the bank somehow, to get people out of their cars and walking around. Then promote the authenticity and charm with a name like "OldBrightonVillage." Wegmans could really do this right.

            The atmosphere at East Avenue Wegmans makes it a fun place to shop. It's a place where you go --- really just to mingle, to enjoy the buzz of city living. Places like that can't be built all at once; they must evolve --- and that makes them special. A suburban-style footprint would be convenient, but the magic would be lost. It would be like every other store.

            There is an opportunity to design an amazing venue here, one that works with the community and enhances the interest shoppers have found there for years. It's the kind of investment our city needs right now: to make our streets exciting again, to build on a human scale, to retain links with the past, and to nurture a sense of place.

            Please keep East Avenue Wegmans special.

            Jim Fraser, Rochester

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