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Mt. Hope braces for big build 

City Council is expected to vote on legislation that would change the zoning code by limiting the height of new buildings along a stretch of Mt. Hope Avenue that is mostly residential, with the exception of a chiropractor office.

But even if Council approves the measure, it won't stop a highly controversial project from being built that could change the character of the neighborhood. The five-story, 63,500 square foot, mixed-use building called the Lofts on Gold Street would be built at 1176 Mt. Hope Avenue and 10 Gold Street, a site that's on the edge of a quiet neighborhood of single family and small multi-family homes.

The developer, 10 Gold Street Properties, LLC, is planning to build 2,100 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and a 20-space parking area. Floors two through five would have 32 residential units with a total of 92 bedrooms.

Residents are extremely concerned about the size and height of the building, which they say doesn't fit in with the neighborhood. And they're concerned about parking, which they say is already in short supply because of the neighborhood's proximity to the University of Rochester.

The project has caused such an outcry that it prompted Adam McFadden, City Councilmember for the south district, to submit the new legislation. He also wrote a letter to Richard Feldman, president of the University of Rochester, in an attempt to get him to stand with neighbors against the project. But nothing came of it, McFadden says.

"It's too big for that location," McFadden says. "It just doesn't fit in. Imagine being in your home and living near something like that."

Under current zoning regulations, the five-story building is permitted. If Council approves the change, the height of future construction would be limited to three stories on the east side of Mt. Hope Avenue between May and Gold Streets. The Planning Commission has unanimously recommended that Council approve the measure at its June 19 meeting.

"It won't stop the project," says Lagonegro. "The plans were in before this legislation." And the developer made some changes to the plans to make the project compliant with current zoning codes, she says. The developer has already demolished a two-story building at the site.

Dan Hurley, president of the Upper Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association isn't so sure that the project has cleared all the hurdles for approval. He says residents in the area have been fighting the project for about two years. At that time, their attorney managed to stop the developer's original plan to construct two buildings on the site. Parking was a problem in the earlier proposal, and it's still a problem, he says.

"Our concern is that this is essentially 92 rentals, they're going to be renting out rooms and there's still not going to be enough parking," Hurley says. Residents have again hired an attorney, this time to review the project to be sure the city has evaluated the project correctly.

If the project is approved, Hurley says it will change Mt. Hope dramatically over the next decade. He's not convinced city officials will enforce zoning codes and they'll cave to developers' requests for variances.

"We were under the impression that the city was supporting the neighborhood and protecting the historical assets in this area," Hurley says. The neighborhood is across the street from Mt. Hope Cemetery. "They talk about protecting neighborhoods, but there's no good plan for doing so."

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