Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Urban News, Vol. 1

Good Morning everyone. As the blog goes forward I envision mostly quick hitting urban development news discussion posts on mornings during the week and the aforementioned city Case Studies as weekend or weeknight projects. This is the first in my news series and the news happens to come from right here in Rochester.

In today's online edition of the Democrat and Chronicle, one of the local headlines boldly proclaims:

City Home Assessments Up 12%

This of course has both positive and negative consequences for various members of the population.

Article Key Points:

  • 12% Increase on average from city wide reassessment
  • One of the largest jumps in the Neighborhood of the Arts (Atlantic-University)
  • Second straight increase (2004 saw first increase since 1990)
  • 'Unlike four years ago, however, the upswing extends noticeably into the crescent...'
  • Not surprisingly, South and East Sides of city see largest increases
  • Brown Square Neighborhood (home to new soccer stadium) shows progress
  • 41% of city homeowners and 34% of commercial property owners will see a tax increase
For those of you getting your first exposure to the city of Rochester and its districts, I've embedded the map included in the article so you can see the weed-whacker like shape of the city and the large scale neighborhoods mentioned in the article. You also get an idea of the socioeconomic divide we face here.

My initial feelings on this article are mixed. An increase in value logically dictates that demand has risen, and a decrease in value in other areas makes thing immenently more affordable, yet it is well known that areas of low land value are prone to rapid decay/neglect and the tax burden on those with property of value may be greater than their current budget. To lose these tenants is as big a problem as having low land value in and of itself. To me, in a completely open minded society (which we certainly don't live in), figures like these would cause a redistribution of population along economic lines, improving the quality of poorer neighborhoods while sacrificing some of the quality of life of the richer ones. We know that unfortunately the world doesn't work this way due to social issues and perceptions. The positives I choose to take out of this are the big time gains seen in the Pearl/Meigs/Monroe, Swillburg, and South Wedge areas. A lot of this can be attributed to the likes of Lyjha Wilton, champion of the South Wedge, owner of Boulder Coffee Co., and founder of the South Wedge's Boulderfest.

Another thing comes to us from Time Warner Cable's locally operated 24-Hour News Station - RNews.

'Restore' Money for Rochester Area

Article Key Points:
  • Rochester will get a total of more than $6 million from the New York State Restore Communities Initiative
  • More than $4 million of that will go into renovating downtown buildings
  • Another $1.9 million will pay for the demolition of 2,800 vacant homes

This is a tricky one. Yes, vacant homes lower property values in the neighborhood and promote covert crime, but at the same time, a public demolition takes this property off the tax rolls to the best of my knowledge. Obviously the hope is that the parcels can be redeveloped, but you have to be careful not to wind up like Detroit, Michigan and their vast 'urban wildernesses' where streets outnumber functional houses. This created a domino effect that now sees Detroit's roughly 900,000 residents trying desparately to maintain infrastructure for 1.8 million with decreasing income opportunities.

My next post is likely to start the chronicalling of our city home search which is already underway. Until then, I leave you with City Newspaper's Events List for today with plenty of things to do in the city. Headliners include an art exhibit of restored motion picture posters at George Eastman House and Cabaret at Geva Theatre.


Will said...

My assessment went up by a whopping $38,000? I didn't even get to add on that other wing yet!

Bob and Tia said...

Just an addendum, on the map the area seemingly disconnected called 'The Highlands' is somewhat misleading. To the best of my knowledge there are less than 10 permanent residents as that land comprises Durand-Eastman Park which is annexed by the city but more identified as being in Irondequoit. I doubt any of it is for sale so property values are moot.