Sunday, February 10, 2008

Urban News Vol. 5

We just got back to Rochester from Ottawa after a marathon drive through the Tug Hill Plateau and the worst blowing snow I've ever seen in my life. Just before we left town on Friday, two individual pieces of good downtown news hit the D&C. I promised I would get them up but I'm going to reserve major comment until tomorrow when I'm less exhausted.

by Brian Sharp, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Photo by Tyler Kieft (CC A-NSA 2.0)

Article Key Points:
  • Ground broken on the Mills at High Falls
  • Tribeca nightclub opening on Mill St.
  • 67 one and two bedroom apartments in final Mills plan
  • Apartments targeting $30K-$50K income bracket
  • Request for Proposals (read PDF) put out on former McFadden's and Tiki Bob's properties
  • Townhouses could return to the design in Phase II

High Falls has long been criticized by the Rochester self-flagellators as a misguided entertainment district but I've always thought it showed potential between the museum and entertainment components and its proximity to the ballpark. This residential development will really push it the right direction, an effort to develop a critical mass that you are also seeing slowly creeping into the more traditional downtown. Residential over retail is the cornerstone of the New Urbanism.

ESL to Fill Big Hole in the Cityscape
by Diana Louise Carter, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Article Key Points:

  • $50M headquarters to be built on site of a SURFACE PARKING LOT
  • 300 employees and 1st floot credit union branch on site
  • 'Green building' eligible for assistance from COMIDA and RG&E
  • LaBella Associates, architect of Midtown Site Plan, chosen as architect
  • Mayor requesting council approval for below market rate land sale

Surface parking is one of my biggest gripes about upstate New York downtowns. Any time you can erect a private sector headquarters on one, you are making progress. I had initial concerns about the street frontage. After seeing Ottawa over the weekend, even their 70's era modernist buildings are packed with street facing retail and restaurants. The ESL branch is a decent first floor tenant, but it doesn't do anything for the post 5PM downtown scene. This does seem to denote Chestnut Street as the financial center of the city along with the HSBC Plaza. I am now intrigued to see what types of projects LaBella Associates have done in the past. Between this and the Midtown lots, they are going to have a lot of influence on the face of downtown going forward.

More comments to come tomorrow. Expect a case study this weekend as well. Finalists are recently visited Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.

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