Monday, March 3, 2008

Urban News Vol. 8

It's great to be back North after recharging a little bit to get through this last month without baseball. When we got home late Saturday night, there was a for sale sign in our front yard. Hopefully we start to have some news in that department.

On the local news front I was largely out of the loop while out of town, but was awakened with an avalanche of solid positive news in the Sunday paper. I'll begin with a New Jersey based grocer filling the physical and psychological void left in the Maplewood Neighborhood by Wegmans' new bourgeois business plan.

by Deborah Alexander, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Article Key Points:
  • Edison, NJ based PriceRite opens their 33rd store and first in Western New York
  • Store replaces a Wegmans that closed last April
  • $3 million invested in remodeling the 41,000 square foot store
  • Store will emply 130 full and part-time workers with 95% coming from Northwest Rochester
  • Multiple neighborhood association heads praise the development as a positive step for the community

I have some very pointed opinions about the Danny Wegman abandonment regime. Largely it breaks down to a question of profit margin rather than profitability. Wegmans makes a fortune opening brand new behemoths in suburban Washington D.C. where they can mark up goods in the name of the "grocery shopping experience." My only experiences in these types of stores such as the Pittsford monstrosity have been of misery and time wasted. Wegmans has been systematically shutting down "undersized" stores which not coincidentally are located in Rochester city neighborhoods and inner ring suburbs. These are the stores which built the Wegmans brand and the stores and the residents of their neighborhoods are being tossed aside in the name of a "new business plan."

But hey, this was a story about PriceRite, wasn't it? They obviously see a potential to make profit by filling an underserved market and I wish them the best of luck. Their presence is obviously greatly appreciated and should help improve the lives of those in the Maplewood and Edgerton neighborhoods who aren't part of the J.H. Kunstler coined National Compulsory Motoring Program.

Next I'd like to shine a little more light on an up-and-comer in the community with the right attitude, though no meager traffic I could generate would compete with the D&C.

Developer Finds Himself at Home - Downtown
by Daniel Wallace, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Article Key Points:

  • At 21, Shane Bartholf opened Empire Living LLC, a development firm
  • Developed the Halo Lofts at 60 Grove St. for Eastman School students
  • Helped organize New Urban Living, group whose objective is to increase number of people owning and living downtown

Shane is walking the walk in the face of backward zoning codes and a fragile national mentality that suburban home ownership is the only form of the "American Dream." Judging by the fact that gas is predicted to reach an all-time high this week, urban living and walkable mixed-use (meaning ALL uses, including industry) is only going to gain more momentum going forward, hence the fragility of the sacred status quo. I for one would absolutely love to own downtown, but targeted projects such as the Capron Lofts or Charlotte Street Townhouses don't look like they will near completion as soon as I'd like. I doubt I'm alone when I say I wish there were more purchase vs. rent options inside the inner loop. Shane is the type of person who takes action and may be able to help in that area going forward. I am excited to be meeting Mr. Bartholf on Thursday to discuss the future of Rochester's downtown.

I had planned on getting into the Resilient Rochester feature, but as usual I'm getting verbose and will instead save that for tomorrow. I forgot to bring my hard copy with me today which is filled with more graphs and statistics. Also, planned for the weekend is a variation on a case study (one might argue that it really IS a case study rather than a city guide) on Pinellas County, Florida which I experienced firsthand over the last 4 days. Now to spend some time getting caught up with my real estate agent...

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