Thursday, August 28, 2008

Urban News Vol. 29

A quick hit today from the D&C (I know, Tia sent it to me, I still am personally boycotting their online chapter of the Rochester hate club). Let's take it all the way back to February and Urban News Vol. 6 for a follow up on the rejected proposals for the development of 420 E. Main, gateway to the Grove Place neighborhood.

by Brian Sharp, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
Article Key Points:
  • Second time this year development proposals have been accepted for the current parking lot at Main and Gibbs across from Eastman Theatre
  • The last attempt resulted in the selection committee rejecting all proposals
  • Newest round of proposals is in addition to a requested three-year option on the property by the University of Rochester
  • Committee is expected to reach a decision in 45 days

I'm going to include the D&C Descriptions of each proposal in tandem with its corresponding image (click to enlarge) before commenting.

Douglas Fisher, a lawyer in Rochester, has proposed turning the parking lot into a park, maintaining views of the area with a large and small band shell and a cafe. No cost estimate was available.

Victoria Park (Mark IV Enterprises/Barkstrom & LaCroix Architects) has proposed a four-story multi-use project, with first-floor retail, 69 luxury rental apartments 34 "for sale" condominiums, an interior courtyard. The cost would be $25 million.

Symphony Center (DeWolff Partnership Architects) would include an L-shaped 10- and 11-story brick and glass tower with first-floor retail space and 115 apartments offering a total of 320 beds. The housing would cater to University of Rochester faculty and offer students by-the-bed rentals. The tower will connect to a small conference center via a curved, glass gateway that has two levels of office space, a rooftop restaurant and opens to an interior courtyard. Single-family townhomes line Grove Street. The cost would be $63 million.

Ferrara Jerum International, along with pmb design + development and McCann Development propose a unique, two-part development, offering 42 for-sale, residential units — split between an 11-story tower and 10 duplex townhomes. There also would be office space and retail space filling a separate building billed as an arts and culture-focused/student activity center. The cost would be $35 million.

Christa Development/CJS Architects proposed an eight-story building fronting East Main Street with a mix of office and retail space, as well as housing. That building would step down to the north to townhouses along Grove Street and to loft apartments in three- to four-story buildings. The market rate/upscale housing would enclose a central park area. The cost of this project is not available.

Nothing personal to Douglas Fisher, and the park sounds pleasant, but I have to reject the park proposal out of hand and I'm not sure even he knows why he'd like to see a park there. There is plenty of parkspace downtown between Manhattan, Washington, and Franklin Squares, St. Joseph's, Genesee Crossroads Park (as poorly designed as it is), Aqueduct Park, Cornerstone Park, and the unnamed park along the Blue Cross Arena. What we need is dense development along Main Street period.

Victoria Park is generally attractive architecture, but may fall short on the density side of things for such and important development. The number of units seems low, ostensibly to make them 'luxury apartments.' I feel like downtown condo offerings in general, and especially Grove Place price out the non-bourgeois demographic and I'm not sure how much more demand there is for this unit type.

Symphony Center certainly seems scaled appropriately and includes a lot of the pre-requisites of good urban design such as first floor retail and office space. The rooftop restaurant seems particularly appealing as well for that area. More townhouses to promote competition in the area seem like the right thing for the Grove Street side. Marketing on a per-bed basis is certainly a revenue increasing ploy for the developer, but will attract the student-aged people necessary to provide street vibrancy at more times of day. This one, with some minor architectural tweaks, would get my vote.

Ferrara Jerum...hmm...well if you look at it this way...who am I kidding? Forget it. What inspired this monstrosity? Looks like an Albany follow-up to Nelson Rockefeller's middle finger. I honestly didn't think anyone has drawn up a building plan like this since 1983. "It is the special ignominious fate of Modernism to have chosen a name for itself so inanely inhospitable to the judgement of history." - James Howard Kunstler

The Christa Development once again is quite pleasing to the eye, but what they've done here is create another Sagamore. The Main Street frontage is probably the best of any of these, but again I question the high-end condo market segment when most Americans should be thinking about scaling back activity.

On the blog docket for the future is a recap of Rochester New Urbanism and Sustainable Development's tour of the Rochester Regional Community Design Center, an opinion piece on the Renaissance Square project (that I usually shy away from due to the overtly political nature of the fight surrounding the project), and recommendations for Main Street improvements east of the Genesee from the 2007 Charrette Report (very likely to include this site discussed today).

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