Friday, September 5, 2008

Requested Renaissance Square Analysis

I would be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge the standard fare reduction of the RTS Bus system from $1.25 to $1.00 even though I beat the topic to death in Urban News 15 and 24. This 20% reduction is almost unheard of in our energy climate, but is a testament to their private sector approach in providing a public service. Perhaps as a result of a customer-based philosophy, ridership is up 8% this year, three times the national average.

Getting down to business, the impetus for this post was provided when Rochester Turning contributor 'btp,' who has included my works twice now in his periodic RT Roundup, wrote a post entitled, "RenSquare: Can The Train Switch Tracks Before We Go Off The Cliff?" The post chronicles a lengthy comment on a City Newspaper editorial citing isolated support for the project. The comment, from one Andrew Stainton, starts by lamenting the lack of focus on traffic impact, migrates to political ties of the few projects supporters, and finishes with a healthy accusation that City, despite its limited readership, provides cover for officials to piss away public funds.

My take? This is exactly why I stay out of the poisonous Renaissance Square discussion. The unabashedly political nature of the support and detraction of the project have completely overshadowed the design elements as well as the functionality discussion. Buried under an avalanche of veiled racism and plain old suburban party-line city-hate lurks a meaningful debate on the compatibility of uses, debate on scale, debate on design excellence, and debate on street enhancement.

When I was still serving as a voice of reason on the D&C boards, which have done for rational discussion of local topics what Pruitt-Igoe did for the vision of Corbusian public housing utopias, I would keep my talking points strictly on the urbanist merit of design being proposed for consideration during the series of public input sessions which I was unable to attend. I don't believe I used those stories as blog entries here (I'm not going to check, so I could be wrong).

Anyway here it is, an unapologetic, very singular viewpoint on Renaissance Square and what it has meant in my mind for roughly the last five months as well as a look at Mr. Stainton's 'Fix Ren Square' website which certainly makes some excellent points.

Unfortunately as I wrote my opinion and it became more and more verbose, I decided to wrap it up in a word document since it gets progressively more cranky and smothers the blog with unrelenting text. To summarize, it turns out the only place where I agree with Mr. Stainton are the points regarding the value of the historic structures, their embodied energy, their contribution to downtown retail (both current and potential), the merit of the large Performing Arts Center component as community enhancing (as in we think it has none), and the utilization of the Auditorium Center. I consider his transit views completely off-base. If you care to read the unabridged version, it can be accessed at Google Docs.

This weekend looks to be busier than most summer weekends believe it or not. I had to turn down a chance to play ice hockey so I could attend the first annual 1082 Mount Hope End of Summer BBQ, an excellent chance to get to know our seven neighbors in this row of townhouses and share desserts. Next up is more charrette report when I get a chance.

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