Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Urban News Vol. 39

The second half of the Toronto case study is still forthcoming. I acquired a magazine that will be of assistance with some of the neighborhoods I'm not as familiar with, so I've decided to hold off until I can properly put that together.

In the meantime, there is pretty significant news as a result of a Request for Proposals that the City of Rochester put out for re-use of the Midtown Tower. Just before the deadline two groups put in re-use proposals that would center around residential conversion and unlike the various proposals for the Main and Gibbs lot, I think both of these are high-quality visions for the property.

Not to insinuate that one is more popular with the mayor than the other, and since I don't know the timeframe of submission, what I'll call the 'first' proposal would reuse a substantial portion of the existing Midtown Atrium, basically filling one of the new city blocks to be created out of the old superblock. At a cost of roughly $35 million, the Harmony Group, presumed to be developer Uri Kaufman of Nassau County, would maintain the brick and aluminum exterior due to their strategy of seeking historic designation tax credits. The Harmony Group has to its credit the large restoration project known as the Lofts at Harmony Mills in Cohoes, NY under its belt.

162 rental units would be Harmony's offering, but the real intrigue comes from their decision to use about one-third of the old mall atrium space, wall it off with glass and be the sole structure on the block. The embedded image to the above right shows a view of this implementation from the vantage point of what would currently be the retail floor of Peebles.

The other option presented would take the tower in a more modern direction. Window openings would be expanded, office space and retail operations would be attracted for the first three floors, and the 158 housing units would be for sale in a condominium format. The team presenting this cosmopolitan agenda are local developers Shane Bartholf and Pat Dutton under Shane's Empire Living LLC label. I've had the pleasure of meeting with each of these gentlemen to discuss New Urbanism and Traditional Neighborhood Development and I have no doubt that they have the correct attitude with regard to the city core as a vibrant and rewarding place to live.

Shane got his start in the business by developing the Halo Lofts at 60 Grove Street, a church conversion into two and three bedroom apartments. Pat Dutton is in the process of another restore in partnership with Belmont Properties to restore the building at South and Capron known as 1 Capron. The architect associated with both proposals has stated that this explicitly stated mixed-use complex would be more costly and with good reason. The reskinning process would likely strip the building down to its structural steel component.

Both of these are very attractive from both an urbanism and sustainability sense. They will be reviewed by the mayor and his staff shortly. Unfortunately they can both be rejected and the tower torn down, an act that was signify an incredible waste of embodied energy. Let's hope that Mayor Duffy remembers the comments he made when Paetec briefly considered this avenue regarding the economic as well as environmental costs associated with producing and purchasing new steel in addition to foundation work that would need to be repeated.

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