Monday, March 16, 2009

Urban News Vol. 40

On a day that sees Robert Fishman come to Rochester to lecture on a return to the urban core, I've gathered up some loose details on a plan to 'revitalize' the Jefferson Avenue corridor on the city's southwest side. This is an area I am somewhat familiar with from spending a day cleaning up on Champlain Street (click to see street view), Jefferson, and Ruff Alley last spring. The area suffers quite a bit from a vacant lot problem as well as drug activity.

My time spent in this neighborhood, while temporarily productive, was sad in a lot of ways due the significant aura of decay and abandonment as one can see from the embedded map. I have been unable to find any drawings from the master plan referenced below, but I would be very interesting in browsing them if anyone can dig them up.

by Casey Bortnick,

Article Key Points:
  • City has made over two dozen arrests in Jefferson Avenue area in the past week related to drug activity
  • Intent is to maintain visible police presence
  • Master plan will include investment in visible infrastructure

Major Renovation Set for Jefferson Ave.
by Sawyer Van Horn ,

Article Key Points:

  • Local federal representative secures $1.2 million of economic stimulus funds for neighborhood rebuilding
  • Actual engineered change focus mostly on visual upgrades
  • Residents focus on more systemic social issues

Let me start by saying that the residents in this situation are right to be skeptical of window dressing as a cure-all! Planting trees and refurbishing trash receptacles is all well and good, but real community turnaround is predicated on replacing gaps in the urban fabric with structures that hopefully accomplish one or more of the following things:

  • Revenue generation
  • Occupied housing (preferrably by owner, on upper floors along Jefferson, houses along side streets, improves the neighborhood watch dynamic)
  • Respect the public realm and engage the street (not dominated by a garage for the 'most important thing' in the household)
  • Civic function (and I don't mean a green or square, more like a small theater or gymnasium)
  • High Level of Maintenance (beyond one or two years, will require continual funding)

All I am trying to express is that pinning the hopes of an undereducated and underserved populace on remanufactured curb cutouts is lunacy. An attitude of community ownership and responsibility needs to be encouraged and fostered not through one-time gimmicks, but by an environment that demands a certain type of behavior from its collective stakeholders. The neighborhood association itself needs to take this tiny bit of momentum and run with it to encourage more meaningful long-term investment.

As far what's happening tonight, the Fishman lecture is the 4th in the 2008-09 chapter of the series entitled Reshaping Rochester - Planning for the Public Realm. This year's theme is Sustainable Urbanism and the lecture takes place at 7PM at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church at 121 N. Fitzhugh St. Fishman is a Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan and is the author of the 1989 book 'Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia.' Within the next couple of days, this blog's 100th post will be dedicated to recapping this presentation.

1 comment:

Faramir said...

Bob and Tia, I'm hoping to get things going for a similar neighborhood in Ypsilanti, Michigan: the East Michigan Avenue corridor. A good plan was proposed 8 years ago and scuttled by local businesses; now the Township is paying overtime for policing, paying to demolish derelict buildings, and taking sleaze-bag landlords to court, but not working to build anything up.

I'm working on a "green" update to the plan, which I will post within the next few days on my blog, Wake Up Washtenaw ( Your comments would be appreciated!