Saturday, October 17, 2009

Urban News Vol. 51b

The results are in and the Christa/Morgan combo is the big winner.

Local Developer Picked to Renovate Midtown
by Brian Sharp, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Article Key Points:
  • Expanded plan estimated to cost $71 million
  • Concept purported to include additional development beyond the tower
  • Officials desire to integrate other structures into Midtown redevelopment (Eg. Cadillac Hotel, 88 Elm)

I've got three thoughts on the results here. One is that Christa has plus-rated experience in programming good urbanism in downtown Rochester. Their Sagamore on East is now full and boasts an upscale restaurant, a more casual grill, and a music store on the first floor. Citizens Bank offices on floor 2 and condos above round out a quality mixed-use operation. Christa will likely employ quality architects and use quality materials in the reskinning of a pretty putrid modernist design.

The Sagamore leads me quickly to one of my concerns about this development. Downtown condos aren't generally affordable to the target demographic. The young professional is generally not in a position to buy in the Sagamore/Grove Place/Capron due to outstanding student loan debt, relatively low entry level salary, and propensity to spend on other interests. I do understand that this will be mostly apartments, but if they are done in an overly bourgeois style, they won't be serving the larger interests of reurbanization.

Finally, the Chestnut Street implications are intriguing. I am somewhat familiar with 88 Elm from my Webster bus transfer days. I have a feeling that restoring a non-superblock street grid will open up streets like Atlas, Elm, and Euclid to useful pedestrian traffic. I've blogged before about another Chestnut/Elm property bought by a young father/son developer that has not since begun renovation effort, perhaps this strategy will create a ripple effect. Chestnut Street has an inherent problem, however. It is too wide as it designed as a motor mover. Historically, the original Chestnut Street ended at East Avenue. Its express routing to move cars North resulted in the cluster that is Liberty Pole Way/Franklin and the disconnecting of Stillson from the Grove Place neighborhood, creating a functional void between things like Harro East Ballroom and the Eastman School.

On a side note, I finished my base site plan rendering for the Winton/Humboldt corner. I will be initiating that series of blog posts this week. Looking forward to great ideas from you all.

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