Thursday, January 7, 2010

Urban News Vol. 53

I went to the very topic of today's post to purchase a 44-cent postage stamp and saw these renderings hanging on the walls. I was wondering how I would be able to analyze and share them as images, but the D&C wasted no time in springing them on the public.

Wegmans to Double Size of East Avenue Store
Staff Reports, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Article Key Points:

  • Wegmans has released new designs for a proposed East Avenue store replacement
  • New store will be more than twice the size of the previous store
  • Store to be built behind the existing store site

Comments on the story are generally useless as usual (panning the owner of Fountain Bleu who refused to sell out), though some raise valid points about the treatment of University and East Avenues. While I agree with the sentiment regarding the lack of entryways on East and the conversion of University frontage into an underground parking gateway, I think the real disgrace is the idea that the current surface lot will be doubled as well once the old store is removed. The surface parking crater will proceed to resemble the concrete wasteland of Pittsford Plaza, finishing the job of removing the dignity of the apartment buildings and rowhouse apartments on Probert Street. The lot will likely be as miserable to traverse on foot as its Pittsford inspiration. I wonder what will happen to the "Park Terminal" of the RTS system. This is an opportunity to enhance it for customers (and other East Side employees who are heading downtown, we don't ALL work at Wegman's!!!), but the rendering shows essentially what is there now.

To be completely fair, there are a couple of things that could be positive in this design. As seen in the South Elevation, there is not only a 2nd story, but 2nd story windows. I don't know whether this is a reflection on the location of store offices. The loading dock scenario will be greatly improved compared to the tractor-trailers using University Avenue as a staging area. Yes, I know the loading system renders most of the Winton Road frontage a wasteland, but if we are stuck with a suburban style bourgeois food palace boasting 6 wings for $6.99, this is a reasonable way to handle the issue of shipments. Even Metro in Toronto (incredible 24-hour grocery store in the basement of the old College Street Eaton's) requires some sort of truck ramp.

Overall, my attitude toward Wegman's brainwashed cheerleaders and how universally positive this all is viewed was summed up nicely in a comment by 'urbanexplorer,' who has commented on this blog in the past, "Rather than insist on great design we settle for something simply because 'it's better than what is there now.'" I wouldn't characterize this as an upstate New York thing solely (I also don't agree with the sentiment that a Wegman's wall is better than the original Village of Brighton on the Erie, but I digress...). I'm afraid this will continue to be an issue nationally (excepting rare dense metropolitan cases) until a societal consensus is reached regarding the downgrading of the value of the automobile in everyday life. Unfortunately we (as a society) continue to mount a campaign to sustain the unsustainable (largely because we are lazy and/or xenophobic). Just look at how transportation stimulus dollars are spent.


Rottenchester said...

I'm generally sympathetic - I want to live in a walkable urban area with accessible grocery stores. But the economics of food make it difficult for me to see how that will happen.

Though it's fun to shit on the urban bourgeoisie, wanting good food isn't just about 6 for $6 wings -- it's about affordable decent fresh foods and a good variety of staples. I don't see how a good, cheap produce section, for example, is possible without some economy of scale. There's just a hell of a lot of inventory needed in a grocery store, especially if it's to support different cultural needs.

So, we end up with these monolithic grocery stores. The lack of almost any kind of viable corner grocery/bodegas suitable for the bourgeoisie in urban Rochester is caused by monoliths, and in turn feeds these monoliths. Where one gets one's food is such a basic part of life that the monoliths start to really feed the lack of walkability.

The only fix I envision would be denial of building permits for monoliths. But Wegmans has already shown that they'll just move out of an urban location if it doesn't suit them (e.g., Mt Hope), so Duffy couldn't put himself in the position of telling Eastsiders to shop at Price Rite. He'd have a revolt on his hands.

P.S. Got a chuckle out of the image names.

Bob and Tia said...


You are right that it is difficult to provide produce to every block group on the scale you describe. I suppose one solution is a weekly produce run by city residents to the public market (of course not always possible). The South Wedge proper has an outlet for a limited selection at the Mise en Place market at South and Gregory. This is for the principled urbanite, as you will pay a premium.

The corner store near my townhouse (Alice's Market) likely stays afloat due to beer (and possibly lottery?) sales. They do make a quality affordable sub sandwich but I can't see there being a large profit margin in that. Things like the can of Campbell's Soup are marked up significantly compared to a supermarket because they can't move the volume, and especially not at that price, so now they REALLY can't move the volume. Resultant is the opposite of monolith feeding, but both achieve the same end.

There is an argument embedded in the idea that the American family spent significantly more, percentage-wise, of their net income on food pre-1960, and significantly less on transportation. I don't have the figures handy, but isn't that an interesting thought? A return to these types of arrangements would make the corner grocery more viable while not ultimately hurting the family bottom line.

Wegman's usually doesn't even try to stay in urban locations as it doesn't fit their profit margin modeling (see: Driving Park). This is simply being done because the east side is affluent, but that's an angry story for another day.

While I think PriceRite gets a bad perception rap, it and Tops on Winton/Blossom are certainly piss poor urbanism themselves. There's no question that all are really the monolith model.

hehehe about the image names, I always thought that blogger renames uploaded images to something like rv78th9.jpg when it resizes them for inline blog insertion. I guess not!

Thanks for the thoughtful comment.