Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Urban News Vol. 56

Some unrelated miscellany that opens the door for me to rhapsodize on the role of sports as cultural events that strengthen a downtown.

Developers Say They Will Put $200 Million in Sibley Building
by Brian Sharp, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Article Key Points:
  • Boston developers interested in buying and renovating Sibley Building - $200M investment
  • Initial phase involves commercial/retail on lower floors
  • Later phases to include mixed-income residential or student housing
  • Building has amassed more than $19M in debt, largely delinquent PILOT
  • WinnCompanies has put down a deposit
  • Winn hopes MCC considers staying in Sibley, MCC has not ruled out any property

I'm not sure what, if any, outside assistance, or even pressure is coming from the city administration on this deal but it sounds like one that would be foolish to allow to fall through from their perspective. Even if some PILOT is forgiven, the possibility exists to collect going forward though there is no guarantee Winn will be any more responsible than Wilmorite.

This is a very difficult property to redevelop, at least in the original department store area. Large retail floors without suitable partitions or window access are not conducive to residential redevelopment of any real value. Keeping MCC as an anchor tenant and building off of that seems like the only viable strategy save the occurence of a miracle (or an acute energy crisis) that would render Walmart's inventory system non-cost effective.

Courage Bowl Moving Downtown
by Jim Mandelaro, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Article Key Points:

  • Annual game between St. John Fisher and the University of Rochester moved to Marina Auto Stadium
  • Soccer stadium seats 13,500 versus 5,000 at UR and 2,100 at Fisher
  • Officials hope larger venue and more parking helps to attract general fans

Very quickly, its funny how the scale of the event and the quality of the preceeding facilities colors the perception of our rectangular stadium in this instance. The region's pseudo-soccer fans have done nothing but throw a shit fit since they got their wish of a soccer specific stadium. Most of the wailing is elitist in nature, directed at the surrounding neighborhood and precious motor storage situation. Count me among those who is looking forward to this game in this quality venue.

I was asked once whether I ever write about hockey on this blog. I have written some things on an area message board regarding the relationship of the local AHL hockey franchise to their parent NHL team. I told the man that I never mix the two since this blog is topical and sticks to urban issues. Well, this story gives me an excuse to pontificate a little bit on the idea that sporting events downtown add to the cultural richness of place.

While the economics behind sport at the major league level are often derided as distortions of reality, community gatherings of sports enthusiasts are as old as civilization itself, and in my opinion, equal in stature to more refined endeavors from a urban vitality standpoint. Yes, the minor league scale certainly does not lend itself to a sustained economic generation situation like you'd see immediately outside ballparks in Cleveland or Baltimore. But, the treatment of the public realm by the major Rochester sporting venues is generally of high quality and could serve as district anchors at the advent of more residential urban infill.

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