Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Urban News Vol. 60

Reconnect Rochester is gaining a lot of momentum very quickly. I will admit that there is inherent efficiency in Facebook for building groups and building buzz. The first words were printed on its Facebook page just 4 days ago and already there are 125 'fans.' I've linked to the more traditional site (because that's my style) in the Rochester Resources sidebar.

Onto today's news:

UR Planting Seeds for College Town Project
by James Goodman, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Article Key Points:

  • UR's 2008 Campus Master Plan calls for a College Town on the west side of Mt. Hope between Crittenden and Elmwood
  • The process moves ahead this spring with a request for proposals
  • Seven undisclosed firms have shown interest in the site, UR is likely to sell the land to the chosen developer
  • The city has rezoned the corridor 'dense mixed-use'
  • Current neighbor concerns characterized by uncertainty
  • Frontage from 29 properties will be seized for street widening
  • A road will be built between East Drive and Mt. Hope
  • Groundbreaking still likely two years away

This article, while long, doesn't actually say much in terms of concrete project progress. Some of the changes to the major roadway were discussed briefly in a previous volume of Urban News, though I failed to discuss the street implications on what is currently private property. I applaud breaking up the superblock (the road referenced would run east-west just north of Goler House, the large apartment building in the southwest corner), and I would even suggest an additional north-south roughly halfway between East Dr. and Mt. Hope Ave. to further improve walkability on the site and a sense of tight-knit community.

The passage about rezoning was funny to me because in a way, isn't that a fancy way of saying the corridor was de-zoned? Why must the adoption of form-based codes always be baselined against zoning verbiage of some sort? Is it now impossible for people to understand that zoning was a man-made invention (one that implies segregation) and that there was a time not so long ago that it didn't exist?

Lastly, the final few paragraphs are troublesome. What RIT got in Park Point is exactly what the UR does not want. What RIT got on a former wetland was a greenfield development with only two mixed-use buildings. As part of the deal, they also received 1 commerical building, 29 apartment pods not very close to the rest of it, and an absolute pile of impervious pavement for parking cars. The cherry on top of this asphalt sundae is the shuttle RIT students must now ride just to go to the BOOKSTORE. Wilmot, who is a mall developer, cited potential for broader mixed use in the UR project (good...). Office space would also be looked at as an offering (good...), as would a parking garage (wtf?!?!?!?!?!). The whole point of this is to create a more rewarding, WALKABLE, off-campus to campus gateway. The U of R already greatly discourages parking on campus, oftentimes through draconian measures. I suppose I, and the good people of my neighborhood who currently walk quite a distance to U of R institutions, shouldn't expect anything less from the operators of Eastview, Marketplace, and Pittsford Plaza.

Going forward on the blog front, I am way overdue for a post on Great American Architecture. In fact, it has been just over 14 months since I've profiled a building. I promise that will change with my next entry. In the meantime, be sure to keep following Reconnect Rochester for updates on the ways you can make a difference in the future of Rochester transit options as well as reshaping downtown to promote neighborhood connectivity.

One last thing that I forgot in my initial publishing, a very thoughtfiul op-ed in the Boston Globe by Edward L. Glaeser entitled, "Why the Anti-Urban Bias?" It is a clear and concise call for policy change from the top down in this nation regarding the treatment of dense areas.