Thursday, June 24, 2010

Urban News Vol. 67

There are a lot of goings on in the downtown core to report on in addition to two important events sandwiched around the weekend.

PAETEC Building Deal with City Nearly Done
by Jim Stinson, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Article Key Points:

  • Framework of an agreement with the city is in place
  • Renderings show a 3 1/2 story, 225,000 square foot building meant to invoke grand train station ambience
  • PAETEC employment base has grown by 143 in Rochester region from 2007 to present
  • New headquarters would cost $55 million to build and reuse the 1972 Seneca Building
  • Midtown Tower renovation on site (Christa/Morgan) would add 186 apartments and 24 condominiums to the immediate area

While the building looks very attractive, I have concerns about scale and programming. Ideally this would be 5 stories tall to match the retail portion of the Sibley building. There also will need to be mltiple entrances along Clinton Avenue to avoid the result that Blue Cross hath wrought on South Avenue. I realize this is not standard for corporate buildings, but it needs to happen.

Upsetting is the loss of the B. Forman building, really the only decently designed retail building on Clinton Avenue for the last 30 years. The rooftop garden is intriguing and a welcome site. I wonder what, if any, effect it would have on energy consumption.

Midtown Demolition Will Be More Evident
by Brian Sharp, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Article Key Points:

  • B. Forman department store will be first to go down, then proceed toward Main Street
  • Skywalks to be removed on weekends
  • PAETEC and Midtown sites sites should be ready by April 2011. First tenants would move in by early 2013
  • State has comitted $55 million for asbestos abatement and demolition
  • Additional site prep funds need to be acquired
  • Midtown's former owners are litigating against the city for a bigger purchase payment
  • MCC will announce a downtown campus site by year's end
  • Work has begun on the flagship building of the Alexander Park project on Monroe Avenue

Good riddance to the skyways, I only hope the buildings that 'lose' those connections can patch up the wounds. Much of those site prep funds refer to the re-layout of infrastructure such as new streets. The combination of projects I've seen for the Midtown site give me some confidence that the area will be reasonably vibrant and certainly designed with street life in mind. Fortunately, any developer attracted to this site already has their precious underground parking garage and will not swallow up any additional land. Whether that capacity proves to be necessary is a moot point I suppose, the decision to build it occured when I was -20 years old.

Nothnagle Prepares to Move West
by Jim Stinson, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Article Key Points:

  • Nothnagle Realtors progressing on $4M renovation of 217 W. Main for use as new headquarters
  • 26,000 sq. ft. building will be refurbished with an emphasis on recycling, for instance bricks removed to be re-used in interior
  • New investments for the west side of downtown could include 480 residential units, 58,000 square feet of office space, 130,000 square feet of retail space, and 210 new hotel rooms
  • Proposals soon to be accepted by the city for 242 W. Main Street

The west side of the river, and especially the Cascade District is rife with surface parking that could be converted to more productive use. Unfortunately the big obstacle for West Side reintegration is I-490 which is unlikely to go anywhere even if the Inner Loop is obliterated. Cheers to Nothnagle for their eye toward preservation and reuse in the process.

Commercial, Residential Projects Percolate Near Midtown
by Sheila Livadas, Rochester Business Journal

Article Key Points:

  • $500K-$700K being invested in a renovation of 488 E. Main
  • RDDC office tracking $734M worth of projects downtown
  • Stalled housing conversion at 67 Chestnut for sale
  • H.H. Warner project pushing ahead with 48 luxury apts
  • Cox Building on St. Paul St. has seen investment of $7.1M to develop 70 apartments and retail space
  • SUNY Brockport refurbishing 161 Chestnut for use as Education Opportunity Center

On to the events.

This Friday is another installment of Critical Mass where cyclists reassert their right to the road as legally defined. We will meet at the Liberty Pole at 6PM. This June ride is being billed as a 'No Drill-No Spill' by some (though the rides are not officially, and rarely in practice, political) as, now more than ever, we hope to make more Americans cognizant of alternatives to oil consumption.

On Monday, the Rochester Regional Community Design Center, in partnership with Empire State Future, Reconnect Rochester, the George Eastman House, the Rochester Rail Transit Committee, and the Samloff Family Fund, is hosting a free screening of PBS' eye-opening film, Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City.

The documentary is touring cities across America to raise questions—and seek answers—about the future of transportation in America. Can we build the “infrastructure of tomorrow” today? Can the cash-strapped and car-dependent cities of the so-called Rust Belt become new models for fast, clean, public transit?

This event comes to you absolutely free thanks to our sponsorships. There is only one showing, at the Dryden Theatre on the Eastman House grounds, at 7PM. A panel discussion will follow. Hope to see you there.

No comments: