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You Can Help Save 72 Conkey Avenue

October 13th, 2010

Jim and Jo are in the process of saving and restoring 6 abandoned Rochester properties. They want to save this storefront on Conkey and Clifford Avenue. The City wants to tear it down. You can help. [PHOTO: heckeranddecker.wordpress.com]
Jo and Jim are quite a remarkable pair. She is a retired school teacher. He works for a company that makes all kinds of machine parts, gauges, and valves. Together they represent nothing short of divine intervention for the City of Rochester.

See, Rochester has a ‘list’. On that list are 200 properties, residential and commercial, that have been given the death sentence. These buildings are on the City’s Demolition Listexternal link—a list that is only growing. There are some 2,800 vacant structures in Rochester today. If they were all torn down not a single neighborhood would be untouched—though some neighborhoods have more than their share of deteriorating buildings. I myself pass through the northern section of Saint Paul Street everyday on my way to work. Not a day goes by that I don’t think to myself, “gosh darn I wish I could save that old building.” Or “golly gee I wish I could buy that old house and fix it up.”

A before and after of Jim and Jo's handy work on Evergreen Street on Rochester's north side. Amazing!Well, meet Jim and Joexternal link. With absolutely no help from the City, the taxpayer, or Mark Zuckerbergexternal link, they have bought 6 abandoned properties from the City and have begun the monumental task of restoring them and putting them back on the tax roll. The first is on Evergreen Streetexternal link (shown at left) and is now occupied by the handy couple themselves.

Now Jim and Jo have their eyes set on a storefront that could become the cornerstone of this soon-to-be revitalized urban neighborhood. 72 Conkey Avenue sits on the southeast corner of Conkey and Clifford. Built in 1879 it was quite possibly the neighborhood’s first corner grocery. Unfortunately this late-Victorian mixed-use building is on the City’s hit-list and could be demolished any day now. For Jim and Jo the loss of this corner building would mean “further loss of density, diversity, and history; and yet another blow to the vitality of yet another Rochester neighborhood.”

72 Conkey, Rochester [PHOTO: Jim Fraser]So Jim has put together a last-minute proposalexternal link to save 72 Conkey from the bulldozers. He estimates a personal investment of $60,000 to buy and restore the property would begin to pay back some $2,000 in monthly rents within 5 years. The alternative: Rochester would pay some $20,000 to turn the building into a weed field.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The first priority must be to stop the demolition, since it’s already been approved and the building has been prepped (asbestos removed). But this will likely take many voices. That’s where YOU come in. Bret Garwood is the City’s Director of Projects and Real Estate. He would be the guy to pull the cord. And we believe he has the power to stop this demo. Let’s use the power of our collective voice to help Jim and Jo restore their Rochester neighborhood.

Please write to Mr. Garwood at bret.garwood@cityofrochester.gov and urge him to reconsider the demolition of 72 Conkey Avenue. Or you can use the pre-written message below.

Click here to send this email to Mr. Garwood

Mr. Bret Garwood
Director of Business and Housing Development
City of Rochester

Dear Mr. Garwood,

I am writing to ask you to reconsider the pending demolition of 72 Conkey Avenue in Rochester. While I understand it is late in the process, saving this structure still makes sense, for several reasons.

It is good urbanism:

It would combat crime by putting ‘eyes on the street’ at this central location in the neighborhood. It helps maintain density and diversity. Its architecture and history would preserve character and a sense of place. And the retail space offers an opportunity for economic development and walkability in the future.

It is good economics:

There is no alternative to rehabbing the property that would improve the tax assessment as much for as little expense in as little time.

It is what the neighborhood wants:

A responsible rehabber who lives and invests in the neighborhood has expressed an interest in the property to the Real Estate office and Norton Street NSC, and has prepared a proposal for your consideration. You can read the proposal at: http://tocquevillagechronicles.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/save-the-charles-h-schulz-store-built-1879/

Ibero has recently made a significant investment in infill housing in the surrounding blocks.

Project Hope, Group 14621 and Genesee Land Trust have all expressed support for redeveloping the structure.

The City of Rochester itself has supported several recent projects near this property.

Sincerely,
[ YOU ;-) ]

UPDATE (10/20): Part II, See Part II of this story. The City used 72 Conkey for fire Dept. training 5 days after this post.

UPDATE (10/21): Part III, WHAM 13 News picks up this story

UPDATE (10/24): Part IV, See What’s Possible at 72 Conkey

UPDATE (11/04): Part V, 72 Conkey: The Tide May Be Turning

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 at 10:42 pm and is filed under Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to “You Can Help Save 72 Conkey Avenue”

  1. rachel says:

    Just sent my email! Thanks for including the form letter.

  2. admin says:

    @Rachel that’s great! Thank you so much! We need 10 more people like you to click that link. Share this story. We can make a difference one email at a time. And you don’t even need to lift a hammer or a paint brush… yet :-)

  3. Diana Robinson says:

    Mr. Bret Garwood
    Director of Business and Housing Development
    City of Rochester

    Dear Mr. Garwood,

    I am writing to ask you to reconsider the pending demolition of 72 Conkey Avenue in Rochester. While I understand it is late in the process, saving this structure still makes sense, for several reasons.

    It is good urbanism:

    It would combat crime by putting ‘eyes on the street’ at this central location in the neighborhood. It helps maintain density and diversity. Its architecture and history would preserve character and a sense of place. And the retail space offers an opportunity for economic development and walkability in the future.

    It is good economics:

    There is no alternative to rehabbing the property that would improve the tax assessment as much for as little expense in as little time.

    It is what the neighborhood wants:

    A responsible rehabber who lives and invests in the neighborhood has expressed an interest in the property to the Real Estate office and Norton Street NSC, and has prepared a proposal for your consideration. You can read the proposal at: http://tocquevillagechronicles.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/save-the-charles-h-schulz-store-built-1879/

    Ibero has recently made a significant investment in infill housing in the surrounding blocks.

    Project Hope, Group 14621 and Genesee Land Trust have all expressed support for redeveloping the structure.

    The City of Rochester itself has supported several recent projects near this property.

    Sincerely,
    Diana Robinson

  4. admin says:

    @Diana, thanks for your support. But please make sure you send the email to bret.garwood@cityofrochester.gov. I doubt Mr. Garwood will be checking this site so he might not see your comment posted here.

  5. Great work, Mike and Jim. Hope this helps.

  6. admin says:

    It was your investigative work that started it Howard. Keep it up!

  7. Jim says:

    Thanks for all your support, Mike.

    I’d like to “second” your thanks to Howard for his contributions, and to add that since locating in Rochester, he has inspired those of us who work for a more sustainable, a more vibrant and exciting city (including several change agents working from within city hall) – whether it’s improving transit options, preserving traditional neighborhoods, or localizing food and energy production – to work together more effectively, speak out more forcefully, and to collaborate more broadly with the community and its leaders. Thanks, Howard, for giving us the courage of our convictions. And a few cool ideas about blogging.

    I’ve long thought that the Rochester community could really use an online publication like Buffalo Rising (http://www.buffalorising.com/) to serve as a gathering place for Rochesterians who are passionate about urban living to share ideas, experiences, places and events. Not too political, not too technical (that’s our job!) – just lots of cool, urban stuff. Anybody up for it?

    Thanks again, Mike!

  8. chris says:

    I am having some trouble sending this I will keep trying. I would hate for the city to lose some more old houses like it did during urban renewal.

    P.S. I was driving downtown last night and turned off Main street onto King street near the Susan B house. There are a few very nice old houses there and the neighborhood itself has amazing potential. I have to say it is a nice part of Rochester I think few know about including myself and I live 5 min from there.

  9. Rachel says:

    @chris: Not sure if this helps, but I had trouble with the link (“Click here to send the email to…”) — it didn’t seem to work. I ended up just copying the text into my gmail and sending it myself. Hope this helps!

  10. admin says:

    @Chris, the email link will only work if you have an email application like Outlook or Apple Mail set up as your default email program. Clicking the link should pop open an email with the address and message already populated.

    @Jim, right now Rochester is seeing a surge in sites/blogs like RochesterSubway and Howard’s “Town Square” that try to highlight good stories like this as well as the ones that deserve attention but get overlooked by the regular media outlets. Greenovation is yet another web project by a friend of mine, Jay Rowe. Check it out… he picked up on the effort to save 72 Conkey as well!

  11. Bob Williams says:

    Golly gee, eh Mike?

    Here’s to Howard for bringing Jim and I together via the comment section on ‘A Town Square.’ Jim is correct, you’ve made an immeasurable impact in your relatively short time here.

    Just to let the RSub community know, there are other ways to help Jim and Jo focus on 72 Conkey. They include volunteerism at the other properties in their pipeline. I once organized a volunteer day at 20 Evergreen (at which Jim was unfortunately injured, sorry about that) and have been putting time in at 20 Scrantom the past couple of weekends.

    I am more than willing to help rally the urbanist community once again to help Jim and Jo complete the necessary tasks to reactivate these wonderful properties.

    If anyone is interested, contact me at bob.williams -at- reconnectrochester.org

  12. admin says:

    Golly Bob… I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m from Long Island. That’s how we tawk.

  13. admin says:

    Fire up your TV sets… Rachel Barnhart will have this story on WHAM 13 News tonight at 5:30

  14. admin says:

    A big THANK YOU to Rachel Barnhart and WHAM 13 News. This story is also on the front page of 13wham.com right now…
    http://tinyurl.com/2fpo8wf

    “We haven’t made an absolute, final decision, but we have to be mindful of whether projects can revitalize a neighborhood,” said Bret Garwood, the city’s director of Business and Housing Development.


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