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Update on Midtown

November 3rd, 2012

Construction of Windstream's building on Midtown site is moving along.
The former Midtown Plaza site contained eight office buildings, an indoor shopping mall, Greyhound/Trailways bus station, and three levels of under-ground parking. Today, this nearly nine-acre, City-owned super-block is sloooowly being transformed…

Demolition was completed in December 2011, leaving two of the steel building frames. The old Seneca building on the corner of Main and Clinton is being converted into new office space for Windstream external link and is now fully enclosed. But the skeleton of the 18-story tower still looms over the site with work at a virtual standstill.

Midtown Tower is at a virtual standstill. Buckingham Properties may be joining Christa Development to help push the project forward. In the meantime, plans for the new street grid and public spaces were unveiled this week.
Christa Development external link is supposedly spearheading the $71 million tower renovation. But RochesterSubway.com has learned (from three different sources close to the project) that Christa may now be spread too thin to handle the job on its own, and Buckingham Properties external link will either be taking over the project, or partnering with Christa. No one from Christa would confirm or deny the claim. And Joseph Rowley from Buckingham said nothing is definitive at this time.

UPDATE: The RBJ confirmed on Friday that Larry Glazer, CEO of Buckingham Properties, is strongly considering taking over the Midtown tower project from Christa Development. Glazer says they’ve been considering the project for about 3 months and will come to a decision this month.

“We are downtown people. When Morgan and Christa started working on this several years ago, I truly felt they didn’t need my involvement,” Glazer said. “Now that I know that Midtown is down and redevelopment has started, it makes it more feasible—and I’ve seen what they’ve done to the building—so we can get our hands around what needs to be done to put it back together to make it work.”

I couldn’t find a link to the story on the RBJ web site. But it’s on the front page of Friday’s issue now on newstands.

In the meantime, a public meeting was held on Thursday to give the public a chance to see and comment on designs for the new public spaces. Infrastructure improvements at the site (totaling $75 Million) are now underway and include rebuilding the underground truck tunnel and 1,850-space parking garage, creating a new public “town center” and new street grid.

Before I show you the City’s plans, I wanted to share an idea that was posted on the RocSubway Facebook page external link by a reader, Ken Sato. Instead of 3 or 4 massive buildings, Ken would prefer to see the Midtown site re-designed on a more “human” scale, divided up into smaller, pedestrian-only blocks…

Midtown site concept by reader, Ken Sato. Ken would like to see a more human-scale pedestrian village instead of 3 or 4 large-scale buildings.

We can easily to have more than 50 human-scale buildings here, like Park Ave, with a large green space and an outdoor stage, which can host music concerts like Jazz festival. You can enjoy shopping, eating, and drinking on the pedestrian mall. If you are tired of shopping, you can just hang out and relax on the green space – listen to music and watch free shows on the stage. This idea is modeled after the beautiful Charlottesville’s pedestrian mall in Virginia, and Bryant park in NYC. I think Rochesterians deserve to have a place like this in downtown.

I really like Ken’s concept of breaking up this super block into a pedestrian-only urban village. The City’s plan doesn’t break the site up quite as much as Ken would like, but it does add a green space and two new streets… Cortland Street will run north/south between Main Street and a new extension of Elm Street which will run east/west.

Plan view of future Midtown site as proposed by the City this week.
The City’s plan also adds one new pedestrian street (running from Broad Street north to Elm Street. Utility bollards would allow street vendors to “plug in.” And catenary cable lighting is proposed to illuminate the streets and “define” the district.

Plan view of future Midtown pedestrian street.
Cross section of future Midtown site.
Reference photos for pedestrian plaza/street.
At the point where these three new streets meet up at the center of the complex, a “plaza zone” will be established. This means that the streets will raise up to the grade of the sidewalks, and the street surface will change to the material of the plaza (maybe colored concrete or brick).

Aerial view of Elm Street and pedestrian plaza.
This plaza zone will be flanked at the west end with a grove of trees, and at the east end with a lawn and pavilion. And, as a focal point, a signature art installation is proposed. We’re not sure what this “art” installation will be yet; but think of “meet me under the clock.”

Location of art installation, tree grove, and Windstream building in background.
All pedestrian zones will be delineated from the vehicular traffic with tree lawns and/or planters. And bollards will define the driving lanes of the street.

Cross section of street.
Finally, the plans call for the design of street amenities such as benches, trash cans, and street lights to be unique to the district.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 at 8:25 am and is filed under Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

25 Responses to “Update on Midtown”

  1. Brian says:

    I’m surprised Buckingham is getting involved, as they mostly develop commercial properties. I wonder if they are considering midtown as new offices instead of apartments. I certainly hope that some of the buildings on the midtown site become apartments, it could really breathe some life into a neighborhood that is otherwise devoid of people after 6pm.

  2. Kelly says:

    I really love Ken’s idea for an outdoor theater and increased residential space. There are enough giant office buildings down town, and this island of human activity could connect it further to the park ave/Monroe neighborhoods for people to walk to…

  3. Matthew says:

    @Brian – Although Buckingham has a large commercial portfolio, they do have some residential properties already – Buckingham Commons on Plymouth and the Michaels Stern Building on Clinton/Pleasant come to mind. They’re also looking at a residential component on the next phase of the Genesee Hospital redevelopment. I think they’re well regarded as sensitive to adaptive re-use projects and could be a good addition. I think the financing of the project drives the bus on what ultimately gets done.

  4. Martin Edic says:

    Buckinghsm has hundreds of residential units including lofts downtown and a planned townhouse development at the Genesee hospital site.
    The 50 small buildings concept is hopelessly unrealistic. The costs would skyrocket and you could never get rents into a reasonable range. But a selection of smaller retail spaces is not a bad idea, if you get a major residential project in the Tower.

  5. Mittens says:

    50 buildings? Yeah maybe 50 buildings the size of a bathroom. Not realistic in the least bit. The Midtown block is pretty sizable, but not huge. The city’s concept is fine.

  6. RaChaCha says:

    Ken Sato is great, and a personal hero. But I don’t agree with him here. This is, after all, Rochester’s “big building” district, and really unique in that regard. But what Ken is talking about — something downtown could really use — could perhaps be better developed somewhere on the west side of the river. Perhaps along Broad Street, or in the Cascade District. Another potential place for smaller-scale-yet-still-dense development would be the area behind Sibleys, which has often been talked about as a great place to develop a new mixed-use neighborhood with a mix of reused existing buildings and cool new infill buildings (along with some great public spaces). And my personal favorite: the area around the old train station.

  7. ELF says:

    Happy to hear that Buckingham Properties might be involved. They’ve done a lot of great work in the city, and the owner has been known to consult with Landmark Society. They just revamped a tired commercial building at the corner of Park & Alexander into their new headquarters. Their renovation really brings out its modern architecture.

    I wonder if Buckingham might want to get involved with the Westminster Church at 660 West Main? They own and have redeveloped quite a few vintage buildings already. Maybe they’d be interested in taking this on as well.

  8. @ELF, I’d LOVE it if someone like Buckingham would take the church at 660 W. Main. First though, the community needs to fight off the Dollar General. DG has the landowner seeing dollar signs. There will be a Zoning Board public hearing on that coming up on November 29.

    Susan B. Anthony neighborhood is asking for people to attend that meeting and to speak against a dollar store at that location and against the demolition of the church. You can also email a statement to tim.raymond@cityofrochester.gov.

  9. ELF says:

    I’ve signed the petition and forwarded it to as many people as I can. I also sent Tim Raymond a long letter.

  10. jimmy says:

    I’m not sure what I think about the pedestrian streets idea. But the city proposal seems better

  11. @Jimmy, why do you think the City’s proposal is better? I’m not saying you’re right or wrong. I’m just curious.

  12. Jim says:

    It’s a good idea, but for another part of the city or for a part of the parcel, not the whole area. This is the middle of downtown, this should be our big building area. This could be good on the fringe of downtown, if the inner loop were to ever be filled. It would probably only work in an area that already has stuff going on, such as east end or park ave type. It doesn’t fit as part of the CBD. Not in this manner, mixed in as part of it yes, but not wholesale for the entire parcel.

  13. Matt says:

    Too small of a street grid creates problems much the way too large of a grid does (although different ones). Incidentally, since I haven’t seen it posted, here’s the link to the full resolution cam:
    http://archives.earthcam.com/archives5/ecnetwork/us/ny/rochester/lirompa1//2012/11/01/1400.jpg

    Just put in the date in the folders, and the time of day in military time for the file name and baddabing, baddaboom, you can watch cement be poured.

    That said, this should be all towers. I’m not even sure park space on this parcel, as planned, is appropriate. There’s a plethora of under-used and under-loved park and public plaza space here already. More isn’t what’s keeping people from the area.

  14. Jim says:

    Matt has a good point. It isn’t like we lack green space, even downtown. How bout opening St. Joseph’s back up? Thats a cool park and a cool idea. Creating a park from the remains of a fire gutted church. What do we do? Lock it up and make it useless.

  15. UPDATE: The RBJ confirmed on Friday that Larry Glazer, CEO of Buckingham Properties, is strongly considering taking over the Midtown tower project from Christa Development. Glazer says they’ve been considering the project for about 3 months and will come to a decision this month.

    “We are downtown people. When Morgan and Christa started working on this several years ago, I truly felt they didn’t need my involvement,” Glazer said. “Now that I know that Midtown is down and redevelopment has started, it makes it more feasible—and I’ve seen what they’ve done to the building—so we can get our hands around what needs to be done to put it back together to make it work.”

    I couldn’t find a link to the story on the RBJ web site. But it’s on the front page of Friday’s issue now on newstands.

  16. CM says:

    If there are developers and companies that want to build a series of towers in the 20 story plus range, then we should deal with that reality. I think the truth is that there are no such developers now or in the near future. To see what Midtown could become, take a look at how land was used to create The Gateway in Salt Lake City or, decades ago, Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Lots of streets with pedestrian ingress and egress. Shopes and businesses on the lower floors with offices and residences on the upper floors. Big Box projects on huge land pasrcels tend to kill downtowns with long dead spaces on what should be lively streets.

  17. Matt says:

    Related to this, has anyone ever looked over Plan Architecture Studio’s ArcheNOVA projects? There’s some delicious stuff there, even if the word parking is used a few too many times.

    http://www.planpc.com/portfolio/archenova-projects/1.aspx

  18. @Matt, they’ve got some really intriguing concepts there for Washington Square Park and the Liberty Pole area. Parking will always be a selling feature in Rochester until our region starts to take seriously the prioritization of transit-oriented development.

    It can’t just be the City either… the entire region needs to adopt a unified set of smart growth policies. The stuff in the Plan Architectural Studio portfolio reflects our current market demand for drivable development. But I give them credit for at least trying to hide the parking.

    What’s with that Brooklyn USA plan? Is that for real? If you build it they will come I guess.

  19. Matt says:

    Beats me. People (retirees) love planned developments like that.

    I think the issue isn’t that there is still demand for parking (well, ok, that’s part of it), but that everything new in Rochester needs to be built with it, despite the fact that downtown has roughly twice as many parking spaces as it needs RIGHT NOW. Build something without dedicated parking. It won’t hurt. It’s time to tear the bandage off.

    Speaking of large scale developments. Anything happening over at Brooks Landing? I have got to get up there and scout construction.

  20. @Matt, I totally agree. One day I’m hoping to have the money to build my own parking-free development. You should check out my recent TEDx talk (when the video gets posted). It’s all about this same topic.

    Not sure what’s going on at Brook’s Landing lately. Anybody?

  21. Erik says:

    Not sure how many people are still linked with this but I was wondering what people would think of a Technology Innovation Center being placed where lot 5 is, as it currently stands it is just a empty lot that will be green space/Parking. The Innovation Center is my Proposal for my Undergraduate Senior Thesis.

  22. @Erik, a Technology Innovation Center sounds like a good idea. Tell us more about it. Who would it serve? Who would run it? I’d like to see more than just one thing on this lot. Like maybe shops/restaurants on ground floor with the technology center on floor 2, and residential above? Varying uses would help keep the Midtown site active around the clock.

  23. Carlos Mercado says:

    That is the key for Midtown and all center city development/redevelopment. The street level has to be built for pedestrians with abundant entrances and exits to offices, shops, entertainment, dining, and what not. The upper two or three stories are for offices and residences.

  24. Erik says:

    @RochesterSubway, It would server a range of users, it is mainly targeted at people in the area who have the skill sets but are unemployed or at a job not specific to the field they are in because of bankruptcy and out sourcing of big businesses in the area. I’m currently not sure who would run it, I am guessing the city of Rochester. I was definitely putting residential above the technology center, and as for the retail, they are already wanting containerized retail on the site so it should not be to difficult to incorporate that, as long as my professor goes for it, sometimes they think we get in over our head with the projects.

    @Carlos, That is my exact thinking when doing this, it has to be multi-use or it will end up just another office building in Rochester which is not what I want nor what the city wants/needs. Pedestrian atmosphere is key.

  25. Talia says:

    I believe something like this for Rochester would be great. Builders/investors should use the models of allot of southern cities, like Charlotte, NC, as well as Greenville, SC. I lived in Greenville, SC for 3 years, and allot of the locals spoke to me about how the city/downtown had been revamped in the last few years, but in the earlier days, was like how Rochester is now. The downtown of Greenville is picturesque, and continues to grow. It helps that they have major companies in the area (GE, Michelin, BMW, etc). Without industry, you have shut down and no growth! Visit: http://m.visitgreenvillesc.com


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