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19 Responses to “Filling In: Capron/Geva”

  1. Dan Howell says:

    Is it really a Theatre District if there’s only one theatre? This is more of a Geva neighborhood. Theatre Row is already on Main Street with the Auditorium, Blackfriars, Downstairs Cabaret and Eastman.

    However, I do feel this area needs some work along these lines to move forward and improve.

  2. Martin Edic says:

    Matt, like your suggestion of soliciting building benchmarks. This city can’t seem to build anything new residential that doesn’t reference 19th century facades. Like that horrible reworking of the old train station.
    I think a primary issue with your rework of this area is proximity to expressways. Would you orient buildings to block their noise?

  3. Matthew Denker says:

    @Martin – An excellent point, and the exact reason that the towers are set on the north side of the podiums. The back end of the grocery store and the parking garage are oriented to face the highway. One of the key elements of urbanism is picking a few winners and losers. 490, in this case, is the loser, and does not receive much love streetscape-wise.

    I’ll probably post quite a few treatments in the comments, but for a start, I’ve always liked these developments in Montreal: http://goo.gl/maps/yjBz3 as well as http://goo.gl/maps/5AJbI, and finally for now: http://goo.gl/maps/fOUNQ

  4. Mike D says:

    Although I applaud the ideals, this proposal has little basis in reality.

    First, the parking lots next to the capron lofts and 250 south ave (the little building behind) are owned and used by the tenants of those buildings. There is no way the tenants would prefer a park and more buildings over the parking – I should know, I work at 250 south ave and and my brother lives in the lofts.

    Second, Geva goers need immediate parking. Walking past Geva every night on my way home, I’ve come to realize a theme among Geva patrons – a large number of them are older. Even walking from the parking garage across the street is a little much.

    As for reusing the Merkel Donohue building, do they have plans to vacate? It seems like they’ll be there for some time. What would be great would be to get the trophy shop guy to sell and have the building next to Merkel Donohue on the corner of Capron St. be revitalized. This would help remove any seediness of Capron/South Ave corner.

    I would tend to agree about removing that low-use circle ramp. It would open up the area to allow for two large plots which could be used for mixed-use buildings.

    buildings 2 and 3 need to be combined and the small buildings there need to be removed. That plot needs to be another parking garage with space for a cafe on the corner. This garage would serve as parking for Geva and replace the parking which would be removed by buildings 4 and 5. It would remove much of the need for on-street parking in the area.

    Being a spot which is cut off from much of the city but still downtown, it’s a perfect spot for a residential neighborhood. But parking still needs to be addressed and there are some eye-sores which need to be removed first.

  5. Mike D says:

    @Martin, the noise from 490 isn’t all that bad with the windows closed.

  6. Jimmy says:

    Martin, I think the fact that this area is close to 490 gives it more potential actually. I’ve always thought a 200 ft+ building there would look really good in the skyline. And our downtown would look more legit when driving by on 490 because of how close it is. I think this new street would make more sense as an alley way. I really like the idea of getting rid of the innerloop ramp and I know the city has thought about doing that. Making S. Clinton 2 ways would be difficult and unnecessary.

  7. Matthew Denker says:

    Excellent feedback everyone, thank you.

    I would like to take a second to note that almost nothing I post here will have a strong basis in reality.

    First, almost no one in the city is just ponying up vacant land. The current tax structure promotes under-utilization, and one can make quite a bit more money with parking than with a small building (I know, people keep trying to get me to turn the land I own into parking!).

    Second, and please forgive me, I am working towards actual redevelopment in Rochester. Unless I have solid plans with signed contracts, it is competitively disadvantageous to blog about immediate plans on my part. Again, I’m really sorry about that, BUT, I promise that if and when plans of mine do come to fruition that I will blog about them from start to finish in excruciating detail like some of my favorite small developer blogs in NYC (http://2onboerum.blogspot.com/ for example!).

  8. Jimmy says:

    @Mike D another obvious above ground parking garage would be tragic for that area. How about sacrificing the connection of capron St. to S. Clinton in an effort to allow some on site parking for Geva. I agree that realistically there must be some surface parking there. Plot #6 could always be a few townhouses. That would leave enough room for parking in back for those living in the lofts and townhouses. When in doubt and not much room, build townhouses. May I suggest looking at the townhouses on State St. In Albany via Google Street view?

  9. Jimmy says:

    Matthew Denker is the man!

  10. Matthew Denker says:

    Thank you, you’re too kind!

    One of the advantages to making Clinton 2-way is actually to be able to add islands and bump-outs and cut crossing distances. In this way, we are able to activate the (out of frame in the pictures above) garage next to the garage next to the surface parking lot across the street for uses in this neighborhood as well (overflow). Another key benefit includes a rationalization of bus routes by being able to get out of town on Clinton (somewhat out of scope for a private development).

    As per what I am hearing, it is clear that despite only 60% capacity of existing parking, there is always an insatiable thirst for more (preferably RIGHT next to where one works and not an inch further). This development actually replaces every spot lost and adds significant new parking for residents, shoppers, etc, both in a garage and on street. It is unclear how many more spaces people think they need, but I’d love to hear. Numbers are welcome.

  11. I understand providing parking for the Geva and the businesses, but I’d also like to know how many of the residents in these buildings would want (or need) parking. Isn’t public transit and walkability one of the perks of downtown living? I guess I’m asking, what is needed in order to make car-free living downtown a possibility for most? I don’t live downtown so I’m just asking an honest question. Not attacking anyone for asking for parking.

  12. Matthew Denker says:

    Well, the way I see it, the idea is more to move to car light (DC model), than car free. I think if you could build a development this large, you could also establish the couple of other key elements to being able to live car-light:

    1.) Delivery service. Specifically groceries, but having pickup and drop off for things like dry-cleaning are also valuable.

    2.) Car sharing. Some space at the garage should be reserved for Zipcar or similar.

    3.) Walk/bike network. This can be achieved by with some minor cosmetic upgrades to the downtown street grid, some of which is already being done with the re-street-ing of the former midtown plaza site.

  13. Irene says:

    From Geva website

    Geva Theatre Center recommends parking in the Washington Square Garage, operated by the City of Rochester, which is conveniently located across from the theatre on the corner of South Clinton Avenue and Woodbury Boulevard. The garage offers well lit, covered parking as well as on-site security personnel during most Geva performances. Geva does not own or operate any parking lots/garages.

    I have never seen this garage even close to full at night.

  14. Jason Haremza says:

    I’d love to see a developer propose a parking-free or even a parking-light development. Or even just “unbundling” the parking from the cost of the units. But alas our developers in Rochester are EXTREMELY conservative and believe their units are not marketable without at least 1, preferably 2, dedicated parking spaces.

    For what it’s worth, the City’s Zoning Code has not required parking for downtown developments since 1975. Clearly, the last 38 years have shown that market forces are much stronger.

  15. Jason Haremza says:

    Also, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big proponent and frequent rider of Rochester’s mostly unloved transit system, but even I have to acknowledge that other than M-F rush hour, the service RTS provides is less than optimum.

    If I were a downtown dweller, I’d hate to try and get a bus out to Eastview Mall, Pittsford Plaza, or even East Avenue Wegmans or the future Collegetown Barnes and Noble on a Sunday afternoon for a little shopping.

  16. Jason Haremza says:

    Sorry, one more thing. The big surface parking lot south of Capron Street is city-owned but locked into a 99 year lease with Excellus. We have about 92 years left to go on it…

  17. Matthew Denker says:

    Hey Jason,

    All good points. I think the conservatism is one of the big issues. I was looking at the zoning, and noticed that there’s no parking required. It’s quite impressive. Someone would really need to be ambitious to try and build without it, though. I think if ever there were a time (in recent history anyway), now is it. Like I said, it would need to be done with some additional business interests, though. Even car light would be laudable, with only one space per unit.

  18. Mike says:

    I know it’s been a while since the last comment on this post, but in case anyone is still following the thread, I learned some interesting information today regarding some future developments in the Capron St/ “Theater District” area. First, I had a conversation with someone at the JH Lang Trophy shop who indicated they have received multiple offers for the building, though she didn’t say if they were entertaining them. The trophy shop actually uses the first three floors of that building currently, which is pretty surprising. Second, I visited the Merkl Donohue office to take a look at their display furniture. The gentlemen there said they were in the process of trying to liquidate what they have in preparation for a move out to East Rochester by the end of the year. Apparently someone has bought the building and intends to convert at least the first floor into a restaurant. I can only assume this will go hand-in-hand wit development of the upper floors into residential. One thing I could not surmise, despite asking everyone, was who owns the building between MD and JH Trophy (#208). If anyone knows, I would be very interested to find out.

  19. Matthew Denker says:

    Only just seeing this, but it looks like the building in the middle is all part of M&D – http://maps.cityofrochester.gov/propinfo/default.htm?parcelId=121.32-1-13.001


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