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44 Responses to “Filling In: Charlotte Part 3”

  1. Barbra Ann says:

    Appreciate all the work and investment in understanding the nature of the Charlotte neighborhood and harbor. Because its turn of the century feel is still palpable, I think a less ‘glass and chrome’ and a more garden-walking-low rise atmosphere plus trolley might actually welcome people instead of turn them away. Businesses should see the value in ‘less rush’ and ‘more amusement’ and not merely look at their bottom line. Look at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario for something on that order. History plays a role and Charlotte has it.

  2. John L says:

    I agree, Barbra Ann, it would be much more desirable that way. I go up there anyway for Windjammer’s finest chicken wings…and I lived up there for several years, but I want to see a more interesting approach towards the neighborhood development, such as Matt has proposed (with great insight and smooth articulation, might I add). Our city needs to come together. It would also be neat to see a trolley line from downtown to Charlotte.

  3. Martin Edic says:

    Nice job Matthew. That’s a lot of work. Most of the railway right of way along Beach has been deeded to the property owners on the lake side of the street. I’m a former Title examiner (one of many hats in my past) and that right of way actually cut those properties off from the street as it crossed their driveways. In most cases they have resolved it by buying the little pieces of former trolley ROW that crossed their property. But I love the trolley piece of your plan.
    I think you still spend too much energy and resources on parking that is not utilized during weekdays and the colder months. It is perfectly legit, IMHO, to intentionally limit guest parking to encourage public transit usage during busy periods.
    Not sure I agree about BIDS in Rochester, given that we have the highest real estate taxes in the country relative to assessed value. They look like additional taxation for services the City should already be providing. But that’s another discussion!

  4. This is a great plan! Much more beneficial to the community than what has been proposed. I think you are missing one opportunity in the River St. area, just south of Ontario Beach Park. There are nice historical buildings as well as a train depot building. Some space for new construction can be had by that old railroad property. This would connect the beach area down to the Genesee River trail, continuing down to Turing Point Park.

    And I love that you point to that building on the corner of Lake/Stutson for architectural inspiration. My family owned that building in the 70s and 80s and many fond memories of my Grandmother’s antique shop there.

  5. Kyle Fecik says:

    Martin Edic,

    I agree that a BID would not be a good fit since it requires business owners to agree to pay a certain percentage to fund the BID. That’s why Matt suggest a Parking Benefits District. I’ve recently made a proposal to create a PBD in Elmwood Village in Buffalo. The price of parking would only be increased by $.50 and we would charge on weekends (since we are one of Buffalo’s premier urban shopping districts, we see a ton of traffic on the weekend to justify it). This would lead to over $600,000 in funding for the organization that I work at, The Elmwood Village Association. The PBD puts no extra burden on businesses while providing the benefits of a BID.

    Awesome plan Matt. I just wish that Rochester’s planning officials thought more like you and didn’t put so much emphasis on these mammoth projects.

    Maybe when I graduate with my degree in Environmental Design I’ll come back and help Rochester out. 😉

  6. Urban Explorer says:

    Martin, I think you might be confusing the former Manitou Beach Trolley ROW with the still extant former New York Central Hojack Line ROW that runs well south of Beach Avenue.

    Unless I’m misunderstanding what the orange lines in the graphic are. I read it quickly and might have missed it. Are those proposed trolley lines or bus lines?

  7. Kyle Fecik says:

    Oh and Matt, I forgot 1 thing. I would personally keep the marina at Charlotte while also implementing your plan. The one thing that your plan really lacks is a reason to go to Charlotte. Currently no one lives there and very little businesses are located there. No increase in housing stock will increase that.

    You need something too draw people down there. Unfortunately by reviving the old theme park there you would kill Sea Breeze so other options would be needed. I think the Marina is a good idea but what about an outlet mall. But instead of the current design of outlet malls you could have it based around the marina with restaurants mixed in. I hate parking but a parking garage, not surface parking, would be necessary. The outlet mall would keep Charlotte as a destination YEAR ROUND which is something that it currently lacks. The new outlet mall could take on a one-of-a-kind New Urbanist approach. It could have a promenade on the Genesee River and one that connects it to Lake Ave. The 2nd and 3rd floors of the outlet malls buildings could be all residential. Restaurants would also be mixed in with the shops so that it has some sort of nightlife. I think a good example of this would be the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica, CA. I could go on for days about this but i’m already late to work. Haha Lemme know what you guys think! Suggestions are welcome! And again, awesome plan Matt!

  8. Kyle Fecik says:

    Alright 1 last comment, I swear!

    Look up the old CityGate plans for inspiration on a new outlet mall. First floor, discount stores, top floors residential. The CityGate plan even opens up to the Canal. Pretty similar on how it would open up to the Lake/River just on a larger scale.

  9. Matthew Denker says:

    Kyle! Love your enthusiasm! I don’t envision the scale of the attractions along the boardwalk competing with sea breeze, but I can see that argument too. I do think that a revived boardwalk along with the trolley would be good draws. I am not completely opposed to the outlet mall concept, but I don’t know if it will work well with the parking-lite concept. I do think that unique and local businesses should be encouraged by pressing developers to include smaller commercial spaces more conducive to local businesses. I’d also press the city to create a grant program specifically for local businesses to utilize these spaces. If something like marge’s can work so well on the other side of the city from here, that kind of draw can easily be built in on this side of the lake. Indoor shuffleboard bar? Yes please.

  10. Matthew Denker says:

    Hi Martin and UE – Orange lines are bike facilities. On lake they’d be parking protected lanes, on Beach they’d be painted, possibly with zebras for protection. The blue line using the old NYC ROW is where the trolley would be put, with new tracks/ROW down a fully realized River St.

  11. Urban Explorer says:

    “I just wish that Rochester’s planning officials thought more like you and didn’t put so much emphasis on these mammoth projects.”

    So wait, the City’s plan has 170 units on 2.8 acres while Mr. Denker’s plan has 1300 units on something well over 6 acres and it’s the City’s plan that you consider “mammoth”??!!

  12. Matthew Denker says:

    It’s 1,600 units over what’s closer to 30+ acres! But remember, my plan has public transportation improvements, additional attractions, all of the hotel space the city was going to build, AND new community parks! It’s just never taller than about 6 stories or so.

    Speaking of which, on one of these threads, someone mentioned that DC outlawed “skyscrapers” in the early 1900s, so BOOM CHARLOTTE! But the tallest allowed buildings in DC are actually all the same height as the 3 proposed “towers” here. So as with all things in life, it’s probably relative.

  13. Marcia says:

    Although you don’t seem to believe the condos in Charlotte could ever become Section 8 housing, a friend of mine mentioned some high rises called Tracey Towers that are in the Bedford Park area of The Bronx. They were built as luxury apartments, but when no one of the luxury class was interested in buying, they became Section 8 housing.

  14. Matthew Denker says:

    I just brought this up on FB, but I’m happy to discuss here. Tracey Towers were built, from the get go, as cooperative (owner occupied) middle income housing as part of the Mitchell Lama program. They along with places like Roosevelt Island, are some of the only remaining affordable housing stock in NYC. They are owned by the people who live in them (by definition not so poor), and are as truly salt-of-the-earth middle class as one can get in New York City. The person saying this is unfortunately wrong.

    Housing filters. Nearly all of it is built as luxury or middle class, and as it is “used” it generally loses that premium sheen. The building I live in in NYC was built as luxury apartments in the early 1900s. The units were thousands of square feet each (the building was only 18 lavish apartments). By the middle of the great depression, it was broken into 60 apartments. By the 60s, the neighborhood was a slum. That is how housing decays, and it’s a possibility, but it doesn’t happen over night. The concept of having to build affordable housing is new, and comes from the dual concepts of universal ownership and years of disinvestment in cities where there is no housing stock to filter (good luck finding many houses in Rochester built in the 80s!)

    I’d like to pivot here a second, because we haven’t discussed this much. The Marina District is a form-based code. This is very progressive in as much as it dictates the look and feel of buildings, but not the use. In many ways, this look and feel can be designed to discourage unwanted uses. For example, if floor plates are set small, its unlikely a factory would locate here, because the form dictates a less than optimal setup for such a use.

    Extrapolating from here, the city doesn’t generally construct desirable buildings. Cities don’t generally build apartments, they’re profitable. So the plan here is to sell the land to someone who will build apartments. If, instead, the city keeps it, it’s more likely that something is built here by them, but not what Charlotte would really like. Cities do build hospitals and senior centers and rehab centers and halfway houses. The form based code here is conducive to all of those things, so I would expect something far different to be constructed here if the city were to decide it wanted to build something along those lines. The whole setup is ripe for that, and the city already owns the land outright, as opposed to having to take it elsewhere in town.

  15. Marcia says:

    I believe the proposal for the development near Charlotte Beach is for owner occupied condos in 2 of the high rises (not apartments).

  16. Matthew Denker says:

    You are correct that the current plan is for 2 of the towers to be condos and part of the third as well (it would be part hotel and part condo. There would also be a number of townhouses. Mind you, I don’t care to provide a ringing endorsement of the Edgewater proposal. If I felt strongly about it and that it was good, I would have written that column and not these three. What I really wanted was to get an alternate idea out there. I would love, very deeply, to see Charlotte, presumably through CCA, although potentially some other vehicle, generate a plan for themselves. Again stealing from my own Facebook posts, seeing something like the Corn Hill charrette (http://cornhill.org/charrette/) or the kind of work that the North Winton Village Association (http://northwinton.org) has done in conjunction with the RRCDC (http://rrcdc.org/index.html) would be heartwarming in a way that no amount of crazy developments would (with the exception, maybe, of the street car I proposed, because that would be SO COOL!).

  17. Kyle Fecik says:

    “Urban Explorer”,

    Matt’s plans are also “Mammoth” but the thing is, Matt’s can be done in different phases. The city’s plans for either the 3 skyscrapers or the other project by Morgan Management are simple. They are towers that will be completed and once completed that’t it. Matt’s plans could start just on Lake ave then in a few years once all the buildings are full/finished the second phase could start. Both are very big projects though.

    Would you rather the city build a skyscraper that most likely won’t be filled and will sit vacant for years? Keep in mind that over time this tower will start to degrade since it has SOME (not all) vacant floors.

    A large project with more components like Matt is talking about will be able to be built in phases. And guess what, if phase 1’s buildings are never filled then what makes you think the city will follow through with phase 2?

    So yes, both are large projects but Matt’s is more practical for creating a neighborhood and not an Arcology on Lake Ave.

  18. Martin Edic says:

    Kyle, The Edgewater concept is being done by a private developer with extensive experience in reviving waterfronts in small markets. They don’t these things without a lot of market research. They won’t build if they are not confident they can sell the units. Nor will they build without commitments from major commercial tenants like a hotel management group- who also do their homework. Look at Midtown- Buckingham and Morgan are hustling to commit a theater group and a grocery store as anchors. My guess is they already have the contracts. This is not charity or speculation by the City, it is business.This is a distinction that I think is being glossed over by many of the naysayers.
    Matt’s plans are idealism and I don’t mean that negatively. They represent an ideal but that’s not the reality.
    Finally, only in Rochester would a sixteen story building be called a ‘skyscraper’! That made me laugh…;-)

  19. Martin Edic says:

    BTW, an actual arcology would be a really interesting solution…

  20. Urban Explorer says:

    First of all 13 stories is not a “skyscraper.” I refuse to reinforce Rochester’s provincialism by referring to a building of this height as a “skyscraper.”

    Second of all, the City is not building the buildings. The City is selling the land to a developer who will build the buildings. This developer is confident the market will fill the buildings. Otherwise, they wouldn’t propose doing it. And should the market not be as robust as the developer is planning on, then yes, the building or some portion of a building can sit there as an unfinished shell for some time, decades even. One of the two Key Center buildings in downtown Buffalo sat empty for at least 10 years. The Mason Building in downtown Providence sat empty for 75 years.

    I’m all for the community generating a plan for themselves, as Mr. Denker suggests. However this has to include the buy in of the City, which owns the land and would have to approve any zoning changes, and be at least somewhat based in economic reality. I’ve seen far too many charrettes (i.e. most of them) developed without the buy-in of the municipality and completely divorced from economic reality.

  21. Matthew Denker says:

    UE – This echoes my major fear about the process. I do believe that anything that comes of a charrette here must be tempered in such a way that it is, as I’ve written a few times, sustainable. I guess that’s my own code word, but it really can’t be a money sink. This all depends on the scale of what’s being built, because certainly something CAN be a a “money sink” and still be good. Better schools cost more money that may not directly turn into economic gain, but that doesn’t mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. On the other hand, building a giant ferris wheel here that does not pay for itself, nor bring bring enough additional visitors might be folly.

  22. Marcia says:

    I vote for the giant ferris wheel. What a fun idea!

  23. Matthew Denker says:

    Voting for the giant ferris wheel negates the idea that the problem with these towers will ruin the public’s view of the lake, though, no?

    Anyway, here’s the giant ferris wheel being built downstate for reference: http://newyorkwheel.com/ It is approximately 5 times taller than the buildings proposed by Edgewater, and would become the tallest structure in Rochester by a significant amount upon its completion.

  24. Urban Explorer says:

    To me, the issue with charrettes is that they usually call for some notion of locally owned, or at least small scale, businesses filling the storefronts of a mixed use avenue. The proverbial “butcher, baker, and candlestick maker.”

    These may be desirable, even laudable, business models. The question is: are they realistic in the next 5-10 years?

    I’ve seen charrettes raise a community’s expectations unrealistically only to have those expectations cruelly dashed when it becomes clear that the State DOT has no intention of narrowing Main Street and installing curb bump-outs any time soon and the purchasing power of the local population just cannot sustain multiple blocks of small format, pedestrian oriented businesses.

  25. Matthew Denker says:

    Well UE – no need to worry about asking for Lake Ave to be narrowed and not getting it. Considering the city proposed to do just that and the locals fought it off, it seems unlikely to come out of this hypothetical Charlotte Charrette.

  26. Z says:

    I think a far more useful and little used rail line of way exists to the south of Charlotte. https://www.google.com/maps/@43.2492068,-77.6157747,16z?hl=en Just follow the tracks and see how many homes and attractions a mixed use line could hit. There’s precedent for sharing rights of way with commercial interests set in other cities (Denver). In addition it allows more people to forget the care all together as opposed to driving to Greece vs. Charlotte.

  27. Marcia says:

    Lake Ave. is narrow (one lane in each direction) from about the train bridge (just past Holy Cross) north to Charlotte Beach. That was done a few years ago and brick crosswalks with a center island were installed also. The proposal that was fought was narrowing Lake Ave. way up near Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

  28. John Smith says:

    Charlotte is a desirable area people will move to over Ontario county. On top of that the city of Rochester is no longer considered one of the top 100 most populated cities in the country. We need to regain that standing as a top 100 city and allow high density development in Charlotte so this city can grow and add population.

    I’m sick of seeing decade after decade of population loss to the south simply because people are becoming too stubborn about giving the city an opportunity to grow and too reminiscent of the good old Kodak days and want things to stay the same instead of making this city more desirable than the south.

    Let these high rises rise and scare the stubborn old folks out of town so the young generation could move in and move this city forward.

    There’s clearly demand for this, waterfront projects are going up everywhere.

  29. Matthew Denker says:

    Phew! Response digest:

    AJ – I might be mistaken, but I think you are talking about the lot where I propose the Flats type building being built in Cleveland. I may be confused, though. Thank you very much for reading and enjoying the article all the same!

    Z – I would love to see streetcar service run south to downtown as well. This would certainly be something for the future, as its how so very many people used to travel to Charlotte in the past.

    Marcia – I am aware that the narrowing was fought to the south and not in the middle of Charlotte. The 4-3 diet was being proposed as an addition to already planned road maintenance. One of the important things to keep in mind is that the road diet would likely have been continued all the way to Charlotte over time. I am giving the residents of the area a great deal of credit for correctly assuming this. I have never thought the people of Charlotte to be anything other than very bright. We just don’t always agree on what’s best.

    John – This is accurate. Despite locals’ best efforts to paint Charlotte as an awful place that no one would ever come to (see Facebook comments), this line of reasoning is questionable at best. It is pretty nice, and it would be even nicer still with a bunch of shiny new buildings.

  30. Urban Explorer says:

    By the way, there was a plan developed several years ago by Sasaki and Associates that featured a dense grid of streets and small scale, 2-3 story, single family homes and mixed use structures. Aside from the fact that Sasaki totally effed it up by not bothering to look underground and see where trunk sewer lines might impact the ability to build things above it, the Charlotte community hated that plan as well. Yelled and screamed about it. So this is not about “towers” or scale or style of building. It seems to me, it is all about surface parking lots and Charlotte’s idiotic pre-occupation with defending those goddam ugly surface parking lots.

  31. Martin Edic says:

    Urban, this is about Charlotte not wanting any change whatsoever. The reason is they might have to face up to the fact that the place is a dump whose primary businesses are biker bars, tattoo joints, drug paraphernalia stores and hot dog stands. All surrounded by a beautiful riverfront and a beach with enough parking for Disneyland but not much else.
    Sorry to rant but I grew up across the river and that place has not changed in 40 years. And its basically the same names complaining as they were back then.

  32. Matthew Denker says:

    I remember this plan well. And so does the internet: http://projects.sasaki.com/portofrochester/Documents/ROCHESTER-REFINEDMASTERPLAN_000.PDF

    and here are meeting minutes where Charlotte residents had the same double edged we should do something but not this/we want more daytime residents, but not homes/views of the lake concerns:

    http://projects.sasaki.com/portofrochester/Documents/JULY17MEETINGMINUTES.pdf

    I think it may be a problem with arithmetic too, because this plan is parking neutral (hell, my plan proposes to almost triple parking availability), but having a giant, dedicated lot just seems to be the most appealing option to the locals. It does raise a question about the commitment to water quality, since much of the problem comes from the exact non-point source pollution that a giant parking lot next to a beach creates. Oops?

  33. Marcia says:

    A couple of problems with the parking arrangements that you describe in the article. (1)The park and ride to the beach lot would be quite a ways (about 2 miles one way) for some people to walk to and from the car (if they didn’t want to pay to ride the available transportation). (2) In the article you mentioned paying to park at Charlotte Beach, personally I don’t want to have to pay to park at Charlotte Beach. One other note, in my opinion I don’t think the building with all the glass windows and brick (the picture in your article after the picture of what the corner of Lake Ave. & Stutson looks like right now) is nice looking.

  34. Patrick says:

    LOL Matthew,
    That Sasaki plan was fought by the residents? I don’t/Can’t believe that a massive parking lot is preferable to that design… Well, at least they can still see the river…

  35. Matthew Denker says:

    Hi Marcia, it’s 1.4 mi each way. Also, it’s not you, nobody likes to pay for parking anywhere. This isn’t unique to Charlotte or Rochester, or New York. Unfortunately, parking isn’t free to provide, and so it should cost something. As for the Lofts building, that’s ok, I mean, the aesthetics of any given building are up for debate. Edgewater has a pretty crappy visual survey, but I’m hoping to work with Mike to develop a much better one here on Rochester Subway later this summer. I would love for you to post some links to buildings you do like the look of. I think we can find a healthy middle ground.

    Patrick, it was, as were so many things in the neighborhood. I know some commentors here think this is me badmouthing Charlotte, but they have a history of this stuff. They didn’t want to join the city in the 1870s because paying money for running water and sewers is CRAZY! Then they begged to get added to the city in 1915 so they could get city police since they had become the go to drunk town (having more than 1 saloon on every single corner of the town). I am really curious if when much of Charlotte was turn down in 1921, if there were any fights over it. I feel like there had to have been, but maybe people were so enamored with cars it seemed worth it. I honestly should go pull newspaper articles next time I am in town and check.

  36. Marcia says:

    Since some of the astronomical taxes I pay living here support Charlotte Beach maybe residents could buy a season pass at a discounted rate to park at the beach.

  37. Matthew Denker says:

    This brings up an interesting question. If someone’s a resident, why do they also need to park at the beach? It’s right there… In any event, and it looks like I ultimately cut it from the article (not like anyone read the entire thing anyway), but I think that there would need to be residential parking permits, which could probably just be handed to current residents for free. Additionally, there were going to be beach tags to help pay for the upkeep, but season tags would be given free to residents, ala the Shore.

    About the taxes thing, though. My wife and I always find this interesting, I mean, we pay a ridiculous amount of taxes in Rochester ourselves, and the vast majority goes to roads (even though we didn’t even own a car until last fall), and then another, lesser piece goes towards schools (but we don’t have any kids). It’s kinda just how society works. Our taxes would be lower if all of the neighborhoods were still home to the solidly middle class types that now inhabit Henrietta instead. Nobody has invented the opposite of redlining yet, though.

  38. Urban Explorer says:

    “Most New York State parks charge a vehicle use fee of between $6 and $10 dollars for day use.”

    http://nysparks.com/admission/

    Note: that is not a fee for a person to enter a park, it is a fee for the privilege of bringing a vehicle into the park. Since most state parks are located far from walkable population centers and/or public transit, this amounts to a de facto entrance fee.

    I have no problem whatsoever with charging a vehicle entrance fee for the privilege of bringing a vehicle (and parking it) at Ontario Beach Park. Unlike most state parks, this is readily accessible by public transit and the regional bicycle trail network. Or park on-street for free a few blocks away and use your own two feet.

    The question of parking passes for residents is an interesting one. Ontario Beach Park, contrary to local sentiment, does not “belong” to Charlotte. It doesn’t even belong to the City of Rochester. It is a Monroe County Park and a regional attraction. Does that mean all Monroe County residents should get a free parking pass?

  39. Matthew Denker says:

    Well, UE, it’s not so much a free beach parking pass (since there isn’t actually any parking specifically at the beach in my plan). It’s actually an on street parking pass for use in all the newly (muni) metered street spaces. This is similar to the setup in DC in a neighborhood like Dupont. I think they would need to cost something for new residents, but could easily be given away to current residents for free without long lasting damage.

  40. Marcia says:

    Even though I live in the general area of Charlotte Beach, I need to drive there because I live about 4 miles away.

  41. Matthew Denker says:

    While 4 miles is a bit far to walk, it’s a relatively easy bus or bike ride away. Ignoring that, I’m not sure one can go 4 miles from the beach and still be in Charlotte. I think that would not qualify for any sort of residential parking permit. Just because someone lives in Rochester doesn’t mean they’re just allowed to apply for and can get a parking permit for Corn Hill (where there are already parking permits). It’s a little more localized than that.

    Switching gears a little, people who don’t actually live in Charlotte fighting to keep parking there make a TON more sense to me than people who live in Charlotte and are fighting for the same thing. Even local businesses fighting for parking makes more sense, even if it’s misguided – more residents means far more business than more parking. I mean, if the fine people of Henrietta raised a huge stink about eliminating parking at a county park they love driving to, I can see that. It’s the people who live a block away from the beach that are apoplectic that confuse me most.

  42. Mike Shea says:

    “This site is just a giant parking lot for Holy Cross Church.”

    Before you confiscate the Holy Cross parking lot might I ask what you intend to do about the 1,200 or so folks who currently attend services at that church on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings? While some are residents of Charlotte proper (and some of them do walk to church), many come from the City south of Denise Rd. all the way up to the cemetery boundaries. Others come from Irondequoit, Greece and even as far away as Hilton. There already is “street parking available to everyone at all times” in front of Holy Cross on both sides of Lake Ave. and it doesn’t accommodate even 10% of the current Mass crowds. What should the remaining 90+% do once the parking lot is gone?

    Also, Holy Cross currently averages about three funerals per week and a couple of Saturday weddings a month, with some of these services drawing hundreds. Once your plan is implemented will people wishing to attend be required to walk or take the bus or should the church simply inform its grieving families and engaged couples that it would be better if they found another venue?

  43. Matthew Denker says:

    This felt like an amusing follow-up to some of the conversation here:

    http://www.citylab.com/tech/2014/07/what-happens-when-every-city-has-a-giant-ferris-wheel/375012/

    Also, since I never did address the church parking thing. If there are 1,200 parishioners, this is a mere 300 cars (assuming that one would take the pious route and carpool for our Lord) That’s 150 cars per street side, even allotting 20ft of curb per vehicle means that everyone is now parked within 1,500 ft of the church in either direction (this is ignoring all of the parking left directly at the church from maintaining the new alignments created.

    As a side note, I find it incredible interesting how throughout this whole conversation most of what we talk about is how this or that wouldn’t work. Is it verboten on the internet to say, “a heritage street car is an incredible idea!” No one seems to have a problem with THAT idea. Further, when did we lose sight of compromise? How often does everyone get exactly what they wanted while paying the exact price they wanted to pay without giving up anything? Just some further musings.

  44. David DiPonzio says:

    Thank you Mike Shea!


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