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Filling In: Aldi Revisted

September 1st, 2015

Aldi Sign [Image: Matzo Electric Signs]
By Matthew Denker

Welcome back, readers – it’s been a while! But now that summer is drawing to a close, and we’re starting to stock up for the long winter ahead (wouldn’t want to be THIS guy external link), it’s time to start Filling In again. For our first discussion, let’s revisit Aldi. When we last wrote about it, Mike was advocating for getting good design, and I was putting forward a couple ideas about how the store might improve its relationship with the neighborhood . “Fine,” you say, “where is this going?” Well I’m glad you asked.

If you recall correctly, the original plan looked like this:

Originally Proposed Aldi Site Plan. [IMAGE: APD Engineering]
And if we’re being honest, it wasn’t very good. Not only is being a pedestrian along a fenced in parking lot lousy, but the actual parking behind the fence posed serious logistical issues for actually parking there. Well I’m happy to report that in the July ZBA hearing, new and improved plans were submitted for approval (a decision was not made at this hearing).

Let’s take a look at the new plans, spend a few minutes fawning over them, and then make a couple additional suggestions for improvements.

Newly Proposed Aldi Site Plan. [IMAGE: APD Engineering]
We’ll start with the new site plan. As we can see, the store has been shifted to Winton Road. There is almost no parking along Winton, and the parking that is there is no longer a trap for people in cars. Additionally, while this might be hard to make out, all trucks enter and exit the site from Blossom. In thinking about it, I believe this to be a better option than any trucks using Winton, as my revised plans did previously. Additionally, there is a bike rack along Winton (also hard to see). If there were the only changes, I’d already suggest that the improvements were large and positive. In fact, there appears to be one additional change, which is only obvious from the perspective renderings.

Newly Proposed Aldi Perspective Renderings. [IMAGE: APD Engineering]
That’s right – look at all the transparency along the street. The entire face of the building along Winton now has eye level glass. This will make the building pleasant to walk by and fit much better with the existing construction in the neighborhood.

All in all, I’m incredibly pleased, but I still think that a few small tweaks could be made to further improve the site.

First, as you can see in the perspective rendering, there is a bench shown in front of the store. I would like to reiterate what a good opportunity this is to work with RGRTA to re-locate (or add) a bus stop here to better serve the community and the store. Dare I say add some cover or a shelter then too?

Second, there is a large piece of blank wall facing the parking lot. This in and of itself isn’t bad (it’s not like I care what my car is staring at while I shop), but this is another good opportunity to work with the community. The blank space could be used for a rotating outdoor art installation along the lines of Wall Therapy. I think there might need to be some curatorial oversight by the store, but this seems like it could combine outreach with beautification all in one shot.

Even though there’s always room for improvement, if this is the plan going forward, I applaud the store’s willingness to alter plans, and I hope that they are willing to continue working with the neighborhood in addressing any operational issues that might arise if they go forward with construction.

To me, this is also a big win for civic involvement, and I am doubly proud all of the readers and community members who worked hard to push for these changes.

• • •

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 at 11:49 pm and is filed under Architecture, 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.

11 Responses to “Filling In: Aldi Revisted”

  1. John says:

    I’m pretty happy with the changes Aldi made. Its just annoying that we have to push so hard for a company to follow the zoning code. It’s a shame the CVS across the street was built so poorly, but I wasn’t in the neighborhood when it was designed.

    If they really wanted to knock it out of the park, they’d put a small diner for Jim’s to move into on the Blossom St side where there is only grass.

    Maybe other developers are finally learning, there’s several Family Dollars being proposed throughout the city and all the ones I’ve seen are very similar to the final Aldi design.

  2. Scott says:

    I still think having an Aldi at that corner will direct North and East bound traffic back through the residential area to the Northwest which could be detrimental to the character of that neighborhood. While the design changes are nice to see, a big box store is not what that corner needs.

  3. Anthony Vallone says:

    Thank you for your opinion. Although I have been wondering where I could find you guys in all of this (Mike I am looking at you). We had hoped you would get involved somehow. Its not like we are not visible. Perhaps you have seen the Stop Aldi signs all over the east side?

    However, its not about the final design. Perhaps you may have been following the efforts of the core group that has been fighting this development all along. We are really concerned with what we see as an abuse of the Variance process and that suspicion has its origins in NYS land use law. Asking for 10k additional square feet of building space has the impact of a rezone and NOT something that the ZHA should be deciding.

    Feel free to reach out to us.

    Best regards,

    Anthony

  4. So a few things, I guess.

    John – I don’t think leaning on the zoning is a good idea. For every place there is something you’d like developers to do that seems like a good idea and follows zoning, there is something awful that developers are being forced into because of the code. Take a property like 719 Plymouth Ave South. There should be a building next to it. There is a parking lot, though, because zoning says a bar needs 10 parking spaces per 1,000 sqft.

    Scott – I don’t understand the situation you are talking about traffic-wise. The next block to the west is quite long to get to. I can’t imagine most people driving that way. Also, I always like to hear what someone’s ideas are for a corner if a given plan isn’t it. I have to assume a variety of abandoned buildings held down by a diner also aren’t right for the corner? Further, This is, unfortunately, not at the corner. That’s occupied by an extant, and depressing, gas station.

    Anthony – Thank you for the comment. A few things. First, for better or worse, it’s not my neighborhood (meaning it has little effect on me directly, and my friends in the neighborhood are also pro-Aldi), so I’m not going to weigh in on there being an Aldi there or not, just the design. Personally, I have no problem with it, although I must admit to not shopping at Aldi (or Tops across the street, really). Second, Like my note above, I can’t, personally, support any arguments that involve zoning or variances or the like. It’s a system that is arbitrary, and in many cases, capricious. It was not passed down by some higher power, but it is the last bastion of the weak. All of Mt. Hope was rezoned to R-1, destroying the value of the land for current owners, and basically leading to an ever growing string of abandoned buildings. Building single family homes on a major road like that is a joke, and won’t happen. But once a guy the neighborhood liked (in Swiftwater), came along, they forced the issue and got a variance for the guy. This swings both ways. I can’t build my high-density residential house in high-density residential zoning of right because of a variety of questionable zoning choices. I’m also not sure you want to take the variance out of the ZBA and give it to elected officials (as I believe it’d be city council voting on a rezone). That’s a recipe for buying the vote, as opposed to having to just work with the Board, which (I’d like to think) is harder to do that with. Anyway, final thing – I don’t feel like this is a secret, but I don’t actually live in Rochester, so I’m not going to see signs in anyone’s yards for anything unless someone sends me photos of them. I will be in Rochester in November for my semi-annual stoning, though, if you care to get involved then.

  5. John says:

    Matthew, You do have a good point about the zoning. It is arbitrary and often times lots are downzoned to R-1 just so the city has veto power over what does and doesn’t go in.

    I’m not even sure why R-1 even exists in the city to be honest. Almost every residential street that is zoned R-1 is denser than the code allows. I know my house is zoned R-1, but if you look at how the street was built it is more likely R-2 or even R-3. It ensures that lots on which houses/buildings were demo’d will never see another structure again (although complaints about this could also be directed at the city’s demo program which I’m not a huge fan of).

    Truth be told, I’m pretty indifferent to Aldi. I’m not thrilled a 3rd grocery store is being built in as many blocks, but I do realize it’d be hard for anything else to finance the acquisition/demo of so many vacant parcels. I’m not thrilled on the box store either. I think those buildings are incredibly hard to repurpose if the tenant goes under.

  6. Well, they’re hard to attract another big box store that would want its own layout to. I actually think that this building would be easy to repurpose, since it can be chopped up into a ‘strip’ layout running front to back. You could cut it into 5 pieces and just reface the portion of the building facing the parking lot. All in all, if you had to get a building and did want to repurpose it, this is the one.

    Back to the zoning thing, for a moment. You’re right, there are massive amounts of R-1 in the city, but even R-3 has a 5,000 sqft minimum lot size, which is conveniently larger than the 40×100 tenth-of-an-acre standard city lot. As you might guess, the origins of this are intentional, and were designed to push people out of the city (and leave ‘those people’ in it). You can’t replace torn down houses, and there’s no reason to invest in a house because at any time, you could trigger it no longer being legal without jumping through all kinds of hoops. And here we are. Anyway, there are a couple interesting loopholes in the zoning, as a well as a few incredibly depressing bits, but I’m thinking one of the next things I post will be a big overview of zoning and some conceptual renders of what it all means. It’ll be incredibly boring, so look forward to it!

  7. John says:

    I’d be interested in it. The more I look at the history of urban renewal, sprawl, zoning, etc the weirder the whole thing seems. It just doesn’t make sense to me why the city has a zoning code in place that ensures a lot will remain empty after a house is torn down. The whole thing doesn’t make sense.

  8. Chris Stone says:

    In response to John: “lots are downzoned to R-1 just so the city has veto power over what does and doesn’t go in.”

    It depends on what you mean by “the city.” If you read the supporting documents for the 2003 rezoning, outside planning consultants and city staff planners sometimes recommended higher density/more flexible zoning for certain areas only for neighborhoods to strenuously object.

    So it’s sometimes (often?) the citizens, or rather the self-selected group of largely white, middle class, vocal citizens who show up at meetings and speak to their councilperson, that make the down zoning happen.

  9. Chris – this is exactly the case. The city, from what I can tell, only cares what gets built where in as much as it draws complaints from the local citizenry (who are always richer and whiter than the actual locals a given development might actually benefit). It is very much an avoidance tactic more than anything else.

  10. paul says:

    Chris its not oboat rich and poor . Some people just care about better kept stores like Wegmans , Aldis , Tops rather than the dollar stores in the area that have trash all over there parking lots.We who live here are not rich white people . Most of us work in local hospitals , schools, stores, nursing homes. So a lot of us have dogs and we walk a lot. We have a huge community of parteners and familys. Most of us work if we can.

  11. Anna Nymous says:

    Just stumbled upon this — I know APD was mentioned in one of the earlier articles, but it should be worth noting if not already known:

    APD Engineering & Architecture ( 615 Fishers Run, Victor, 742-2222, http://apd.com/ ) is the Prototypical Architectural firm for ALDI. Thus, they going to be doing any ALDI work in Rochester, along with most of the US Eastern Cost, along with a decent chunk of the Civil/Site work locally/semi-locally. The Downtown Pittsburg location at S27th & E. Carson St. mentioned in one of the other articles was done by them as well, so they are fully capable of producing a “pretty”/useful product…. Just say’n


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