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72 Conkey Avenue: Lost

October 25th, 2015

72 Conkey Avenue has been demolished. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
By Mike Governale

Here’s a quick update on a story we brought attention to exactly five years ago. On this empty lot (shown above) once stood 72 Conkey Avenue. The old 19th century Victorian storefront had been the subject of a demolition-vs-rehabilitation debate—one between the City of Rochester and neighborhood resident, Jim Fraser, who has restored a handful of neglected homes in the area. Jim saw 72 Conkey as a diamond in the rough…

72 Conkey Avenue before demolition. [IMAGE: heckeranddecker.wordpress.com]
This is what the building looked like in 2010 when we first read of Jim Fraser’s $60,000 proposal to buy the property and turn it into a rent generating, job producing, store-front and community space.

So what happened? Jim says, “Unfortunately, I haven’t had the resources to pursue new projects since being laid off a few years ago.” A story all too common in our area.

While the building sat boarded up, City administrations came and went. And with no other prospects, decision-makers chose to demolish it a few weeks ago.

“I feel it’s a terrible loss for the community,” Jim laments. “What may have been northeast Rochester’s oldest corner store – but what could I do? There are many, many more properties just sitting and rotting here. Watching it happen can be monumentally frustrating at times.”

72 Conkey Avenue before demolition. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
Built in 1879, 72 Conkey was quite possibly the neighborhood’s first corner grocery. The rendering above shows how the storefront might have looked after restoration.

Its loss now means that three of the four corners at this intersection external link are now empty lots; one with some playground equipment, one with an overgrown community garden, and this newest one.

The newest empty lot at Clifford and Conkey Avenue. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
Some may see this thinning out of our city as progress. Fewer neglected buildings mean fewer places for criminal activity to take place. Me, I’m not sure. I still see the same untended lot, but with less of our city’s history intact, and far fewer productive possibilities. I hope I’m proven wrong.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 25th, 2015 at 2:37 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 skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

8 Responses to “72 Conkey Avenue: Lost”

  1. Carmen says:

    We’re turning into Detroit.

  2. Just to be clear, some folks had been working to save this building for all of the five years you describe, and more. Meetings with many at the city, with potential partners, thousands of calls, Jim’s proposal laying out the how-tos and the what-fors, Mike’s before and afters and all that Mike wrote, that I wrote, that others wrote. We even got the city to refrain from tearing this one down once before when the fire department started cutting holes in the roof.

    The fact that the city tore this down anyway is a grim sign of deeply ingrained and dangerous stupidity, of epic proportions.

  3. Mary says:

    Sadly, fixing up this building probably would have been a waste of time and money. Each time someone wants to open a business in a storefront in the City of Rochester, the hopeful business owner is made to jump through all sorts of hoops. The biggest one is parking. If a storefront doesn’t have a parking area the size of Wegman’s parking lot next to building, they might as well kiss it goodbye.

  4. Chris Stone says:

    Mary,

    I would encourage you to read the zoning code carefully. As long as a retail use is going into space that has always been retail, as this building has for over 100 years, the city considers there to be a “pre-existing deficiency” with parking and no new parking is required.

    Most of the parking challenges arise when a bar/restaurant or entertainment use, both of which have greater parking requirements, want to open in a space that was not previously a bar/restaurant or entertainment venue.

    That all being said, I would love it if the city eliminated all parking requirements from the code and left it up to the market to decide. If you think your restaurant will be so good that people will park and walk a few blocks, then more power to you.

    The problem is, neighbors often rail against new businesses based on perceived parking issues, the misguided notion that public on-street parking somehow only belongs to people in the neighborhood, the entitled Rochester mentality that demands free parking at the front door at all times, and other fallacies of city building. This makes changing the code, or even granting waivers for parking, difficult and time consuming. To wit: recent cases at 209 Monroe, 4 Elton Street, and 610 Monroe.

  5. Adrian Martin says:

    Clifford & Conkey already has bustling businesses. The problem is that none of them will move into a storefront since they’re illegal.
    It’s great that we have people willing to invest so much time, energy and money into projects like this, especially people that live right in the neighborhood. But it would be a huge challenge to get any (legal) business to move right to Clifford/Conkey.

  6. Herminio says:

    Rochester looks just like Detroit !!!!!

  7. Tom says:

    I get that people are passionate — but you’re mad that the city waited “only” 5 years for someone to rebuild this vacant, dilapidated structure?

    I respect preservationists that put their money where their mouth is and actually rehab old buildings in beautiful and creative ways. But people who complain about the city knocking down abandoned, vacant eyesores that help bring crime to city neighborhoods annoy me.

    I bet no one interested in “saving” this building (i.e. having someone else pay to save it, not use their own money) actually lives in this neighborhood, or talked to anyone who lives in this neighborhood.

    People in high crime neighborhoods are looking for crime reduction and economic opportunity above historic preservation. Start ponying up the money necessary to make THOSE things happen and redevelopment of historic structures will follow! Work WITH local folks, don’t just parachute in from Park Ave. or the suburbs and try to dictate what should happen.

  8. todd says:

    Wow, what a bunch of horseshit.


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