The city of Rochester is gearing up for a few major construction projects that are all looking to change its current landscape and affordability. One program that will shift the housing market in Rochester is the Mission-Based Affordable Housing Partnership.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James came to Rochester on May 18 to announce to program. According to the announcement, the program will grant up to $1.4 million to mission-based organizations that are looking to develop available land into affordable housing. Nonprofit civic institutions will also be eligible for the grant. This program will extend beyond Rochester into Erie county as well as areas of Central New York and the Capital Region.
When James visited earlier in the month, she met with local political and faith leaders at F.I.G.H.T Village, a champion of affordable housing in Rochester led by Minister Clifford Florence. The organization has been pushing for affordable housing in Rochester since the 1960s. Its challenges lie in combatting the placement of low-income families in cheap but old homes that present dangers such as lead paint, which is still present in about 57 million homes in the United States.
“We’re fighting with racism, we’re fighting with the lack of jobs, affordable housing, education. So the issues are the same as they were 50 years ago, but we have to have the will to do what it takes to change it,” Florence said.
With the new partnership, organizations like F.I.G.H.T will finally be able to give Rochester residents a permanent solution for stable and economical housing. Too often, homeowners facing financial troubles turn to temporary fixes such as hard money loans, which typically have a loan-to-value ratio in the 60% to 70% range. Now F.I.G.H.T will be able to give residents another option by working with trustworthy developers. These professionals can help guide organizations through the construction processes, which are often long and complicated.
The Flower City Habitat for Humanity and the Autism Council of Rochester are also partnering to bring housing for an underserved community in the city. The two organizations plan to develop autism-friendly homes for families that have children with autism.
Not only will the program get more families closer to being homeowners, the number of which in the country is down to 63.4% from 69% in 2004, but it will also provide the space and modifications that children with autism need.
Objects such as compression swings can help balance the behavior and emotions of children with autism, but they don’t fit very easily into a two-bedroom apartment. The housing will also include sound and light sensitivity and a stockade fence in the backyard that measures six to eight feet high to ensure kids don’t wander into the streets while they play.
The final piece of news in Rochester construction is the proposed Rochester 2034 comprehensive plan. This plan aims to increase density and create more varied uses for certain city arterials. According to city officials, the proposal won’t result in many dramatic changes, but will instead reinforce or restore the downtown area’s historic form and character.
The rezoning efforts would aim to balance the stark differences in poverty rates, education levels, unemployment, minority population share, and more seen between the neighborhoods with the highest and lowest demands. In the southeast and crescent, two areas that are polar opposites to one another, two-thirds of residences are rentals. This is higher than the citywide average and with 33% of renters moving every year, there isn’t much permanency in either of these zones.
No official zoning changes are underway now, but they will go be brought to the neighborhoods and go through normal approvals when it comes time.
The plan will also focus on street-level retail around the East End area, Sibley Square, and Midtown. Establishments like local restaurants and independent coffee shops, which have about $12 billion in annual sales, will help guide the rezoning process in these areas.
The proposal is both more flexible in regulations regarding minimum lot sizes and parking and more adamant about higher standards for the design of mixed-use and multi-family building projects. Although no details of the plan are definite quite yet, the city will hire a consultant to review its zoning code and map once the plan is adopted.
The Honeoye Falls Community Association says they have filed an Article 78 Petition to invalidate the February 17th code change allowing drive-through restaurants in the General Commercial District.
A similar petition was submitted in November 2013 to invalidate an identical code change passed in October 2013. In response to the first petition, the Board of Trustees rescinded the code change in December 2013. The Board then passed the code change again on February 17th, 2014…
The City of Rochester Bureau of Planning and Zoning is in the process of updating Center City Master Plan. From the City’s website, “The intent is for this document to be a strategic plan [to] help the city measure and celebrate downtown progress, prioritize further research and analysis, prioritize projects, and help secure funding.”
A draft plan can be viewed online , and in a series of open houses the City is now gathering public input on that draft. The last open house is this Wednesday evening (details at the end of this story).
I had a chance to catch up with Jason Haremza, senior planner with the City of Rochester, to ask a few questions about the update…
Within a 30 minute drive of downtown Rochester, beyond the suburban development surrounding the city, is the Village of Honeoye Falls. Honeoye Falls is not a typical crossroads village though. Like Rochester, it was settled due to the location of the waterfalls to provide power to mills in the early 1800s. Unlike Rochester though, it never grew large enough to lose the majority of its Main Street to large suburban plazas, malls, and ‘big boxes’.
Dunkin’ Donuts is interested in constructing a new location with a drive-thru, in a section of the village which currently has a small concentration of commercial development, but the village code currently disallows drive-thru restaurants. The Mayor and some members of the Village Board are supporting a proposal to change the code to allow Dunkin’ Donuts to build a drive-thru even though the village is in the midst of updating the Comprehensive Plan. Convenience and an additional source of revenue for the village government may come at a high cost though if a drive-thru is allowed…
Last summer I posted a progress report on Rochester’s Bike Master Plan and I commented on the importance of such planning—even if you don’t own a bike. Well, I’m all giddy with excitement to report… Rochester has a bike plan! Officially.
Something outstanding is happening in our community—Rochester is catching Bike Fever. Over the past decade or more Monroe County and local municipalities have been steadily making investments in existing off-road trails and in new ones, especially around our colleges, universities and along the river and lake shore. You may have noticed some new ones near you. Bicycling Magazine even placed Rochester on their list of America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities this year. Albeit at #50, but hey, it’s a good start!
In a recent post I implored our readers to send Maggie Brooks an email and request that she listen to Mayor Duffy’s concerns about the Renaissance Square project. It took a while but I actually did receive a response from Ms. Brooks. There no big surprises in it. As expected she defends the project citing the federal dollars, potential new jobs, and the 11 years it’s taken the project to get off the ground (11 years and still counting). But there are a few points that seem rather curious to me—one of which is a “full return on investment [for taxpayers] within seven years. Sure sounds dreamy. Here’s Maggies full response…
The City Newspaper this week published an interview with Mayor Duffy, ‘It’s not too late to change’: Duffy on Ren Square . In it Duffy explains his recent coming out against the project as it is currently proposed. He cites recent changes in the business and development landscape downtown, new transportation stimulus funding, and sort of a personal awakening for his change of heart. Let’s show the Mayor we support him…
On Monday evening, June 8, 2009, the Rochester Regional Community Design Center will go before Rochester’s City Planning Commission and appeal the decision to allow a Fastrac gas station to be built on Main Street next to the Main/University Inner Loop on-ramp. Roger Brown, Creative Consultant at RRCDC explains, “Though we don’t agree with the Zoning Board’s decision to allow a gas station at that site … much of our case will be about the urban design of the building and how it needs to be designed according to the Center City Design Standards for Main Street.”
I’ll talk more about those “urban design standards” and how you can help. But first, there’s a virus spreading across America…
Jacky Grimshaw, Vice President of Policy, Transportation, and Community Development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago will be in Rochester this Wednesday, May 13, to discuss neighborhood revitalization and the importance of transit-oriented development. RocSubway followers do not want to miss this event. It’s also the final lecture in this series entitled Reshaping Rochester hosted by the Rochester Regional Community Design Center .
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being introduced to the Rochester Regional Community Design Center . The RRCDC is a group of design professionals, planners, and citizens who donate their time to the purpose of designing Rochester’s public spaces. They offer their design guidance and recommendations to the city through public lectures, design charrettes , and an open-to-the-public design gallery/resource library at their studio on East Main Street. For anyone remotely interested in how cities are planned or issues surrounding urban renewal as they apply to the city of Rochester, the RRCDC is a must-see.
I grew up on the south shore of Long Island — about a half-mile walk from a Long Island Railroad station. As a teenager without a car I could leave my sheltered suburban Cape Cod style house, and in less than an hour be smack dab in the center of Manhattan. Not only that, but for just a dollar extra I could reach just about any corner of New York City’s five bouroughs by hopping on a subway car. Can you imagine if New York City had scrapped it’s subway in favor of a highway?!
After the Erie Canal was rerouted south of downtown Rochester, the Rochester
Industrial & Rapid Transit Railway (the subway) was built in
its place as a link between the five different railroads and interurban trolley
lines that served the Rochester area. As the industrial landscape of Rochester
changed, and highways replaced the railroads, the Rochester subway gradually
became a relic of a bygone era. In 1956 the subway was abandoned and much of
its route was converted into Interstate 490 built to connect Rochester
with the New York State Thruway (I-90). Read more about the history of the Rochester Subway.
RochesterSubway.com exists to help spark
public dialogue around how we can better connect the neighborhoods of Rochester
NY, surrounding communities, and their cultural offerings. Rochesters
future is written in her past. Let's rediscover it.