Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer and County Exec. Maggie Brooks announced that the Renaissance Square project will be moving ahead, with or without the performing arts center. $45 million would still need to be raised to build the theater, and at this point it looks like that money would need to be raised entirely with private donations — HIGHLY unlikely. So what exactly are we building? A new bus station (essentially a covered parking lot for buses). New classrooms for Monroe Community College. Oh, and a big grassy area where the performing arts center would have been.
Pricetag? $230 MILLION and 10 years of planning!?
I understand better than anyone the need to revitalize the corner of Main Street and Clinton Avenue, but my fervor for the current plan has completely petered out. Maggie, Chuck, your intentions are good, but your imagination stinks. This big plate-glass box is not going to bring people downtown and it certainly will not do anything for the city’s image.
We only need to look at what this corner used to be. A row of storefronts beneath layers of apartments. It was simple, it was functional, and it was alive. It’s facade was a mix of Italianate and gorgeous Victorian architecture. Awnings gave protection from the elements. Metallic and electrified signs lent an air of personality. The colors were natural and earthy. The textures were eclectic, visually interesting. My favorite part, the street surface was cobblestone — beautiful, timeless, and environmentally friendly because rain water is allowed to seep into the ground instead of running off into the sewer. It was the type of neighborhood that still exists in places like Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen and Greenwich Village neighborhoods. Unfortunately it’s also the type of neighborhood that is now extremely rare in Rochester.
Recently, a new plan was proposed by local businessman Neil Bauman. Mr. Bauman owns a section of the property at Main and Clinton (he’s also the co-founder of the entertainment Web site eBaum’s World ). His plan is a $50 million mixed-use development of residential towers and retail in addition to the campus and bus terminal. Here’s the best part — no public money would be needed! Great. That’s $230 million the city could use to give me my cobblestone streets. Alas, the Main and Clinton Planning Board dismissed Bauman’s plan calling it “an 11th hour announcement”. It’s just as well I guess. In my opinion, Bauman’s drawings feel just as sterile as Chuck and Maggie’s.
Here’s my point, this spot at Main and Clinton, this “heart of downtown Rochester”, should become a neighborhood again. Not a shiny styrofoam condominium — but a well-rounded, urban neighborhood. The type of neighborhood where professionals and artists live, shop, and eat. Then by it’s very nature it becomes a living, breathing, center for the arts — without having to build a stage. Young people will spend time there because they want to, not because their classes are held there. And before long, suburban families will come for a taste of the area’s culture. The problem with the current plan is that it’s been overthunk.
Our leaders have dragged their feet for 10 years. Now they’re in a big rush to build something — anything. The current plan with which Senator Schumer wants to move “full steam ahead” with is a mere shadow of what it was supposed to be. And now they’re about to build another generic looking structure that will sit empty at night and on weekends for decades to come. If you guys want your glass building, can we at least compromise…
Tags: architecture, bus, bus station, bus terminal, city, Clinton Ave, design, downtown, Greenwich Village, Hell's Kitchen, Maggie Brooks, Main Street, MCC, mixed-use, Monroe County, Neil Bauman, New York, NY, performing arts, real-estate, Renaissance Square, Rochester, Senator Schumer, sidewalks, storefronts, street, urban planning, urban renewal, urban revitalization
This entry was posted on Sunday, February 1st, 2009 at 2:13 am and is filed under Opinion, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Great points! I really like your idea of street life becoming the entertainment center. It’s important that we make sure this project brings the area to life, because when it’s done it will be with us for years to come. I also like the thought of apartments and open storefronts throughout downtown Rochester. Thank you for articulating this so well.