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Give Me CityGate

Plan view of proposed CityGate project. [IMAGE: AJ Costello & Son]
No, seriously – give CityGate to ME, because I want to redesign it. The current plan is not worthy of the name. I may be the only person in western NY who didn’t crap themselves when they learned Costco was coming external link to town. I mean, Costco? Really? We need another one of these discount warehouses? Ok fine, I’ll let you have your Costco. No complaints from me. On one condition: Re-do this idiotic site plan! Look at this…

I've colored all the new development in Blue, and the new parking in Red. Pay attention and watch what I'm about to do...
The current plan looks like Henrietta has swallowed up the entire town of Brighton and is invading the City of Rochester. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

Ok, enough joking around. Look at the illustration above. All the new development is in Blue. Red is all the new parking. And I’m not even counting all of the new roadways needed to connect all this. Now, if we remove everything else, CityGate looks like this…

The amount of space provided to put our vehicles is greater than the entire new development by some 20-25%.
The amount of space provided to put our vehicles is greater than the entire new development by some 20-25%.*

*The proposed multi-level parking garage is not even included here.

“Ok, so what, dude… why you gettin all bent out of shape for man?”

— forehead slap —

I’ll show you why I’m all bent out of shape…

Here it is with the same buildings rejigged. THIS is a destination I would get revved up about. A destination worthy of the name, CityGate.
See this? If we take ALL of the buildings (in blue) and use them to line the existing streets and a few along the canal, NOW we’d have a REAL urban development.

Sidewalks and buildings that are close together make it easy for people to walk to and stroll from one building to the next. We’d have easy access for transit (i.e. quick stops along East Henrietta Rd. & Westfall Rd. external link). And I even included a reasonable amount of parking.

I’ve kept ALL of the buildings from the original plan – just moved them around. And LOOK at what we have now. A more attractive development that’s less expensive to build and maintain. THIS is a destination I would get revved up about. A destination worthy of the name, “CityGate.”

Or do we just accept anything that comes our way because we’re desperate? I don’t know, maybe that’s how we do things around here.

• • •

UPDATE 1: A meeting has been scheduled for AJ Costello & Sons to present their CityGate plans to the public…

  • The meeting will start 6PM, Tuesday June 4, at St. Anne Church Social Hall, 1600 Mt. Hope Avenue external link.
  • Representatives from the City of Rochester will be on hand along with the neighborhood and business associations to answer questions.
  • Daniel J. Hurley, President, Upper Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association, encourages you to send questions, concerns or suggestions to [email protected]. He will forward those on to the developer such that answers can be provided at the meeting. Information on public hearings and schedule will also be presented.

UPDATE 2: A petition has been created which asks for changes in the CityGate plans, including preservation of the historic buildings, and a more walkable layout. Sign on at Change.org.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 at 7:59 am and is filed under Opinion, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure, 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.

53 Responses to “Give Me CityGate”

  1. David says:

    This is Rochester. We build parking. More parking, always.

  2. And the building depicted just to the south of the Costco…is a parking garage.

  3. Ben Martin says:

    Some of those old buildings on the Iola campus are just beautiful. I wish they were planning on keeping more of them.

  4. Troy says:

    That really is too bad. Are there any opportunities to bring up concerns in a public forum?

  5. mike b says:

    I am excited to see other people talking about CityGate alternatives.

    Having a Costco and an Rgrta facility are excellent additions to the current site plan

    Yet, this plan appears very developer-friendly, as it offers more than ample parking and little pedestrian amenities. It appears designed to attract leases and cars, not pedestrians. It certainly isn’t concerned about historic preservation.

    There is still hope.

  6. Mike says:

    Have you ever seen a Costco? Think Sam’s club on steroids. The small amount of parking in your design would never be enough. That’s hardly enough for a small grocery store. As much as we would all like to see people use public transportation, a Costco is not a store that people would ride the bus home from after shopping at. I do think there is too much parking in the actual design, (especially since there’s a garage being built too) but I think your plan is a bit unrealistic.

  7. Bill Y says:

    Not sure if your comment about “reasonable amount of parking” was in jest or not. Costco almost by default requires a vehicle, hard to carry two cases of diapers, a month’s worth of food etc on a bike or bus.

    However your plan sure seems to make a slot more sense and there is plenty of room to accommodate a larger parking area for Costco (I know ‘the horror’).

    Also not sure logistically how shipping trucks would be accommodated with this. Can’t realistically unload everything though the front door.

  8. Ian S says:

    Yes the buildings are beautiful, hopefully some of the architectural elements will be saved, but the buildings are beyond hope. In late 1990’s there was a building survey done, they were trash then, now nature has taken over.

    For the development; I see your side, although I feel the amount of parking is not suitable for the development. Split the difference.

    Will we ever see this happen? Doubtful, Castillo and sons rolled this out years ago and nothing has happened. I also assume they are tearing down the children’s detention center? What is happening to the Siemens building. Along with the industrial waste building.

  9. ShaneBertou says:

    I like the aesthetics of your proposed changes. But I did have a couple of thoughts.

    1) I believe there are laws about the amount of parking that must be made available per square foot of retail. And while I do believe that the amount of parking required is far too much (no lot is ever full, anywhere!), I don’t believe the amount you’ve set aside for Costco comes anywhere close to zoning requirements.

    2) What don’t see in your layout is space for deliveries or waste management. Typically speaking these things are out of sight, either behind or to the side of buildings. The way I’m seeing your design would require the trash receptacles and loading docks to be on the street side, or awaiting patrons in front of the storefronts as they enter through the parking lots.

    If I’m totally off base I’m happy to be corrected.

  10. Heidi says:

    I like your alternative plan but why not flip it so the buildings edge the east side and the canal?

  11. Carl says:

    You offer an excellent alternative!

  12. Matthew Denker says:

    I’d like to discuss this at length, but just for fun, I thought I’d give a heads up to what can be done with a roughly similar piece of land in NYC:

    The Hudson Yards master plan includes 13 million square feet of commercial and residential development efficiently designed with cutting edge sustainability features. The master plan comprises six million square feet of state-of-the-art commercial office space, a 750,000 square foot destination retail center with two-levels of specialty destination restaurants, cafes, markets and bars, a five star hotel, an iconic cultural space, approximately 5,000 residences and a new 750-seat school, all carefully planned around 14 acres of public open space.


    Notably, that involves building a $1b platform over the top of an active rail yard.

    More to come.

  13. Daggar says:

    If more parking it required, it could be built after. It’s not necessary to install wall-to-wall asphalt immediately in mortal terror that there might be someone, somewhere, who could not immediately find a parking space.

  14. Renee says:

    Why why why must we continue to build these horrendous cookie-cutter shopping centers that DETER any hope of walking from store to store?! I’m not a fan of the sprawling nature of Henrietta, but if they plan to build here, they should at least make it a better plan. Nice work!

  15. @ShaneBertou, For illustration sake, I just moved the boxes around. But yes, there would be a nice straight street built on the interior of the development (behind the row of buildings) for vehicular and delivery access. With all the extra space now we could build a whole new street grid in here and make much better use of this land.

  16. @ShaneBertou, also, there are no minimum parking requirements in the City of Rochester. That surprised me too but it’s true. Brighton does. But even Brighton’s minimum is fairly minimal. You can find the ratios on the Brighton web site in the town code.

  17. jimmy says:

    I really like the new East Ave Wegmans bus shelter, and how the side of the store looks on East Ave. They should do the exact same thing with costco on Westfall. This is a grand opportunity to add parallel parking on E. Henreitta and Westfall Rd, as well as bike lanes and maybe even a median. I think the easiest way to make this project more city friendly would be to add a real street going down the center of this development. Obviously this street would be very bike friendly, and there would be parallel parking.

  18. Tia says:

    The thing here is that this area does not need another big box store. And it certainly does not need to be the driver of developement. It’s a joke the way people get all lathered up over the idea of shopping. This area is not far from the horrible character of Henriette, if people want to waste their time and money, they can easily go park down there. I live not far from this corner, and after watching the site sit fallow and rot away over the years, honestly this is not an improvement. The massive amounts of parking (plus a garage!!) and the buildings labeled as ‘outparcels’ do nothing for the neighborhood. No character, no urban fiber. Say hello to fast food chains, and bank branches, and random retail stores. Just what the city needs!(she says sarcastically.) What a joke.

  19. MG: examine the Costco in Vancouver, or the one in San Francisco. Put images of these two in your package when you go downtown….

    Let’s tell Costco, and anyone else who wants to build in Rochester, that we want them to help us create nothing less than a memorable and beautiful city. Nothing less.

    We can do this. Others have – even with Costco, a month’s food, and giant boxes of diapers. Aim high, folks.

  20. Jason Haremza says:

    And Costco will say: “You are Rochester. You are not Vancouver, you are not San Francisco. You do not have the population density, wealthy car-free households, good public transit, or high real estate prices that push us to consider alternatives in those cities. This site is not even downtown Rochester. It is the edge of the city, almost suburban. If you don’t like it Rochester, we will go to Henrietta or Victor or Canandaigua. Take it or leave it.”

    I’m playing devil’s advocate, but if you want to construct a good argument, you’ve got to anticipate the counter argument.

    Also, even San Fran is not so hot. Take a look at it with google street view (450 10th Street, San Francisco, CA). Basically a big blank wall along 10th Street.

    All this being said, I believe that a better plan can be developed for this site that takes into account the realities of the Rochester market and still creates a quality place.

  21. Jason Haremza says:

    Or, alternatively, Costco might say: “Ok, we will build it your way, but give us even more tax breaks than we are already asking for.”


  22. I’ve been corrected. There is no parking minimum downtown. However, outside of downtown there is a minimum… it’s more or less left up to the developer to determine what that minimum should be.

  23. My reply, then, Jason would be: Okay, thanks. We’ll find someone else. There’s a reason we call your type of business “cookie cutter”.

  24. Jason, I’m with Tony. Leave it. Something else will come along for this important site. Let’s be patient, and victorious.

    How many times do we have to bend over to this kind of stuff until we look around at what we’ve built, what we suffer with, and we say ENOUGH?

    San Francisco isn’t great, I warrant. They can do better. Why not here?

  25. Jason Haremza says:

    Philosophically I’m with you Tony and Howard. Pragmatically, in my experience, 90% of the population would say “we want Wegmans, we want Costco, we want IKEA, we don’t care what it looks like, just build it!”

    Most citizens, and the leaders they elect, have short attention spans and little patience for the long view.

    Also, I would be more swayed by the “let’s be patient” argument if it weren’t for New York’s byzantine system of local government. The City of Rochester can be patient, but that doesn’t help the community as a whole, which functions at a regional scale. Costco, or whomever, will just cross one of those meaningless lines on the map into a local jurisdiction that isn’t willing to be patient.

    Big boxes are with us, like it or not. Is it not better to compromise and have them in the city? Or is it more important be pure to our ideals and watch them head out to a greenfield site on the urban fringe?

  26. Did you guys hear what I said in my post? Leave the fcuking Costco. There’s no fighting that at the moment. But build it to the goddamn street. I’m not kidding. This is ridiculous.

  27. Jason, no it is not better to compromise. As a practical matter, our region has astronomical taxes and faces decreases in all kinds of public services precisely because we have too much of this stuff. As a practical economic matter, this development will absolutely not represent a good mid or long term investment by the city. The value simply isn’t there.

    The signs are everywhere that we can no longer afford the sprawl we have built. Many of our neighbors may clamor for this kind of development, but they are wrong. We are in a regional economic death spiral, and it is precisely because of the patterns of development this thing represents.

    Make it great, durable, beautiful, capable of being repurposed later, or don’t make it at all.

  28. MG, fine. But Jason is saying that if you make Costco build to the street, they will walk. I’m just waving goodbye, that’s all.

  29. I missed that comment. Yes, then I’m with Howard (and Tony). Build it our way or the highway. What he said.

  30. Bill Y says:

    You make light of my diaper comment but Im actually with you on the aim higher sentiment. However Jason is summing up my thoughts on the urban Costco examples you brought up.

    Saying that, however, it sure seems there is a happy medium between accommodating the urban (is it really?) setting while still serving a large suburbanite market. Even the Vancouver store has four floors of parking.

    What kind of timeline should we expect while we wait for something better? For years this line of thinking hurt our neighbors 60 miles down the thruway, but now they seem to have something good happening with canalside.

    In Pittsburgh they wanted to redevelop the fifth and Forbes corridor, it failed and that development essentially went out of the city to Homestead’s Waterfront development. Which incidentally seems remarkably similar to this project, and not in a good way. Pittsburgh is still waiting for something better to come along in that spot.

    I think I’ve kind of lost my point in there somewhere, but I guess it is the “wait it out” mindset is most likely not a short term proposition.

  31. Kevin Yost says:

    I agree that Costco should not be part of CityGate, that this is a bad location for that, though I would like to maybe work for Costco, but wrong location, maybe site of former B.J.’s at Brighton-Henrietta and West Henrietta roads would have been more appropriate for such a huge store.

  32. Matthew Denker says:

    Ok, so, let me try to collect my thoughts in a somewhat lengthier post.

    I’d like to first say that the old campus that was (is, sort of) here is rather attractive, and it is unfortunate that it has been allowed to fall apart. That said, this is a location to let go. It is not far from UofR, at about a half a mile from the school, but when it comes to doing something more urban in Rochester, or anywhere, one has to pick winners and losers.

    This spot is a loser. It is surrounded by a serious of built out, low density properties. That limits the benefits that could ever agglomerate here by making this property very dense. Because of that, this would be a hard spot to do anything other than create significant traffic to and from the location. This kind of investment would be better sited downtown.

    In fact, based on the various highways and railroads in Rochester, the opportunity exists to give big box stores what they want (large, unwindowed walls) in locations that can have an urban front and a decidedly un-urban rear. For example, this site (http://goo.gl/maps/jH7gr) is similarly sized, but has barriers at two sides of it, allowing for a big box centric development that still fronts Main St. in an urban way. Perhaps this Walmart being built in Washington DC? http://www.flickr.com/photos/beyonddc/7109806063/sizes/o/in/set-72157629890634507/

    In any event, I generally do not support the idea of letting perfect be the enemy of good in development. I am not disgusting with the budget hotels being erected in NYC the way many local architecture buffs are. I think the serve a valuable purpose while minimally damaging the fabric of the city. This proposal comes up well short of any number of sniff tests, though. Especially with the construction of an ostensibly more urban development in Collegetown only a few thousand feet away.

  33. chase tyler says:

    Well, look at the bright side, everyone. At least they’re tearing down abandoned buildings this time, that were never going to be used, instead of a historic church.

  34. Scott K says:

    That corner is already a nightmare to get past at rush hour, especially during the school semester. Matthew said “create significant traffic to and from the location.” There already is! As much as I miss being gainfully employed (my nervous breakdown saw to that), I’m really glad I don’t have to fight my way from Metro Park to the 390 North on ramp any more.

    Also, if Costco does go in there, I hope for two things. One, that they don’t drive out other retailers from the area. And two, that Costco itself is successful, and doesn’t leave us with yet another useless, empty, retail space. ( Why didn’t they consider the former BJ’s site?)

  35. Curt Adams says:

    More big-box seems such a shame, in general. I suppose it is what many people have become accustomed to, even if it isn’t necessarily what they want.

    If you’re feeling nostalgic, there’s a nice bit of information on the Iola campus here:

    (Iola Campus Historic Resource Evaluation, circa 2000 – Appendix I.pdf)

  36. Carl says:

    One of my greatest concerns in this area is traffic. They are trying to make mount hope more walk able and I don’t know how this helps being so close to mount hope. Maybe they can still put the costco along the rd but maybe put some artificial windows up, Or put the costco along the canal where it may not be seen by as many people as it would on the street, or just keep the costco out of site.

  37. Ryan says:

    I am very excited about Costco (it’s a significantly higher quality store than other bulk membership stores, especially the labor relations and employment side of it), but I’m not took excited about CityGate, so I’d like to hear more from you.

    I think I like how you moved some things. But I’m curious how did you determine the amount of parking space in your proposal?

  38. Charles says:

    Post 26 rules

    It could be a costco, sams, bjs, target, walmart, biglots kmart, etc…its temporary. It’s the latest low cost store, I’ll spoil the ending, in 20 years it will no longer be here.

    I believe the point of the post was Costco doesn’t give a shit about Rochester and they will suck us and leave at the first sign of corporate losses. And after we have saved 50 cents for some crap that is already in the trash we will be left with this cheap to build infrastructure that will be hard to repurpose.

    The design should be adaptable, sustainable, and use up to date proven design strategies. I think the redesign by the author is a concept rooted in the right direction.

    I would be interested to learn how much/ if any public funds are being contributed.

    It’s similar to the historic church debate: it’s not that these stores are bad (they are actually), but at what expense are they worth it.


    ps. This would be ideal spot to start a T.O.D community.

  39. Kyle Fecik says:

    …Where did you find this plan? If you look at the Bergmann Associated website the plan is completely different… The link to the plan is below.


  40. @Ryan, that’s a fair question. But my main point was really just that the poor placement of the buildings (scattered across the entire site) discourages anyone from walking to it. It also makes it difficult to be served by transit. On the other hand, if the buildings are moved up against the street and placed close together, we can reduce the amount of parking needed. By how much? I don’t know.

  41. @Kyle, the plan was revealed by Costello about a week ago when they announced Costco would be coming. You can’t go by what you find on the Bergmann site. That’s just their portfolio of past work.

  42. UPDATE: A meeting has been scheduled for AJ Costello & Sons to present their CityGate plans to the public…

    • The meeting will start 6PM, Tuesday June 4, at St. Anne Church Social Hall, 1600 Mt. Hope Avenue.

    • Representatives from the City of Rochester will be on hand along with the neighborhood and business associations to answer questions.

    • Daniel J. Hurley, President, Upper Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association, encourages you to send questions, concerns or suggestions to [email protected]. He will forward those on to the developer such that answers can be provided at the meeting. Information on public hearings and schedule will also be presented.

  43. gary b says:

    I’m with Howard and Tony on this. Howard says: “We are in a regional economic death spiral, and it is precisely because of the patterns of development this thing represents.” Yes! When are the people making the decisions going to figue this out? We encourage construction of really ugly shoebox stores with a service life of 7-10 years? That’ll sure help the city thrive.

    That old BJs on Townline Road is the new standard. Building crap like that got us where we are. While I’m not sure Iola is the best place for CityGate, it’s time we insist on something better wherever it is built. Rochester has compromised on development for decades now. Look where that has led us. Desperation really hasn’t worked for us. Time for a new strategy.

  44. MiG says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, so I may be repeating someone else.

    Costco doesn’t bag people’s goods, so unless you’re buying one small item, you’re kind of in a pickle trying to drag all those bulk items home.

    Also, the area where this is being proposed isn’t loaded with walkers already. I don’t think “if you build it they will come” will work for a walk-up Costco.

    I agree that the currently plan is a pavement paradise and it’s the last thing I want to see. I just think there are some flaws with your redesign.

  45. Greg says:

    One of the first things I was taught in architecture school was designing structures to look good from the street. Therefore, I agree CityGate needs to do more to… address the street…

    But, putting the Cosco directly facing the street might be an issue operationally…

  46. @Greg, putting Costco at the corner with two sides facing the street may be an issue. But, as an architect, if you move the building in from the corner, with just one side facing the street, couldn’t the logistics of parking, loading docks, entrances, etc. be worked out on the other three sides?

  47. Urban Explorer says:

    A service life of 7-10 years? Sure, some big boxes have come and gone, but others have been here a long time. Southtown Plaza, while renovated and updated, has existed more or less in its current form for over half a century.


    I don’t love the economic system that has given us big box stores. But aside from niche markets, American society does not, at present, seem inclined to return to the neighborhood butcher, baker, and candlestick maker selling locally produced products. American retail today, and for the immediate future, means selling quantities of cheap products from China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, etc. The City of Rochester saying no to Costco won’t change that system. Is the current system sustainable? No. But it’s what we have now. Better for the emporia (aka big boxes) selling cheap foreign stuff be within the city limits than out.

    As for the walking, it is true, Costco specializes in big stuff. So most shoppers will drive. But those who can not, or chose not to, deserve a safe, convenient, commodious path to the public sidewalk. Also, it would be beneficial for the Costco employees to have the option of walking, biking, or taking transit to the store.

  48. UPDATE:
    A petition has been created which asks for changes in the CityGate plans, including preservation of the historic buildings, and a more walkable layout. Sign on here…


  49. Renee says:

    Thanks for the update, Mike. Someone asked us how far along this project was and if the ship had already sailed regarding pushing for changes. Do you know what stage the proposal is in? I didn’t see any updates on the City of Rochester page for the development. We’ll add the link to the petition to our post too!

  50. @Renee,
    The only opportunity left for the public to voice their concerns is at the next City Council meeting; during the “Speak to Council” session. See details below.

    After that, the Director of Zoning & Planning will do a site plan review and approval. Written comments are accepted and considered, but there is no public hearing!

    If you SIGN THE PETITION your comment will be emailed to all the appropriate parties including the Director of Planning & Zoning.

    • • •
    City Council meeting is Tuesday (7/16)
    3rd floor, City Hall, 30 Church Street
    In order to “Speak to Council” about this issue you must call (585) 428-7421 before 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. You will need to provide your name, address, the organization you are representing (if any).

  51. Renee says:

    Thanks for the update, Mike! We’ll help spread the word about the petition.

  52. Michael says:

    why be agitated by the developer and not look at the City’s parking regulations. I believe that is where most of this plan is developed upon.

  53. @Michael, thanks for joining the discussion. I should have linked back to previous developments in this story so newcomers would have a frame of reference. But to recap, it wasn’t parking regulations that made this current mess. Costello had a good plan originally, but for whatever reason decided big box stores were the way to go. City Council approved a good, walkable plan in 2010 or 2011, then at some point Costello pulled a bait & switch. See the before and after here…

    It is possible in the City of Rochester to build high density, mixed use and walkable. We’re seeing it more and more (i.e. College Town and South & Hickory Place). Developers aren’t victims of parking policy. However I would place an equal share of the blame on Costello and the City AND nearby residents for allowing the plan to deteriorate to this point. AND I blame myself; I should walk more and drive less. I help perpetuate this pattern of development as well.

    None of this takes away from the fact that this current plan is just poor design, poor planning, and a poor development.

    …and I didn’t even mention the destruction of the historic Iola campus.

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  20. Rochester’s Mercury Statue, Up Close and Personal(views: 13.6k)


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