I was thinking about our collective reactions to the proposed D&C building, and the completed Windstream building. Clearly both buildings are more modest than what many of us hoped to see in this key downtown site (and what the zoning code spells out for downtown). It’s an issue that I think applies to all infill development downtown, and the ideas behind Incremental Urbanism shed some interesting light on it.
If we look at old photos of Rochester in the early-mid 1900s, we see a mature streetscape, quality materials and design, with many buildings at least 5 stories tall. And of course we want to get back to that.
But we have to consider that the streets and lots of downtown actually got laid out in the early-mid 1800s (source: Wikipedia), it took a hundred years of incremental development to get from empty lots to those “downtown-worthy” buildings we see in old photos.
Well, now we are starting over with empty lots in much of downtown – the Midtown site, small parking lots all over the place, and the lots that will be created by filling the Inner Loop. Is it realistic to expect these to go from empty lot to 5-story “downtown-worthy building” in one iteration?
Maybe we need to accept that, for many of these infill lots, that isn’t what any developer can justify building – even with tax breaks and other financial incentives. Maybe we need to embrace Incremental Urbanism and its inherent messiness and look at proposals as “does it move us in the right direction” rather than “is it the desired end-state”.
By the way, I am NOT advocating tossing out or totally ignoring the city’s code, or building throwaway crap that we’ll tear down in 20 years. But perhaps accepting more modest infill is ok, as long as it moves us toward walkable mixed use.
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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 at 8:01 am and is filed under Opinion, Reader Submitted Stories, 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.