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Filling In: Wegmans Plaza

March 22nd, 2015

Wegmans under construction from overhead
By Matthew Denker

It has come to my attention that there are some pretty stalwart fans external link of Tops Friendly Markets out there! That means this is the Filling In for you (as opposed to this one).

OK, so as some of you may or may not know, there’s a Wegmans on East Avenue. Shocker. Not only that, but Wegmans built themselves a mammoth new store on the rubble of a row of commercial buildings behind their old store, and then tore the old store down for parking. If that’s not filling in, I don’t know what is.

But the new Wegmans store has is nearly two years old now. That’s a good enough run. And besides, that 349-space surface lot is begging for something new.

The block Wegmans currently occupies is over 7 acres. That is about 1/2 of the World Trade Center site in New York City. I bet you can see where this is going…

New Wegmans Development from the East

BAM! …Half the World Trade Center!

New Wegmans Development from Cobbs Hill

New Wegmans Development from Downtown

So I know what you’re thinking (I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m about to make a list of what I think you are thinking).

  1. Hey man, I like Wegmans – No problem, these two buildings alone have six million square feet of space. We’ll put a new Wegmans in one of the towers.
  2. Aren’t these a little tall for Rochester? – They’re not any taller for Rochester than they are for other cities not named New York City or Dubai, so I say it’s time.
  3. Won’t this kind of flood the market for space (of any kind) in Rochester? – Don’t think of these as flooding the market so much as creating a whole new market. Besides, all of downtown Rochester only has about twice as much space as this as it is.
  4. Ugh, where will all these people park? – If it was up to me, there would be enough people living and working in these towers that the typical commute would be on an elevator. Unfortunately, they’ll probably park in front of your house and partially block your driveway.
  5. Hey man, what about all those hard working Wegmans employees? – See 1 above. They will all get jobs in the even newer even better Wegmans.

Ok, but in all seriousness, let’s take a look at the evolution of the block with Wegmans, because it’s instructive of just how this filling in stuff works.

Here’s a map of the block from 1902 the year before this area was annexed from Brighton by the City of Rochester…

Downtown Brighton Map from 1902

And here’s another map from 1926…

East and Winton in 1926

And here’s a photo of the library in that map (it’s labeled school in 1902). It was demolished in 1967 after the land was auctioned with the stipulation that the buyer demolish or move the building…

Brighton School 2/Rochester Public Library Brighton Branch


Here are some other buildings that were there before the larger Wegmans…

Buildings Demolished for the new Wegmans. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]

More Buildings Demolished for the new Wegmans. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]

More Buildings Demolished for the new Wegmans. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]

Oh yes, and in case you don’t make it by this spot too often, here’s what it looks like now.

Wegmans on East Avenue and Winton Road. Rochester, NY. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]

And there you have some real filling in – as opposed to the fantasy that’s usually part and parcel of this column. 😉

• • •

Model Sources: 4WTC external link, 1WTC external link

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This entry was posted on Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 at 11:54 pm and is filed under Architecture, 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.

27 Responses to “Filling In: Wegmans Plaza”

  1. bob says:

    no thank you wegmans i will not put up with your mob parking lots and crowded isles filled with useless crap that shouldn’t be in a grocery store. i’ll take a smaller tops any day.

    wegmans tore down all those beautiful old east ave buildings, for what? they don’t even have a bulk section and the parking is even worse than before.

    If they ever close the one in fairport I will never shop at one again. they close the dewey and driving park and tore down mt hope location.

    living in the city I do not see wegmans as community grocery store

  2. Atelier 11 1/2 says:

    I was a little kid but I do remember going to that old library on Winton Rd between East Ave and University Ave. They had a narrow and steep staircase (well that was my impression being a five year old) to the kids reading room upstairs.

    I grew up with the old East Ave Wegmans and remember when it had an S&H Green Stamps showroom at the University Ave end of the Wegmans building and a drugstore (Daws and/or Key?) on the East Ave end of the building. There was a beautiful round mid-century bank, Columbia Bank that was razed in the 90s. My late father was in the bank in its waning days when it was robbed.
    I agree with commentor Bob about the Fairport Wegmans. I love that one. It may be small but it has most everything one needs. When I brought an out of town guest on a tour of area Wegmans’ stores we got into a conversation with an employee at the Fairport store. She was such a loyal employee and said if Wegmans ever has the audacity to raze it, she will chain herself to a column in the store to protest!

    I also remember the conveyor belt/rack that they would pack your purchases on it and one could drive up to the front and they would load the car at the East Ave Wegmans. Then there was Star Market next door and I was fascinated by the staircase in the back, the green and white tile floors and how they would have the groceries come down the conveyor tothe parking lot facing University Ave.
    There was also a Star Market on Park Ave where my grandmother would walk to do her shopping. As ‘tweens we’d ride our bikes to it and frequent the drugstore next door for comic books, costume jewelry, and gaze at the cosmetics counter.
    The new Wegmans is a huge letdown. They could have built something spectacular, but the poured concrete floor already gives off a dreary look. I realize they put the focus on prepared food, but the rest of the store has claustrophobic aisles(they were wider in the old one), bad lighting, it just seems “off.”
    It’s like an oversized convenience store with a touch of warehouse in ambiance. The parking lot has too many opportunities for fender benders. It’s mitigating factor is that it’s open 24 hours.

    Not a Tops fan, except for their gas station. On rare occasion have shopped at the Winton one, but still can remember when it opened in the early 80s that it had a strong foul odor. Although that odor has disapated I still hesitate to shop there. I will go to the Panorama Tops and even the Albion one, but I think their prices are high. However, the Tops in Tannersville NY is an improvement over the Grand Union it replaced, but I digress. 🙂

    Love PriceRite with their selection of ethnic fare and a better selection of spices and prices than what Wegmans and Tops offer. I lived in NYC for over 20 years and my NYC foodie friends love the Price Rite and of course the Public Market. We all love Aldi. I would stock up from Aldi’s and bring back staples and canned goods to NYC.

    I welcome Aldi’s into the neighborhood, although very sad to see Bill & Earl’s Garage go. My dad brought his cars there and when I moved back I took my car there as well.
    They could fill the Tops market on Winton and replace it with a Trader Joes 🙂 I know, I know that Aldi owns Trader Joes, but they are a little different, so I wouldn’t mind jumping across the street between the two.

  3. John L says:

    I have to admit, looking back at these pictures, I am really bummed the old buildings were torn down for the design they settled on. I wish more new development embraced older architectural styles, such as Victorian. Something cool and not just a block.

  4. Kwandell P says:

    East Ave Wegmans is more than a grocery. Its parking lot is a critical make-work program for RPD, whose tireless dedication to shoring up a failed parking lot design through Very Serious standing/pointing operations is thanked directly by our tax dollars. The prospect of setting those officers free to do actual police work should not be taken lightly.

  5. Well, the Wegmans is faux-older architectural pastiche in an effort to use nostalgia to make people more comfortable shopping there. Never mind that grocery stores used to look like this – http://photo.libraryweb.org/rochimag/rmsc/scm07/scm07648.jpg

    Also Aldi and Trader Joe, as an intrepid reader pointed out are not the same company in the US. Intriguing.

  6. bob says:

    I propose changing east ave and university ave to one ways. They run close enough together parallel and would provide a faster and safer commute in and out of the city’s east side. It would drastically reduce confusion and congestion in the wegmans parking. Not that is should be changed for wegmans alone but could provide road way space for better bike lanes and safer crossing for harris and gleasons. may also reduce congestion on culver near 490 and park ave area

  7. Adrian Martin says:

    Yes, the new Wegmans is definitely missing the apartment on the top floor for the owner and their family to live in!

  8. Peter says:

    East Ave Wegmans is awesome, everyone hates on the parking but the point is to SLOW YOU DOWN as you enter. I was at the Webster Wegmans over the summer and the vast expanse of empty parking lot means people just speed across the lanes only to jam the brakes at their spot. If I drive to East Ave (in winter), I go at right about 4:45 and have no problem, or I ride my bike in the rest of the year.
    Tops really blew their chance when East Ave Wegmans was closed, I went to both the Winton and S. Clinton Tops and the bad smell and blinding florescent lights really put me off. Wegmans is just a pleasant shopping experience, even when crowded.

  9. Roni Solomon DDS says:

    Atelier, I will have to respectfully disagree with you regarding both Wegmans and PriceRite in this area.

    As a former NYC resident myself, PriceRite reeks of the neglected supermarkets I would frequent in Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Bed Stuy. Simply put, I think that store is an eyesore along University, especially given what used to stand at that site nearly a century ago.


    The shopping experience of PriceRite leaves much to be desired, it is certainly more of a warehouse-like experience than the East Ave Wegmans. Sure, they have things Wegmans does not have, like a pallet of sugary drinks on the end cap, and over ripened bananas “PERFECT FOR BANANA BREAD!” in the produce isle. To be honest, it’s not anything special unless you are cutting coupons or on a fixed income. I’m not a broke twenty something anymore, so the appeal of PriceRite is lost on me. Aldi and Tops are better supermarkets in my opinion.

    I haven’t had any of the issues with this Wegmans store, maybe because I shop late, or when I do shop during the day, it is at our newest local grocer, Hart’s. I do not find the isles to be any more cramped than the ones I found in Brooklyn or Manhattan. I believe the concrete floor was chosen as a maintenance and shopping experience consideration due to the high traffic… The cobbled “streets” of the sprawling flagship stores would make the store infinitely loud and pose a problem for cleaning and potential repairs.

    The lighting is a technological problem: this was the first Wegmans store to use this style of LED lighting. LED does not have the same wide color spectrum of incandescent bulbs. Unfortunately, with legislation and guidelines pushing for “greener” technology, LED is becoming the commonplace for large scale stores like this. Personally, I don’t care for it, but I understand why they did it.

  10. Steve says:

    Roni, that pic you linked to looks a lot like the building next door to Price Right, where The Revelry is now. I could be wrong, but either way, Price Right didn’t build the building they are in now, they re-purposed an existing one.

  11. Helene Leonardi says:

    When I lived in Rochester up unto the early 80’s, the Wegmans in question was adequate. I liked the Pittsford one best, everything seemed fresher, well lit, etc. We have an old fashioned “Superette” two blocks from my house where I can get my basics. The owner thanked me for shopping there, at the holidays, with a bottle of bubbly apple cider and dry red wine. When does a large “Big-Box” store treat you with a holiday present and thanks you for buying from them. I live in Brooklyn N.Y. and I can take public transportation to an Aldis or Trader Joes. I I understand the congestion. From 5 p.m. till 7 p.m our street is the connector to one expressway to another. This has to change!! I remember the traffic well in Rochester, down Culver to Monroe Ave. I’m sure its vastly improved.

  12. Schuyler Kelley says:

    E. Ave Wegmans is a wonderful, wonderful shopping experience if you treat it as an urban grocery and not a suburban parking lot.

    I take the bus there every week or so to shop, or I bike in the summer. I can even walk if I feel like a 1.5 mile stroll.

    I argued with someone yesterday when the news about the Lincoln Tower broke, and it turns out that some people balk at the idea of even walking one half of a mile to visit Hart’s. The problem is not the parking lot; (well… you understand) the problem is the culture.

    PS as to talk about the lighting, I didn’t even know it was an issue. But now I understand why I don’t have a headache in Wegmans like I do in Tops: LEDs don’t buzz, and aren’t brighter than the sun.

  13. Dennis B. says:

    Fascinating maps from 100+ years ago, thanks.

    The massive complex north of the tracks became Farrel’s, and is now shared by Machine Tool Research, Artisan Works, and other firms. Great, re-purposed complex.

    To see that the interurban ran right down the middle of University, and eventually on to Syracuse, threw me for a loop. IIRC, it ran through Brighton and Perinton, through Fairport, and basically followed the canal to Syracuse. I could be wrong.

  14. Joe says:

    What Wegmans did to the buildings on East Ave was a classic Rohester move and for some reason all the idiots in the city didn’t pick up on it. They slowly bought up the old buildings. Then they neglected to do any maintanace or use them for anything. So when they wanted to expand the store and tear down those buildings, they sold it as “improving” the block by tearing down all the now blighted properties on East Ave. Every Wegmans fanboy and fangirl just are that story hook line and sinker. It happens all the time in this city and it seems 99% of people here fall for it everytime.

  15. Steve says:

    Fall for what Joe? It was common knowledge that Wegmans wanted to expand their store and was buying up the properties on East Ave to do so. Their fight with the last tenant left, I believe it was a hair dresser, was very public. Even after they built the new store and it did not live up to my expectations, I’m still glad they expanded, and I would rather have a not-perfect Wegmans in that 7 acre space than what was there, whether it was in good shape or run down.

  16. I think calling this practice a Rochester thing is shortsighted. This is a common development tactic just about everywhere. I have to say, though, it’d be nigh impossible to buy up all the properties in a place at once. Even with eminent domain, it takes a government years to collect all the properties to build something.

    I was rather fond of many of the buildings that were there. In fact, the first one to go, the 4 story bank at the corner, was, in my mind, one of the bigger losses. What kind of intersection is one where 1 corner is a wall, 1 corner is a highway slip ramp, 1 corner is a gas station, and 1 corner is a wendy’s set back from the street? What a downer. This intersection would still lose to the four point intersection with surface parking lots on all four corners and street parking on the roads, but not by much.

  17. Adrian Martin says:

    I view that intersection (East/Winton) as the eastern boundary of walkable Rochester. If you’re a pedestrian, YOU SHALL NOT PASS (Winton Rd). It’s not a huge loss as there are only 4 or 5 businesses past Winton anyways before you run into the highways. The narrowing of Winton Rd under the train tracks IMO is a bigger problem in terms of pedestrian connectivity, cutting the Blossom area off from Wegmans.

  18. I agree with this assessment, and the further away record archives moves, the more accurate and sad it is. I also wish that there were better connectivity over the tracks. It was one of the things in my Tops filling in that I would most like to see happen. I wonder if the grade change from the Wegmans parking lot being so elevated over University could be used to assist with this (not that Wegmans would ever go for it).

  19. Pedro says:

    “and it turns out that some people balk at the idea of even walking one half of a mile to visit Hart’s. The problem is not the parking lot; (well… you understand) the problem is the culture.”

    This probably Rochester’s main problem in terms of development/transportation. Nobody in my demo (29 y/o male young professional living around Park Ave) wants to walk or take the bus anywhere.
    I always try to suggest taking the bus to go out to the bars at East and Alexander, but everyone would always rather drive their cars then leave them there and take a cab home. People are shocked when I say I walked anywhere more than a half mile away, especially in the winter. Get some boots and a coat and you’re good.

  20. I’m not going to lie, this was me before moving to NYC. When I lived in Rochester, I would never, ever have considered walking ‘across town.’ Biking, probably, but walking? You’re crazy.

    Now when I’m back, I regularly stay in Corn Hill and walk to Java’s (it’s only a mile) or stay in Winton North and walk to Park Ave (1.3 mi to Jines). I don’t think anything of it, and in fact, the idea of driving to Java’s from Corn Hill seems nuts to me.

    It really is just frame of reference.

  21. John says:

    Steve, many locals were complaining about the “blight” on East Ave. I think even Wegman’s used that argument themselves.

    I’ve been trying to expand my acceptable walking distance and it really is a frame of mind. The problem Rochester has, is that even small distances can feel very long due to our current streetscape. The Inner Loop always served as a mental barrier to walking for me, until I did it a few times and realized it actually isn’t that far. Same with walking through downtown, its not that far, but when its past vacant/closed businesses and parking lots even a 1/4 feels far.

  22. Derek says:

    I hate this Wegman’s!!! It’s small and not designed for cars OR people. Its dangerous to both and is a mess. Its designed as a small, hip market, but hosts a ton of people and cars!?!?
    Anyways, I don’t understand your love affair with tall large buildings? I would rather see all of the small building and storefronts in the downtown district filled before a new mammoth structure is built. Rochester isn’t a big city, so why a super large building? Didn’t you watch “Supersize Me?”
    The smaller buildings are beautiful and need tenants.
    I am a newbie to Rochester from Buffalo, and love the set up of downtown Rochester. It feels like a big city, but when you look closely, everything downtown is empty. Fill that space before you go on to bigger and “better” things.

  23. Hi Derek, thank you for the feedback, and welcome to Rochester. While there is no denying that I love tall buildings, this article was a little more tongue-in-cheek than most. Note that for my somewhat more realistic article about Tops, the tallest building was 5 or 6 stories.

    In any event, I too would love to see all of the small storefronts downtown filled, but that also doesn’t make for an interesting column. Rochester has only 4 dry cleaners inside the inner loop and there were 4 of them just within 3 blocks of my former apartment in New York City. I don’t generally feel like an article about how either A.) Downtown Rochester lacks dry cleaners or B.) Rochesterians are incapable of appropriately dressing themselves would encourage the same sort of conversation about how our built environment could be better.

    Finally, Rochester is full of some stupendous small buildings, even if so many have been torn down already. You must know that I never propose to tear down anything in this column that is of any note whatsoever. That said, I’m a developer, not a restaurateur, and so filling the existing space in many of these buildings is somewhat beyond me. I guess I could try my hand at proposing random business concepts that may or may not exist in Rochester and see what happens, though. Thank you for the idea.

  24. Adrian Martin says:

    “I guess I could try my hand at proposing random business concepts that may or may not exist in Rochester and see what happens”

    Breakfast delivery restaurant (I’ve never understood why food delivery is common for dinner, when people aren’t rushed, but is not common for breakfast, when people are always rushed)

  25. Adrian, I think that’s the reason. I’ve had delivery take anywhere from 10min to an hour. In that time I could have made my own breakfast, eaten it, and gotten to work. I think the variability of delivery (what happens when your delivery guy gets stuck in morning traffic?) makes a tight meal like breakfast really difficult. It is why every fast food chain now serves breakfast, though – because people want to be able to grab breakfast in a hurry.

  26. Adrian Martin says:

    1) order the night before
    2) bicycle delivery beats traffic

  27. I mean, yes, bike delivery will beat traffic assuming the delivery person is willing and able to bike illegally. That said, it severely limits the delivery area, and I find it hard to believe there is anywhere in Rochester with enough demand for such a service close enough together to make it worthwhile based on the reasonable area to get someone hot breakfast. Ordering the night before is also a huge drag. I don’t even need to call for a pizza at lunch to get it for dinner. I mean, I kinda like the idea, as someone who misses being able to get a 6 pack delivered to him during a football game, as was doable in NYC, but I’m struggling to see the vision all the way through in Rochester (I could probably have had the same bodega deliver me a bagel with cream cheese in NYC assuming they had delivery guys in that early in the morning).

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