Home / Opinion / Most readers like final design for redeveloped Midtown site

Most readers like final design for redeveloped Midtown site

Nearly 60 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say they like the final design for redevelopment at the former site of Midtown Plaza, which was unveiled last week. A little more than one-quarter described themselves as neutral, and 16 percent dislike the design.
The plan calls for five new streets and a pedestrian corridor, with reconstruction slated for Elm, Atlas and Euclid streets. Broad Street from Chestnut Street to South Avenue, South Clinton Avenue from Broad to Main Street and Main from South Clinton to East Avenue will be rehabilitated or reconstructed. Broad will become a two-way street.
Construction is slated for completion in the fall of 2013, at a projected cost of $33.7 million. All told, $101.3 million in funding has been provided for Midtown redevelopment, including $55.9 million in state funds and nearly $38 million from the city, Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards said.
As for Paetec Holding Corp.’s new headquarters, a 3.5-story, 225,000-square-foot building that is slated to be the first major development on the site, 49 percent of Snap Poll respondents said they like its final design. Roughly one-quarter said they are neutral, and 28 percent said they dislike the design.

Nearly 300 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted July 5.

What do you think of the final Midtown redevelopment design?
Like: 59% 
Neutral: 26% 
Dislike: 16%

What do you think of the final Paetec headquarters design?
Like: 49%
Dislike: 28% 
Neutral: 24% 

Here are some comments from readers:

It does not represent a very progressive image. There is a significant disconnect and contradiction between the southern and the other elevations. Move the design into the 21st century on the entire building. Make a powerful statement, not this weak attempt.
—Bud Knapp, American Institute of Architects
  This will give our city a fresh new look and hopefully continue the movement of more business back to the downtown area.
—Rob Unger, O’Connell Electric

The Midtown project is far too costly and yielding far too little results. The city should have explored options that would have been less disruptive, less costly, and would have resulted in more vitality in the center of our downtown. One option was presented by the Rochester Regional Community Design Center after extensive participation by architects, engineers and planners. The current design of the Paetec building replaces an existing seven-story building with an unimpressive three-story building. Officially, the Seneca Building will be "reused," but the reality is that most of the building is being deconstructed in an expensive process. It would have been far less expensive to rebuild the existing seven-story structure, and the result would have been a more visible and impressive structure.
—DeWain Feller
To allow a private company to punctuate the center of our city with such a diminutive and introverted structure bespeaks shortsightedness. To promote and help pay for it with public funding is nearly criminal. I feel this project will be looked upon as a planning folly in years to come.
—David Gardner, AIA
 I like the attempt to make the Paetec building fit in with historic downtown structures. I hope the finished product is not a suburban "big box." A vibrant downtown requires abundant entrances/exits to retailing, entertainment and businesses. The pedestrian is king of downtown, and it must be built around walkability, not drivability as in the suburbs. I hope the rest of the former Midtown parcel is likewise developed with a strong sense of the traditional city and not as though it was in a suburb.
—Carlos Mercado
Creating beauty in public building design is an art form that pays dividends for decades and centuries. It draws people to it, it makes people talk about it, it makes citizens fall in love with it. This design looks "cold." There is nothing that ties the natural beauty, history and architecture of our city/region into this project. We are a city of artists. Where is the public art and green space? What does the Las Vegas-style billboard building front accomplish? It is an element that will quickly date itself. We have the talent and vision to do better.
—M. Eve Elzenga, interior designer, Decor! Decorating Solutions

Neither the Midtown redevelopment design nor the Paetec headquarters design is particularly inspired. I would hope that a more dynamic facade would be developed for this critical development. I know we have the talent in this city to come up with a more significant facade.
 —Michael J. Lebowitz, real estate broker
Looks like something was done for the sake of doing it. It could be the new vogue in "midtown designs," low-rise building. It belongs in Bushnell’s Basin.
—Karl Schuler
Isn’t Arunas’ home in Brighton taller than the "world headquarters" they are planning for the Midtown site? What a huge disappointment; some engineer dreamed up projecting happy face images on the side walls in lieu of an attractive building. As for the new streets, do we really need more streets in the city with nothing on them? I don’t come downtown because every time I do I get a parking ticket or get drenched and/or freezing, figuring out how to operate those new R2D2 parking meters. City Hall never seems to tire of finding ways to make coming downtown a miserable experience.
—Bob Sarbane

Reduce the size of the company name, Paetec.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results

They are messing up the site plan by not keeping the whole atrium structure and by putting those unneeded open spaces behind the Paetec building and at the center of the site. Basically, it is what we were presented by Labella at the GEIS meetings I attended at their office in 2008. This is exactly what Paetec wanted back then, and it is what they will get. I guess allowing the public to make suggestions about this and the bus shed was just lip service to us plebeians. Note the empty spaces in the virtual tour that will “someday” be filled with new buildings. My guess is these large holes now opened in the core of downtown will remain holes for years to come. But look on the bright side, Rochester; you’ll have plenty more open space to go with the all under-used plazas and parks we already have throughout downtown. We call these empty spaces “missing teeth” for a reason. The Paetec design is very bland and not worth the wait. Bergmann Associates is capable of better designs, so it is likely that Chesonis and company (lovers of gaudy retrotechture; see Chesonis’ home on Ambassador Drive) determined the basic look (Arches! Everyone loves stone arches!) and gave Bergmann the job of detailing. Good luck, RocCity!
—Dan Palmer, formerly of Rochester

The Paetec headquarters design is generic and boring. Paetec’s headquarters is far less significant in scale than all the original hype led us to believe it would be. Perhaps a few large pieces of public art along Main Street and Clinton Avenue would relieve the mind-numbing design. Both the Xerox and Chase buildings make a statement, and the newer Bausch & Lomb headquarters and library buildings make visual statements; it’s hard to get excited about a building that reminds me of CVS corporate architecture recognizable throughout the United States. As far as opening up the streets and the pedestrian plaza are concerned, it remains to be seen how they are used and what sort of future development is generated. The original Midtown Plaza was unique and a trendsetter as one of the first indoor malls, with a design that evoked the spirit of the time. The fountains, clock, open indoor gathering space set it apart. I can’t say that this effort engenders optimism or excitement.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester

Quintessentially Rochester—another “showcase” project that looks more like a packing case. If this “reshapes the future of the central city,” as Mayor Richards has proclaimed, the outlook is sad.
—Bob Miglioratti

I am hoping that the design goes through. However, I am wondering how many businesses will move in, besides Paetec, to fill the spaces? I am rejecting to have to put $100 million of tax money into the project. Where are the banks, and how come the mighty businesses come wailing to the state and city for monetary support? No wonder the New York taxes are so high. While the money for business support gushes, complaints about Medicaid and social services for the needy are loud and they are eyed for reduction. And who is the greatest welfare recipient? Stop using the state and city as the cash cow for businesses!
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting

(c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.


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