The city of Rochester is seeking proposals to develop a 1.1-acre, shovel-ready parcel at 275 and 279 E. Main St. on the Midtown Rising development site.
More than half of RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents favor retail, including specialty shops and restaurants, for that site. Roughly a quarter favor owner-occupied or rental residential space.
Called Parcel 5, the two properties are owned by the city and roughly correspond to the site of the former McCurdy’s Building. The city initially set a Nov. 26 deadline for proposals, but it was extended to Jan. 15.
The objectives of the city’s request for proposals include increasing the city’s tax base, obtaining “satisfactory revenue” from the sale of the parcel and creating “an optimal mix of uses on the site that restores the urban fabric.”
Readers agree that the redevelopment of Midtown is important to the entire Rochester-Finger Lakes region, with 55 percent saying it’s very important.
The RFP states that “the development vision must reflect the highest and best use of the property,” which the city deems to be commercial development—offices and/or mixed use including retail, offices, residential and possibly a hotel.
The Midtown redevelopment project also includes the adaptive reuse of the former Seneca Building as the new Windstream Communications office project; planned construction of new Gannett Co. Inc. offices; adaptive reuse of the former Midtown Tower, now known as The Tower at Midtown; and new streets and open space.
Nearly 500 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Jan. 5 and 6. Of those, roughly a third work or live in Rochester.
What type of commercial development do you favor most for Parcel 5 at Midtown?
Retail (including specialty shops and restaurants): 56%
Residential (owner-occupied or rental): 26%
Class A office space: 15%
In your view, how important is successful redevelopment of Midtown to the entire Rochester-Finger Lakes region?
Very important: 55%
Somewhat important: 33%
Not very important: 10%
Not at all important: 3%
Do you currently work or live in downtown Rochester?
For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here.
There are three aspects of downtown development, each needing attention and investment: 1. Things that attract people from the suburbs; 2. Lots of readily accessible free parking; and 3. Visible evidence the locations and surroundings are safe and free from crime. Doing No. 1 without the others is an exercise in futility.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster
A first-rate hotel with a museum exhibition space that could have revolving loans from the Gallery, Museum and Science Center, as well as the George Eastman House on a quarterly basis would be a good social and cultural anchor for the space. It would also require a unique restaurant and easily accessible parking.
—Garry Geer, Geer Photography
I would actually like to see a European-styled “piazza” in the Midtown area. This would give downtown residents a place to gather for a latte and conversation. Also, it would give persons a reason to stroll Main Street and window shop on the off-hours. This could also bring more suburban traffic to downtown; hopefully, another step toward restoring center city.
I would like to see a Rite-Aid or a CVS-type store move in along that stretch. Could also consider moving the summer Washington Square farm market there and create more of a permanent shelter and stage for music.
It should be planted to grass and be maintained as an open public space until someone comes along who wants to buy it and build on it without any public subsidy or tax abatement.
—Rob Brown, Schatz Brown Glassman Kossow LLP
Something family-oriented would be best. Look at the Strong Museum of Play and the draw that has on a daily basis. A fun, family business or activity would create more traffic that would entice private development in the surrounding area. Use this opportunity to create something that would draw people from Buffalo and Syracuse. Consider a large or unique aquarium, waterpark or a place that allows us to embrace the cold weather instead of hide from it.
—Kevin Scott, Cannan Alexander & Scott LLC
With the exodus of retail in midtown Rochester, there really are very few options for people working and living in the area to patronize other than small mom-and-pop stores, Dunkin’ Donuts and drugstore chains. We have wonderful specialty shops and restaurants but could again use a department store or, dare I say it, an IKEA! Bringing a retailer of this type to downtown Rochester would encourage shoppers to visit and spend dollars, would not hurt local businesses (different niche) and would encourage spending at food and other establishments.
—Linda Gallagher, MVP Health Care
This development is at the very core of our downtown, so it is essential that development be one that we are proud to have at the heart of our city. A mixed-use development that includes office, retail and residential (or hotel) would bring the level of activity that this site deserves. While some will surely argue that we do not need to add more office space to the roster of vacant downtown office space, the reality is that new residential and retail space is just a redistribution of the pie. We need to focus on growing the number of jobs in Rochester, and it is essential that a sizable number of those jobs be located downtown. We cannot have a healthy city if the vast majority of jobs are in the suburbs (or beyond).
Look at what Buffalo has done to improve their downtown. Rochester Center City is important for the whole region. Rochester has to move forward. Stop crying over the loss of major employers.
—Harold Ley, Appliance Associates
It would be great to revitalize downtown to provide additional places for people who live and work downtown to patronize, as well as provide a reason for individuals who live in the suburbs to consider downtown as a destination again.
While a vibrant and busy downtown is not vital cornerstone to the success of the Rochester-Finger Lakes area, I think an empty downtown would be a nail in the coffin. The area should be developed so that it is a safe and pleasant place to go. It should be a piece to the puzzle as well as other neighborhoods.
Still think bringing in an IKEA store would continue to attract the targeted young professionals to urban living, as well as bring suburbanites into the city for something unavailable in malls.
—Karen Kall, On Kall Marketing
I would really like to see some “green space” downtown to soften the concrete environment and provide for recreational endeavors.
—J.P. Gleason, Gleason Fundraising Consulting
To have an informed opinion, we really need to hear from more sources, such as landlords, the hotel industry, etc. I only voted for retail space because it would be great to be able to shop downtown again, and not just for cheap goods. What’s the vacancy rate for Class A office space? What’s the occupancy rate for hotels? How many vacant homes and apartments do we have already? The “glory days” for downtown may be over, but we need a new definition of what an attractive, vibrant, “destination” downtown will be. Come visit the new Rochester!
No more handouts to the folks who fleece the public. We need 24/7 residents and small businesses to serve them, not Hail Mary plays like the fast ferry. Highest and best is an appraisal/banker’s term, and ignores desirable or appropriate—by that measure the property should be developed as an unattended, automatic car wash. If you build it they will come—businesses to feed, clothe and entertain the residents. Small is beautiful. And sustainable.
Somehow “mixed use” (“mixed use including retail, offices, residential and possibly a hotel”) was suggested in your article but did not make it to your choices. I chose mixed use.
Thirty years ago, downtown Rochester was the region’s center, but the city keeps making going downtown a painful experience, and I don’t know anyone who works or goes there anymore. The parking garages are dirty and dark. Try parking on the street and you get a $30 (or more) parking ticket even if you stand in the cold while fumbling to get a window sticker from one of those robo-parking-thing-a-majigs, because those meter maids will always find a reason for handing out a ticket. Then there are the red-light cameras and the “you can’t get there from here” one-way streets. Try going to an event in the Convention Center without spending 30 minutes waiting in line at the parking garage. Businesses that dare to try to operate in the city are met with a battalion of inspectors armed with an incomprehensible set of zoning rules, design rules, sign rules, taxes and penalties that collectively say “your business not wanted here unless you run it like a committee of City Council bureaucrats wants you to.” I grew up in the city and now live a few minutes away, but the city’s message to visitors for the past 30 years has been “go away.”
I suggest retail to bring more people downtown and create more jobs to bring in more residential space. Therefore, residential is a very close second.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
It’s hard to separate all the needs for downtown Rochester. The first need is to get more people living downtown. After 10,000 people live downtown, the retail will follow naturally. I don’t see a need for a hotel as long as the Convention Center stays the same small size. A possible solution would be a tall building with retail on the street level, Class A office space on the next few levels and residences on the upper level. I support changing the name of “The Tower at Midtown” back to “Midtown Tower” or to “The Tower Formerly Known as Midtown.”
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.
To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at staging.rbj.net/dailyreport.
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