Rochester officials and others say an opportunity like this does not come along very often, and they are right: The Inner Loop East Transformation Project offers the chance to dramatically improve a key portion of downtown for generations to come.
Long discussed and debated, the reinvention of a 2/3-mile section of the sunken expressway on the city’s east side, from west of Monroe Avenue almost to East Main Street, is well under way. Filling in the site is slated for completion by the end of the year.
Now, the city is asking developers to submit proposals that imagine what the Inner Loop East can become. As Baye Muhammad, the city’s commissioner of neighborhood and business development, told RBJ reporter Nate Dougherty: “We are creating a new neighborhood by filling in the Inner Loop, one that will eventually produce jobs and a better environment for our city.”
The city wants a strong mix of commercial and retail development, housing and green space. All of these elements are important if the site is to achieve its potential.
Debate over the project has quieted, but some still think spending more than $20 million—most of it federal money—on this is a waste of money. It’s not a small sum, to be sure. But the potential return on this investment is equally substantial.
Indeed, the vastly underused Inner Loop—built in the 1950s and ’60s for a city with roughly 50 percent more residents than it has today—has occupied some of the most valuable property in the city.
And as supporters have long noted, the cost of maintaining this portion of the aging Inner Loop would be even pricier, with much less to show for it.
This much is guaranteed: The project site no longer will be a no-man’s-land separating the East End from Park Avenue, the Neighborhood of the Arts and the South Wedge. But if developers respond to the city’s request with truly inspired ideas, it could become much more.
Now is the time to dream big. This is a chance to do it right, erasing a half-century mistake.
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