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Snap Poll: Most prefer green space for Midtown site

More than half of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll favor green space and an outdoor festival site for Parcel 5 at Midtown.

Today is the deadline for submissions in response to the city of Rochester’s request for proposals to develop Parcel 5. The RFP seeks proposals from experienced real estate developers to develop the 1.17-acre city-owned property, which roughly corresponds to the site of the former McCurdy’s Building.

Fifty-six percent of respondents favor green space and an outdoor festival site, 37 percent would like restaurants there, and 36 percent think the parcel should house a performing arts center.

The city’s stated objectives range from creating downtown jobs for city residents and increasing the tax base to restoring the urban fabric and enhancing the vitality of Rochester’s Main Street nightlife. The RFP states that “given the supply of available Class A and B office space in downtown Rochester, the city deems mixed use to be the highest and best use of the property.”

In evaluating the proposals, the city will use criteria including site plan and design, financing plan, the development team’s experience, and its ability to meet goals for minority, women-owned, small and disadvantaged business enterprises.

In June, the city said it had received two proposals for a performing arts center at Parcel 5—one combined with a gaming facility. Others have called for a public square combining green space with space for small retail startups. Additional responses to the RFP are expected.

More than 580 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Sept. 6.

Which of the following would you favor as part of the development plan for Parcel 5? (Readers could select more than one.)
Green space/outdoor festival site: 56%
Restaurants: 37%
Performing-arts center: 36%
Retail – specialty shops: 33%
Nightlife establishments: 23%
Owner-occupied housing: 18%
Grocery store: 16%
Class A office space: 15%
Retail – chain stores: 12%
Casino: 10%
Rental housing: 9%
Hotel: 7%
Other: 6%

COMMENTS:
I think that a mixed-seasonal event area would be a great fit. Festivals, art shows and music during the right seasons with winter carnivals and an ice rink for the winter months. Drawing people downtown all year long should be the main attraction here. A big Christmas tree with a Rockefeller Square-type atmosphere. Broomball tournaments or leagues in the winter. Having a street of shops or a performing arts center across the street would make sense if you can get the people downtown. Build it, and they will come, someone once said. I would love to see some magic down there.
—Daniel P. O’Mealia, president, IBEW Local 86

A casino is the worst idea for downtown Rochester. And our city doesn’t need any more performance venues—it has plenty already. A green space doesn’t have to be just a park—it could include restaurants and small retail, and would draw people downtown to adjacent restaurants and retail. Just look at Chicago, Columbus and Cleveland for examples of how much such a space could benefit Rochester as a new downtown destination.
—Maggie Symington

With all that is going on in the adjoining area, to let an opportunity for open space pass in the center of the city, with residential development all around it, would be incredibly shortsighted. A well-planned urban park makes a city livable—think Manhattan without Central Park or any number of smaller areas; Washington, D.C. without Rock Creek Park, the Mall or even its traffic circle fountains?
—David Ross

I personally would like to see an all-season festival site, but something truly unique to Rochester. Downtown has a lot of space for restaurants, chain stores and housing available throughout Main Street and Water/Andrews Streets. A casino would be a poor choice with Finger Lakes Race Track, Batavia Downs and soon Tyre (Del Lago resort), all less than an hour away. I know it worked for Las Vegas, but something tells me building an economy based on gambling in this area will not turn out well. It will be interesting to see what the people who live downtown now or are planning to live downtown want.
—Keith Newcomer

The theme is unchanged. For suburbanites to frequent downtown, they must feel it is safe and must have free parking located as close to their locations as it currently is in the suburbs. I abhor paying to park in order to spend my money!
—Dorver Kendig, Webster
 
Parcel 5 should be planted with grass and maintained by the city indefinitely until it can be sold at fair market value to a private individual or organization that will develop it without any public subsidy.
—Rob Brown, ESOP Plus

Owner-occupied housing coupled with specialty food retail. Pattern after each Exchange Street development and include pharmacy and urgent care facilities. In short, an urban community linking Exchange Street and Corn Hill concerts.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

For right now, I would leave it open. I don’t think there is a consensus on what to do with the space. If we leave it open, we can always build on it later.
—Cliff Milligan

Almost any of the preferred scenarios would work, but my choice would be “a meeting place” like a public forum and/or WHATEVER would bring people downtown!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

No casino.
—Ken Maher

Parcel 5 should look to the local proposal by Benjamin Woelk rather than the typical “big real estate developer centric” proposals already tried for other plots downtown. The downtown area needs a green space, and it needs a venue for local featured businesses. Small business has been driven from the downtown core by high prices, low foot traffic, no evening traffic, poor parking and other limitations. We need a progressive proposal that brings people downtown, welcomes them once there and supports the LOCAL economy with a larger number of LOCALLY oriented businesses rather than a small number of larger businesses.
—Lee Drake, CEO, Os-Cubed Inc.

Not, not, not a casino. As you lure people into residential, please provide places for them to walk, gather, eat, etc. Gambling is not even on their list.
—Jay Ross

Anything other than a casino; let’s have some vision about what we want Rochester to be.
—David Lamb

“One fell swoop” development is absolutely not the way to go with this parcel or any other in Rochester—whether it’s housing, commercial space, or anything else. Further, both the casino and the performing arts center options just need to go away. Casinos are an economic black hole that serve only to siphon off dollars from the surrounding community, and a performing arts center has proven unsustainable in study after expensive study. After all, we already have a bounty of performing arts venues in the area—why cannibalize further? Instead, let’s get creative about what the center of our city needs and can sustain through accessibly-scaled incremental development that includes all of the best options checked above: green space and an outdoor performance site for year-round use (even in winter!); grocery store(s) that serve the growing residential community and visitors; entertainment venues that complement the East End establishments; owner-occupied housing to further the personal investment of residents in the success of the area; restaurants for locals and visitors alike; and true main street retail and services that are useful to locals, such as hardware/home goods store, clothing (men’s, women’s, children’s), pet supplies and veterinary care, bike/scooter shop, sporting gear, health care and pharmacy, etc. We can do so much better than a bland, uninspired, single-use behemoth in such a key location!
—Christine Corrado

It should go to the highest bidder and they should do with it what they like.
—Kenya Burn-Moore, Rochester

Fredrick Law Olmsted had the right idea when he created Central Park as a place for all people to gather. A water park or tacky, loud, neon casino would cheapen the cultural district and mar our city.
—Rich Calabrese Jr., Rochester

We need to find new and dynamic activities within downtown to draw people and create a sense of community. Europe sets up Christmas markets in their town squares. This would be a new concept that could mix up seasonal retail, entertainment and holiday cheer in downtown Rochester.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design

9/9/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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