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Library design and building ideas: A community dialogue

Wehner, Peter

Library design is perhaps in its most exciting and demanding age. Libraries continue to remain relevant and are constantly changing to effectively serve their communities. Today’s library offers more than just a place to store and lend books, it now serves as a marketplace of ideas offering varied ways to engage patrons. Library design teams are challenged to create spaces that serve multiple purposes and have the flexibility to grow and change.

Working with several library teams in our region on designing library renovations and new libraries, I have seen how innovative library design has energized their communities. I thought it would be interesting to reach out to the leaders of four of these libraries to find out what’s worked and what’s next: Frank Sykes, MLS, Livonia Public Library Director; Adrienne Pettinelli, MLS, Henrietta Public Library Director; Jeff Baker, MLS, Chili Public Library Director; and Keith Suhr, MLS, Greece Director of Personnel (Greece Children’s Library).

What were your hopes and dreams for your new library?

Frank Sykes, Livonia: Everybody wants more space, but what do you do with that space? It was important to figure out what the use was and what the community wants and needs.

Henrietta Library Computer Room
Henrietta Library Computer Room. (Photo provided)

Adrienne Pettinelli, Henrietta: Building a new library was all about making the library work for a growing community with a variety of needs, including traditional services, meetings, quiet study, tutoring, proctoring, and to utilize technology. Increased accessibility was essential to ensure that every member of our community can access the library’s resources.

Jeff Baker, Chili: We wanted the new library to provide a space where lifelong learning and innovative new community programs and services would occur. The previous library had reached its shelving capacity, forcing usage of less accessible shelves. The small Children’s Room limited our ability to fully engage children, and teens did not have a place to call their own. The makeshift Makerspace Room was not sufficient.

Keith Suhr, Greece: For the Children’s Room expansion, we wanted to create a literary experience for our residents; something that tied the theme of literary classics with active learning and play. Disney meets Narnia with a seasoning of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

How did the new library realize or not realize your vision?

Livonia Library Childrens Section
Livonia Library childrens section. (Photo provided)

Frank Sykes, Livonia: It surpassed my expectations, and now that we are using the renovated and expanded library, we are discussing additional ways to activate it. I visit other libraries to compare, but I don’t see anything that we could have done better.

Adrienne Pettinelli, Henrietta: Our new facility is exactly what it needs to be. We have the types of spaces and functionality we need, and our services have grown and flourished in the new space. We’re better meeting the needs of long-time patrons, and we’ve gained new users who are excited about the possibilities here.

Jeff Baker, Chili: We have expanded the collection and improved access, with defined places for specific collections. The Children’s Room features separate play and reading areas. Teens now have a space of their own. The 1,000 square foot Makerspace Room has the equipment and layout needed for patrons to gather, design, and create. The new library facilitates our ability to provide a welcoming environment responsive to patron’s needs, to promote literacy and encourage the joy of learning, to foster a culture of innovation and creativity, and to serve as a center of community engagement.

Keith Suhr, Greece: The measure of our success is in the tremendous response of our residents. Named “The Story Garden,” the Greece Children’s Library has become a destination for our residents to bring their families to learn, to read, to play, and to create. The library is now a center for community learning and activity for our young residents and their caregivers.

What were some unanticipated outcomes of your library project?

Frank Sykes, Livonia: Despite using very efficient building materials, LED lighting, and a new heating system, utility costs have increased significantly largely due to the increased size of the library. With increased patronage, custodial supply costs have also increased. We have also increased staffing to offer additional programs (30-40 per month) and activate the space.

Adrienne Pettinelli, Henrietta: With our flexibly designed space, we were easily able to pivot to a COVID-friendly curbside pickup service model, and then to a socially distanced service model, and ultimately back to normalcy with updated protocols. I was so grateful to have this malleable space when these unanticipated needs arose. We were able to deliver our core services through the pandemic, and our patrons were very grateful.

Jeff Baker, Chili: The new library is part of the new Chili Community Center, with the Town’s library, recreation department, and senior center housed together. With this combined resource attracting visitors, previous non-library users have now become regular patrons. There has also been an increase in partnerships with Town departments and other organizations.

Greece Childrens Library Gateway
Greece Childrens Library gateway. (Photo provided)

Keith Suhr, Greece: The new Children’s Library has brought young Greece families together, bonded by raising children in a town that values recreation and learning. In the winter, it gave them a place to gather and enjoy what was available for their children while providing offerings for their own interests.

How has the new library engaged your patrons?

Frank Sykes, Livonia: The new Children’s Library, with its lively design, brought in the kids, which allows the library to connect with their parents, grandparents, and caregivers. The library’s central village location, the buzz of the project, and the wide variety of new programs we can now offer (sensory play, maker space for all age groups, story time, tai chi, Erie Canal museum programs, and concerts on the lawn) constantly attracts new patrons.

Adrienne Pettinelli, Henrietta: You may think of a library as a building full of books, but as someone who works in a library, I think of a building full of people. That’s what I love about my work. We’ve increased our events, children’s story times, and hands-on activities for teens and adults. We offer more book groups and excellent services to help people find that next beloved book.

Jeff Baker, Chili: The new Makerspace has attracted many users, and the library offers kits for patrons to explore Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM)-related activities. The Children’s Room features space for learning through play while parents watch nearby. The Teen Room provides video and tabletop gaming. The Community Room is in continual use with programming for all ages and a variety of interests.

Keith Suhr, Greece: The additional programming space has allowed for more children’s programming, creativity, and socialization. Our library has earned a reputation for excellence and enjoyment via the press, social media, and residents.

What new library features are most beloved by your patrons?

Frank Sykes, Livonia: Our new children’s library gets the most attention, and the study rooms receive constant use. People love the new accessible lift. Our community members contributed hours of volunteer labor to complete the restoration of the original historic library building, refinishing the paneling, windowsills, and hardwood floors under expert direction. Our beautifully lit entranceway and memorial wall welcomes and honors our community.

Adrienne Pettinelli, Henrietta: People are delighted that they can check out at any of our service desks. Knowing they can walk up to any desk and check out makes life easier. People also love, love, love our study rooms and conference rooms, which are in constant use for meetings, studying, online interviews, drawing, scrapbooking, and playing board games. The building is full of windows and natural light, and people enjoy it. There’s something aspirational about going to the library, patrons want to improve themselves or their lives in some way, and this building reflects that. Light is life-giving. It’s hopeful. Libraries are life-giving and hopeful, too.

Chili Community Center Library Fireplace
Chili Community Center Library fireplace. (Photo provided)

Jeff Baker, Chili: Patrons love the attractive two-sided fireplace in the large Reading Room that houses magazines, a local history collection and exhibit, and local artwork. Patrons also love the Makerspace, study rooms, and the in-library Book Sale area. The large windows, skylight, and LED lighting throughout the building make the library an inviting and welcoming place.

Keith Suhr, Greece: All the new features have their dedicated fans. Whether it’s the Story Garden House, the variety of programming options, the interactive farmers market, the woodland tree ball drop, or the multiple interactive play features, there is something for everyone.

What would you like to see in a future library improvement project?

Frank Sykes, Livonia: Public libraries are moving to a community center-based model. People still read, but I think the future of libraries is in programming, particularly in offering more STEAM activities and adult education. Not a lot of places in rural areas offer those activities. Our Teen area is also something we are currently improving.

Adrienne Pettinelli, Henrietta: I’d like to develop a more robust setup for livestreaming where we can have greater success with hybrid events, complementing our ability to hold events held entirely online or entirely in-person. I’d also like to incorporate our beautiful outdoor spaces more fully, capitalizing on their potential.

Jeff Baker, Chili: It is my goal to further improve access for those with disabilities. The large glass doors in some areas can be a challenge for patrons in wheelchairs and I am hoping to resolve this issue. Having a hearing loop in the Community Room will also increase accessibility as will increased directional signage.

Keith Suhr, Greece: We would like to add a café that enables adults and professionals to gather with friends or visit solo to nourish their interests, relax, and have coffee or light snacks while enjoying the benefits of a Town that values its residents and invests in their recreation and learning.


I extend my thanks to these leaders of several of the new and remodeled libraries in our region. It is very exciting to see the impact their vision and dedication has had on our communities and on the practice of library design. Future design efforts will be challenged to anticipate the growing diversity of library patrons and their needs as they pursue their full potential.

2022 Leaders in Construction & Real Estate honorees announced

The Rochester Business Journal and The Daily Record have selected 28 honorees for the 2022 Leaders in Construction & Real Estate awards.

The 2022 Leaders in Construction & Real Estate Awards celebrate the individuals and companies who are changing the landscape of the Rochester region through design, construction, project management and more. These individuals and organizations are creating jobs, building healthy spaces, helping families and companies achieve their dreams, and leading the way toward growth and prosperity for the community.

Honorees in the construction category include architects, developers, general contractors, homebuilders, lifetime achievement, project managers, residential contractors and subcontractors. Real estate categories are commercial real estate agents and residential real estate agents.

Honorees for the 2022 Leaders in Construction & Real Estate Awards were chosen by the editorial staff of the Rochester Business Journal and The Daily Record.

“This year’s Leaders in Construction & Real Estate winners are innovators who lead the way for businesses and families in the multifaceted construction and real estate fields,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, senior group publisher of the Rochester Business Journal and The Daily Record. “They are leaders in the community who work hard to make the Western New York area a wonderful place to live and work. We at the Rochester Business Journal and The Daily Record congratulate them on receiving this honor.”

This year’s Leaders in Construction & Real Estate recipients will be honored Oct. 25 at 11:30 a.m. at a luncheon celebration at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, 123 E Main Street, Rochester.

Attendance is limited for this event. Honorees and sponsors get the first chance to secure tables. Sponsorship includes a table for guests, multimedia marketing, logo usage and more. To secure a sponsorship, contact Suzanne Fischer-Huettner at [email protected]. The event hashtags are #RBJevents and #NYTDRevents.

A limited number of individual tickets will be available after the sponsor deadline, if the event does not sell out.

Honorees will be profiled in the Oct. 28 issues of the Rochester Business Journal and The Daily Record and online at and For more information, including the most updated listing of sponsors, visit

The 2022 Leaders in Construction & Real Estate honorees are:

Construction – Companies


  • Edge Architecture
  • Greater Living Architecture P.C.
  • HUNT Engineers, Architects, Land Surveyors and Landscape Architect DPC
  • Rozzi Architects


  • Buckingham Properties
  • DiMarco Group
  • Maguire Family Properties
  • Rochester’s Cornerstone Group

General Contractors

  • Christa Construction
  • DiMarco Constructors
  • John W. Danforth Company
  • Taylor – The Builders


  • New Energy Works
  • Riedman Homes

Project Managers

  • Campus Construction Management Group
  • DGA Builders

Residential Contractors

  • 3rd ROC Solar
  • Long Construction NY LLC


  • American Custom Exteriors & Interiors
  • ID Signsystems
  • Nuflow Services of Upstate NY LLC

Construction – Individuals


  • Marlee Finestone, SWBR


  • Monica McCullough, MM Development Advisors Inc.

General Contractors

  • Christopher DiPasquale, DiPasquale Construction Inc.

Lifetime Achievement

  • Grant Malone, Operating Engineers Local 158/ Rochester Building Trades

Real Estate – Individuals

Commercial Real Estate Agents

  • Tod Myers, Keller Williams Realty Greater Rochester

Residential Real Estate Agents

  • Anthony Butera, Keller Williams Realty Greater Rochester
  • Nick Wenderlich, Keller Williams Realty Greater Rochester

Jump in construction spending forecast for 2023

Infrastructure spending will lead to a jump in spending on construction projects of an estimated 20 percent in the Rochester area in 2023, according to ENR New York’s City Scoop forecast. (Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel from Pexels)

Total construction starts for the Rochester area are expected to remain somewhat flat for the remainder of the year before jumping by an estimated 20 percent in 2023, according to ENR’s New York City Scoop.

Using information from Dodge Data and Analytics, ENR forecasts construction starts to total $2.053 billion for 2022, a bump of just $9 million from last year, before rising to $2.468 billion next year.

ENR says the largest single-sector increase in construction spending next year will come in the non-building category, with federal dollars for infrastructure spending the catalyst for highways and bridges, along with upgrade projects by electrical utilities.

Not only is construction spending forecast to rise significantly in 2023, ENR’s estimate is 71.2 percent higher than actual project spending in Rochester in all of 2019.

While the forecast calls for a year-over-year dip in spending on commercial and manufacturing projects, an increase is expected in educational and healthcare construction, as well as a 20.6 percent increase in multifamily ($315 million to $380 million).

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Thruway to begin $450 million upgrade to service areas this month

A concept of a redeveloped Thruway service area interior. (provided)
A concept of a redeveloped Thruway service area interior. (provided)

The New York State Thruway Authority will begin construction this month on a $450 million project to redevelop the 27 service areas located along the Thruway.

The service areas were built in the 1950s, with the last significant renovations taking place in the 1990s. On July 29, 10 service areas will close for work to begin on the first phase of the project. Fuel services will remain available at all locations during construction.

Empire State Thruway Partners was awarded the contract to rebuild 23 of the 27 service area restaurant buildings and provide significant renovations and upgrades to the remaining four. The contract includes a 33-year term, with two phases of construction.

The project is funded through a public-private partnership and no toll dollars or state tax dollars are being used, officials said this week.

The exterior concept of a redeveloped service area. (provided)
The exterior concept of a redeveloped service area. (provided)

“A new travel experience is on the horizon for customers as this long-anticipated project to redevelop the Thruway’s 27 service areas gets underway this month,” said Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew Driscoll in a statement. “This expansive project will modernize the buildings and amenities, provide diverse and healthy food options with new restaurants and Taste NY products and enhance the amenities for the commercial trucking industry. This is an exciting era for the Thruway Authority and we can’t wait for our customers to experience these new modern facilities.”

Expanded food offerings include Panera, Burger King, Shake Shack and Popeyes, among others. Specific locations for the food concepts will be announced at a later time, officials said.

Most buildings at the new service areas will be configured to offer entrances from both the parking lot and fuel station facilities. New amenities at some service areas also will include exterior seating with access to Taste NY farm markets, picnic areas, play areas and pet walking areas; electric vehicle charging stations to further the state’s goals of reducing emissions; and commercial driver services including increased truck parking, showers, laundry facilities and fitness centers.

Interior decor concept of redeveloped Thruway service area. (provided)
Interior decor concept of redeveloped Thruway service area. (provided)

“We are delighted to be selected by the New York State Thruway Authority as their partner for this prestigious project,” said Bob Etchingham of Empire State Thruway Partners. “We look forward to providing enhanced facilities and services to New York State Thruway customers over the life of this project.”

Within the Rochester metro area, the Pembroke service area is one of the stops scheduled for closure this month. Construction is expected to begin in 2022 for six additional service areas including Scottsville and Seneca. The Clifton Springs and Ontario service areas are not yet slated for closure.

The original construction of the facilities began in the mid-1950s and opened to the traveling public by the turn of the decade. The Ontario service station opened in 1955, while Scottsville and Pembroke opened in 1957. When opened, concessionaires offered a variety of services including cafeteria-style food, coffee shops and snack bars.

The original interior of a Thruway service area built during the 1950s. (provided)
The original interior of a Thruway service area built during the 1950s. (provided)

When developed, the plazas were built an average of 40 miles apart based on driving times and convenience for public access. By the end of the 1980s, the original travel plazas were determined to be obsolete and unsuitable to attract name-brand food concept vendors. New designs for each plaza were presented for authority approval. The concept was to provide Adirondack-style structures of 11,000 or 15,000 square feet. All were replaced or remodeled between 1990 and 1994, the last significant redevelopment until now, according to the authority’s website.

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Construction season begins on I-390, I-490

Work has begun on two major roadway projects in the Rochester and Finger Lakes regions that total nearly $42 million.

Construction began on a 10.5-mile stretch of I-390 between Avon and Henrietta in mid-May, with paving along the northbound lanes expected to begin in late June. The $32.2 million project will require daily single-lane closures and will include an overlay of the existing concrete pavement to prevent further deterioration. Most of the construction along the southbound lanes is expected to take place in 2022.

“All across the state we are working to rebuild our infrastructure to meet the needs of a 21st-century economy and these investments in Rochester area interstates will help improve connectivity, enhance safety and promote economic growth for the region,” said state Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez in a statement. “DOT looks forward to hitting the ground running with these projects that will no doubt benefit the hundreds of thousands of daily motorists along these important corridors.”

The second project will provide a smoother riding surface for motorists between South Landing Road in Brighton and Garnsey Road in Perinton along I-490. The $9.7 million project began with work to remove hazardous trees and brush this spring and paving is expected to begin this week. The paving work is expected to take place during the evening and overnight hours to accommodate a single lane of traffic. Some detours are expected.

“Projects like the repaving of key interstates in the Finger Lakes Region are just an example of the great state of New York committing to building a better future,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “Residents of the Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes regions will find great benefits in the repaving of these key interstates. I am so appreciative of the state Department of Transportation for their continued efforts to provide a safe and efficient transportation system in New York.”

The I-490 project is expected to be completed in late 2021, while the I-390 project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

“Today marks an important step in the right direction to ensure the safety and quality of transportation for hundreds of thousands of residents in my district and neighboring districts,” said Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford, whose district covers some of Monroe County. “Repaving our highways will also facilitate critical economic activity throughout our region and ensure uninterrupted flow of goods and services to our communities.”

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Construction on Mt. Read Boulevard finishes

The $7.7 million Mt. Read Boulevard rehabilitation project has been completed, nearly two years after its start in April 2019.

The project transformed the road between Buffalo Road and Lyell Avenue by resurfacing the pavement and implementing a “road diet” to reduce the number of travel lanes and add a center turning lane. A new roundabout also was added at the intersection of Mt. Read Boulevard and Buffalo Road to further ease travel and enhance safety.

“This project on Mt. Read Boulevard, an important travel corridor in the city of Rochester, will enhance safety and mobility for all commuters while helping to further revitalize the local economy and move the Finger Lakes forward,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement last week.

The project began in April 2019 and included the implementation of a new traffic pattern that reduced the number of lanes from three in each direction to two in each direction. A concrete median was removed to make room for a center turning lane and additional shoulder space was added. Sidewalks, ramps, traffic signals, signage and pavement marking also were added or upgraded to enhance safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

“If you’ve driven down Mt. Read recently you know these upgrades help our citizens commute in a safer and more efficient manner,” said Sen. Jeremy Cooney, D-Greece. “We need more transit investments like these for our community, especially on the west side.”

A significant milestone was reached in August 2019 when the new roundabout opened at the intersection of Mt. Read Boulevard and Buffalo Road, replacing an outdated signalized traffic circle with a modern roundabout featuring concrete, pavement, upgraded curbing, striping and signage. Roundabouts have been shown to help smooth the flow of traffic and reduce the severity of crashes at intersections.

“Mt. Read Boulevard is a vital link between our highway system here in Monroe County and the northern part of Greece, almost to the shore of Lake Ontario,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “These various upgrades will greatly improve the commute of the hundreds of Monroe County residents who travel this road daily.”

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Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Five Star Bank begins renovations

Five Star Bank has begun extensive renovations at its Warsaw branch and call center, the first branch to feature the bank’s reimagined design intended to align services with shifting customer needs and preferences.

The new design will balance the convenience of digital banking for day-to-day transactions with in-person expertise and solutions provided by Five Star’s bankers to help customers manage their complex needs, officials said this week.

Martin K. Birmingham
Martin K. Birmingham

“We take great pride in our long history of serving the Warsaw community and are especially pleased to launch our first newly reimagined branch design right here on Main Street,” said Five Star President and CEO Martin Birmingham. “When our newly remodeled branch debuts in late December, our customers can look forward to an enhanced banking experience that allows them to take advantage of the convenience of digital banking services while continuing to have a banker available for in-person banking. We will equip our branches to allow our customers to bank as they prefer.”

The branch, located at 55 N. Main St. in Warsaw, has been closed since March to prepare for renovations. Five Star Bank also maintains two other locations in Warsaw, a branch at 2330 N. Main St. and the corporate headquarters at 220 Liberty St.

Renovation highlights include:

• Enhancing the presence on Main Street with the addition of a new and welcoming main sidewalk entrance. The community can watch the progress on the building’s facade as windows are replaced and the new entry is constructed. The bank’s previous main entrance had been on the side of the building.
• The Main Street branch will offer an Interactive Teller Machine in its new vestibule, which allows customers to complete many of the basic transactions that previously required teller interaction, as well as to video-connect with bank representatives for assistance when preferred. This latest method of banking increases overall efficiency when visiting a branch while still allowing customers to maintain their personal relationships with Five Star Bank representatives.
• Certified personal bankers will be on-site to help customers who have more complex banking needs or simply prefer in-person banking. They will be located in private offices more conducive to providing financial education and advice.
• As a financial solution center, customers also will be able to access investment and insurance services with experienced banking professionals.
• The bank’s popular Community Room will reopen at a future date, providing professional space with the latest technology and presentation aides for use by area not-for-profit organizations. It has been closed due to the pandemic.

Rendering of Five Star Bank branch interior lobby at 55 N. Main St. in Warsaw.
Rendering of Five Star Bank branch interior lobby at 55 N. Main St. in Warsaw.

The renovated Warsaw branch is part of Five Star Bank’s Energy Efficient “Green” Initiative and will feature:

• Interior lighting is energy-efficient LED.
• Carpet is Cradle to Cradle certified meaning the manufacturer assesses its entire supply chain to provide an eco-conscious product.
• Porcelain tile is Green Square Certified and made with recycled materials.
• Acoustical panels are made with a minimum of 60 percent recycled content and are Declare Certified.
• Millwork laminate is GreenGuard Certified. The manufacturer formulates its own resins allowing the manufacturing process to be environmentally friendly. The manufacturer (Nevamar) is Forest Stewardship Council Certified and uses recycled and renewable resources to preserve forests and promote a healthier environment.
• Solid surface countertops are created with recycled materials, are GreenGuard certified, Red List free and have Health Product Declaration and Environmental Product Declarations.
• Acoustic ceiling tiles contain up to 56 percent recycled content and the ceiling grid contains up to 61 percent recycled content.
• Roller shade fabric is 100 percent recycled, PVC-free polyester and has a minimum of 89 percent of fibers made from 100 percent recycled post-industrial fiber and consumer plastic waste. The fabric is Cradle to Cradle Certified and uses 11 recycled bottles per yard of fabric made in the USA.

The project’s general contractor is Mulvey Construction Inc. and the architect is Scheid Architectural.

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Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Pandemic’s impact on construction projects depends on contract

Binge-watching a season or five of a Netflix series has been a popular way for many to pass time while stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Contractors and building owners may be choosing a different way to stay busy: by reading clauses in construction contracts.

Whether a contract contains a “force majeure” stipulation or similar wording may determine how this public health crisis impacts delays, shutdowns or penalty payments.

Sean Jensen, partner at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP
Sean Jensen, partner at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP

“I’ve seen a lot of contractors and owners opening up contracts and looking to see what type of notice they have to provide,” said Sean Jensen, partner at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP.

An executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 27 declared that all non-essential construction must stop. What that means going forward all depends on how contracts were written.

“One party could terminate a contract after a certain period of time if a project is shelved because of the governor’s executive order,” Jensen said. “Does this order trigger any clause that would give either client or contract the right to terminate it?”

That answer may very well rest in how two popular standardized industry contracts refer to force majeure, aka unforeseeable circumstances. The ConsensusDocs 200 standard agreement includes the words “epidemics” and “adverse governmental actions” as allowable reasons for a time extension.

The other popular standard form, the American Institute of Architects A201, doesn’t use the word epidemic or pandemic, but rather includes the catch-all “other causes beyond the Contractor’s control.”

While it certainly could be argued that the impact of the coronavirus was beyond anyone’s control, Jensen warns that “New York courts are pretty strict. If it’s not included in that clause, then they’ll take a very strict approach.”

The longer New York remains on pause, the more some projects could be jeopardized. Businesses may not have the funding to continue a project. Expansion may no longer be necessary for manufacturing facilities or warehouse space due to loss of business.

Even with a signed contract, the client may have the right to delay the start of a project or terminate all together with a penalty fee, depending on what was negotiated in the contract, Jensen said.

“You have to pick up each contract and look at the wording,” he said.

Contractors also may have the right to extend the project schedule, or even ask for more money, based on increased costs.

But a building owner or construction firm should think long and hard about drawing a line in the sand. Being empathetic to the other party’s plight could go a long way in future business.

“If you can negotiate an amendment to these contracts, it’s often better for everyone,” Jensen said. “What does it do for your reputation if, during a pandemic like this, you take a hard stand?”

There is one question that will never need to be addressed with future contracts: whether there is specific pandemic wording.

“After 2020 it will be hard to say you didn’t foresee something like this,” Jensen said.

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Life better with robots, drones and analytics, builders say

When it comes to large capital expenditures, regardless of how great they seem, there first must always be a thorough review and cost analysis calculation.

Does it make sense from a practical perspective? Does it make cents from a budget standpoint?

Where the latest in technological advances are concerned, builders are finding that the answer is often “yes.”

That was the case for Batavia-based general contractor Manning Squires Hennig Co. Inc. when the purchase of a Total Station Robot was considered a few years back.

With the Total Station Robot, plans for a work site are programmed into the device, which then lays out the specs for concrete work.

“We take the documents and work with an engineer to put the blueprint into the robot,” said Brian Kelly, chief operating officer at Manning Squires Hennig. “The robot then lays out with great accuracy where to place walls, anchor bolts, openings in walls, columns, corners, everything.”

The benefits: It takes less manpower to lay out a site, and it’s done with greater accuracy than humans produce. One person can do a job that usually takes two or three.

“For us, being the size we are, there’s always that sticker shock with new technology,” Kelly said. “But this certainly saves us on survey costs and it certainly saves us some on labor.

“If we invest $30,000 on a unit and it saves us $4,000 per job, then we’ve made that back on seven or eight jobs.”

Time and accuracy are advantages when using GPS systems in paving or heavy equipment operation.

“The GPS will guide you without having to bust out the yellow tape measure every 15 minutes,” said Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

Robots do the heavy lifting

Victor-based Construction Robotics has brought automation to block moving and bricklaying. The MULE (Material Unit Lift Enhancer) can hoist and place materials weighing up to 135 pounds. When used to set cement block in place, workforce fatigue and strain is greatly reduced.

The company also makes the SAM100, a semi-automated mason. The unit works in collaboration with a mason, improving productivity, the firm says, while also reducing strain on the body.

Then there is airborne technology. Christa Construction LLC, like many firms, has been flying a drone on project sites for about five years. The uses continue to expand.

Project manager Andy Bouquin is the licensed pilot and uses the drone to provide a view of a several-acre construction site so updates can be given to the building owner, and also so Christa’s team can appropriately stage the site during the project.

“We also can get a quick 360 of an existing building, including the roof structure,” Mike Seaman, a vice president at Christa, said. “It gives us real-time data.”

So, too, does having blueprints and a majority of project documents available via a digital program. The technology allows for a much more efficient means of communication and, if necessary, updates or alterations, Seaman said.

“Any changes are implemented into the program and they’re automatically uploaded onto the iPad that the field manager has,” he said.

Daily progress reports are completed without strain and entered into the system. “They’re very comprehensive reports,” Seaman said, “and that internal service allows our management team to stay in touch on every project and see what happened that day.”

Preventing accidents

While cost-savings can ultimately be why robots are used, safety is the driving force behind several technological advances, such as wearable personal protective equipment.

Maybe it’s something as basic as wearing a sensor that can alert workers if toxins are in the air. Other devices analyze work schedules and worker activity and then, together with employee feedback, create ways to combat fatigue.

Some technology involves the operation of heavy equipment. With Caterpillar’s Driver Safety System, a monitoring device can sense driver fatigue or distraction and will trigger a rumble-seat warning and/or sound an alarm.

Then there’s the driverless truck for backing into tight or busy places. Rather than pretend to have a 180-degree view of the back of a truck, as well as approaching people or vehicles, the driver exits the cab and operates the truck from the ground.

Why not just install backup cameras? Well, they wouldn’t necessarily detect an oncoming object until it was already in the truck’s path.

“Instead of eyeballing it into a tight space, the driver is a remote control operator of the truck,” Turmail said. “The driver has a better vantage point by being behind the truck.”

Robots can enhance safety with bridge work. Before concrete is poured, the steel rebar must be tied together on the bridge deck. Rather than workers doing the high-wire act, the robot does the work.

“There’s no risk,” Turmail said. “A robot may fall, but it’s just the loss of equipment.”

In areas where a job site is adjacent to a busy roadway, some firms want to warn their employees of vehicular danger, and the alert comes via a wearable vest.

“They set up a series of lasers around the perimeter and if a car comes into your project, it triggers the lasers, which in turn trigger a vibration in the vest for everyone to look up and see what’s happening,” Turmail said.

Wearable technology also increases efficiency, perhaps with something as simple as counting steps.

“They may find their workers are spending 30 minutes a day walking to and from the tool chest and realize, ‘Let’s just move the tool chest closer to the workers,’ ” Turmail said. “In a low-margin business like construction, finding ways to make someone 2 percent more productive is huge.”

The benefits of analytics

Rochester underwent a luxury apartment boom over the past five years. Tower280, the Metropolitan, Sibley Square, 88 on Elm are just a few. There are many more. Plus, the Nathaniel is nearing completion and 625 S. Goodman will open in the spring.

But how much is too much? Is the upscale rental market saturated?

John Clayton, chief analytics officers at Pittsford-based The Verdi Group, Inc., says predictive analytics can provide that answer to developers and contractors before it’s too late.

“It takes out the guesswork,” Clayton said.

“I call it design for tomorrow. You’re taking all that data and designing ahead rather than guessing for tomorrow.”

For those firms investing millions of dollars in the planning and building of apartment communities or housing developments, surety in numbers would seem appealing, he says.

“I am surprised that real estate people and developers aren’t doing it, but they haven’t shifted to the new tools because their decisions haven’t been painful enough.”

Clayton said predictive analytics can certainly be used by homebuilders as well, with the results providing answers like how many houses to build, at what price level and in what geographic area.

The results are based on an analysis of at least three years of data and take into account variables such as employment, weather, mortgage rates, income, the stock market and housing density. Lagging variables such as unemployment also are factored in.

The bottom line, he says: “Predictive analytics allows you to be more exact.”

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Route 531 construction wraps up

joshua-hoehne-1290049-unsplash-asphalt-roadThe second and final phase of the $14 million Route 531 project in Ogden and Sweden has wrapped up, easing the flow of traffic along the redesigned highway.

The project began in 2017 and was intended to create a more efficient and easier-to-navigate junction at Route 531, Route 36 and Route 31. The second phase of the project began in May last year and created a direct connection between Routes 531 and 31 through a newly constructed roadway. The road opened in August.

“Infrastructure investments like the 531 Terminus Project are helping to spur economic development throughout the Finger Lakes Region,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle, D-Rochester.

Additional safety enhancements made as part of the project include the widening of Route 31 from Route 531 to Gallup Road; transforming the previous stretch of Route 31 into a cul-de-sac to provide access to residences north of the new construction; and constructing continuous two-way left turn lanes on Route 31 between Gallup Road and Salmon Creek Road.

“Infrastructure projects are the building blocks of our modern economy and enhance our mission to grow more jobs and attract new investment to Monroe County,” Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said. “Route 531 is a vital thoroughfare that helps thousands of drivers get to work, back home or wherever they may need to go each day.”

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Parkway construction in Hamlin completed

The state Department of Transportation has completed its nearly $6 million rehabilitation of the Lake Ontario State Parkway, following eight months of construction.

Some 7.2 miles of the parkway between Route 19 in Hamlin and Route 237 in Kendall, Orleans County, were repaved and rehabilitated. The work improved rideability and enhanced safety along the four-lane road. The parkway provides access to Hamlin Beach State Park, a major summer tourist attraction.

“Improvements and upgraded pavement quality along this section of the Lake Ontario State Parkway will smooth the way for area travelers for years to come,” Acting DOT Commissioner Paul Karas said in a statement.

The project laid new pavement over the parkway concrete and rehabilitated ramps at several interchanges. It also added new wrong-way signage, pavement markings and striping. Highway shoulders were narrowed from 12 feet to eight feet in width.

“The completion of the Lake Ontario State Parkway road improvement project is great news for our region and the people who use this highway every day,” Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, said. “While we are still a few months away from camping and enjoying the beautiful beaches at Hamlin State Park, these improvements will benefit the thousands of tourists who visit every year. I was pleased to help advocate for these needed repairs and improvements that will improve safety for commuters and pedestrians in the area.”

The stretch of highway west of Route 98 in the Town of Carlton, Orleans County, has closed to traffic until spring. A detour directs drivers to exit at Route 98 and take Route 18 to continue westbound.

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Lake Ontario State Parkway undergoing repairs

bagger-constructing-construction-2489Construction has begun on a $5.2 million paving project in northern Monroe and Orleans counties, the state Department of Transportation said this week.

The project will rehabilitate nearly 30 lane miles of the Lake Ontario State Parkway between Route 19 in Hamlin and Route 237 in Kendall. The project is expected to significantly improve the existing pavement conditions through a multi-course resurfacing in both eastbound and westbound lanes.

Work on the project is beginning nearly a month earlier than anticipated and will minimize the impact on tourism drawn by nearby Hamlin Beach State Park.

“This significant rehabilitation work along Lake Ontario will enhance safety and make it easier for the traveling public to utilize this asset in the summer months and beyond,” said DOT acting commissioner Paul Karas in a statement.

The Parkway will remain open to traffic throughout the construction, with at least one lane of traffic maintained in each direction. Short-term ramp closures will take place during paving of the on and off-ramps at the Route 237, Route 272 and Hamlin Beach interchanges. The ramps will be kept open on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The eastbound ramp at Hamlin Beach State Park will close in early May for roughly a week for concrete repairs to the bridge deck over Yanty Creek.

“I am very pleased to be seeing some progress on this long-standing issue,” Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said. “My hope is that this is just the beginning of a larger effort to restore the Lake Ontario State Parkway to a condition fitting the beautiful, scenic drive along Lake Ontario.”

Work will consist of overlaying the existing deteriorating concrete pavement, the installation of new wrong-way signs, upgraded pavement markings and striping, as well as narrowing the existing shoulder of the Parkway from 12 feet to eight feet in width.

“This scenic byway is crucial to local tourism, travel and recreation as a main artery through Western New York that hosts numerous campers, travelers and fisherman,” said Rep. Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia. “I am proud to be a part of this project’s success, and I look forward to smoother and safer travel in the near future.”

During the paving project, detours will be posted for all ramp closures at Hamlin Beach Park. Work will continue through the end of summer, with a targeted completion date of early fall, officials said.

“I’m excited to see improvements being made to Lake Ontario State Parkway, especially along this stretch,” Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said. “The Parkway improves accessibility in northwestern Monroe County and enhances our efforts to attract and retain jobs here in our community.”

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Work on Interstate 390 in Brighton wraps up after five years

Thursday marked the long-awaited completion of the Access 390 Interchange 16 project, a $70 million construction endeavor that began five years ago and included the addition of three off-ramps and a bridge.

The investment supported a series of five projects aimed at modernizing Interstate 390 interchanges at Route 15 and 15A in Brighton while improving travel between the interstate and busy adjacent roadways.

“To ensure safe travel for all motorists, New York continues to invest in infrastructure upgrades across the state to rebuild roads and bridges better than ever before,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “By improving Rochester’s highway system, New York is better connecting residents with businesses, easing commutes for travelers and making it safer and easier for everyone to get to where they want to go.”

The improvements have enhanced access to the University of Rochester, Eastman Business Park and Rochester Technology Park. The final phase of the project includes off-ramps from I-390 north, construction of a bridge and full replacement of another bridge, as well as the rehabilitation of a third bridge to significantly improve their overall condition.

“I-390 is an important commuter route for so many Monroe County residents, providing access to many of our area’s largest employers, universities and colleges, health care facilities and retail corridors,” said Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece. “This investment will improve driving safety for residents and visitors of Monroe County while upgrading our region’s transportation infrastructure.”

The Route 15A bridge spanning the Erie Canal includes vertical elements with decorative spheres that tie into bookend pylons at each corner of the structure. The pylons feature transportation images that serve to promote the many forms of transportation that state corridors accommodate.

“The completion of the Access 390 Interchange project marks a major milestone for our community and signals our continued commitment to supporting the infrastructure needs of the region. By continuing to make critical investments in our infrastructure we are laying the groundwork for major development projects that will bolster job growth and strengthen our local economy,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle. “I am grateful to Gov. Cuomo and all of our local partners for their continued commitment to ensuring the economic success of the Finger Lakes region.”

The Access 390 series of projects eases congestion for motorists at several intersections, including a new, modern roundabout at East River Road and Kendrick Road. It also improved pavement conditions in the area, improved the condition of five bridges and upgraded other infrastructure elements.

“In addition to improving the experience of motorists who travel though the area, the project is generating much-needed growth and opportunity in one of Rochester’s most important commercial districts and employment centers, including the University of Rochester Medical Center and River Campus, College Town and the CityGate development,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said. “I am grateful for the investments Gov. Cuomo and his team are making in Rochester, which boost our efforts to create more jobs, safer more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”

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Spectra at Sibley Square joins thriving downtown rental landscape

Spectra at Sibley Square is now leasing studio, one-, two- and even some three-bedroom luxury apartments, with monthly rent ranging from $1,400 to $2,690. (Courtesy of Tipping Point Communications)
Spectra at Sibley Square is now leasing studio, one-, two- and even some three-bedroom luxury apartments, with monthly rent ranging from $1,400 to $2,690. (Courtesy of Tipping Point Communications)

For the better part of two decades, all that remained of the landmark Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Co. building in downtown Rochester were memories and dust.

Maybe more dust than memories, too.

Plaster was crumbling off the walls. Windows on the 12-story tower along Franklin Street were broken. There were cobwebs. There was tattered tile. There were water stains on the ceiling.

But mostly there was just an aging building with an iconic past and a tarnished present.

Then along came WinnDevelopment, the real-estate advancement branch of Boston-based WinnCompanies.

The firm launched what has become a $200 million renovation to create Sibley Square, the cornerstone of which will be 104 luxury apartments on floors nine through 12, and another 72 senior/mixed-income apartments on the seventh and eighth floors.

One of the bedrooms in a two-bedroom apartment at Spectra at Sibley Square. (Courtesy of Tipping Point Communications)
One of the bedrooms in a two-bedroom apartment at Spectra at Sibley Square. (Courtesy of Tipping Point Communications)

Spectra at Sibley Square is now leasing studio, one-, two- and even some three-bedroom luxury apartments, with monthly rent ranging from $1,400 to $2,690.

If you think that might be a little pricey for Rochester, the cost is actually in line with the recent surge of upscale downtown apartments.

The range at Tower 280 at Midtown, a joint venture of Buckingham Properties and Morgan Management, is between $1,641 and $2,928, according to the building website. At 88 on Elm, a DHD Ventures renovation, rent runs from $1,500 to $3,300.

And for the most part, leasing agents are filling vacancies, whether it’s at The Temple Building at 14 Franklin St. or Charlotte Square at 50 Charlotte St. off East Avenue. Vacancies for downtown apartments: 2.1 percent. The norm is 5 percent, said Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp. (RDDC).

“They’re relatively high priced for this market, yet they fill up fast,” Zimmer-Meyer said. “Every project that has hit the market has leased up faster than the developer’s expectations.”

So far, that has been the case for Spectra at Sibley Square.

“Before we even had a model unit available, we had a handful of signed leases,” said Dave Ginsberg, the Sibley project director for WinnDevelopment. ”There’s a renaissance to the downtown/urban living style.

“And every person I’ve run into or talked to from Rochester has some historical tie or familial tie to the Sibley Building. It’s an icon in the city.”

Why the desire to rent in the heart of the city? It’s been a trend in the country for nearly a decade, albeit perhaps a slowing one in major metropolitan markets like Boston, Seattle and Denver. But it still has traction in smaller cities like Rochester and Rapid City, S.D.

“It’s happening in Syracuse, it’s happening in Buffalo, it’s happening in Toledo, it’s happening in Columbus. It’s happening in all these mid-sized cities,” Zimmer-Meyer said. ”Part of it, we think, is driven by pop culture.”

Television shows such as “Seinfeld,” “Sex in the City” and “Friends” made it “cool” to live in the heart of downtown, she said.

Since 2000, 48 downtown buildings in Rochester have been converted to residential space, according to the RDDC. Since 2014, about 1.65 million square feet of office space has turned into housing, and 96 percent is rental property.

The bathroom in a two-bedroom apartment at Spectra at Sibley Square. (Courtesy of Tipping Point Communications)
The bathroom in a two-bedroom apartment at Spectra at Sibley Square. (Courtesy of Tipping Point Communications)

Millennials make up a strong percentage of the renters. They enjoy the city life, and many don’t want a 20-minute drive to work. That in turn drives start-up companies downtown. The sixth floor of Sibley Square will house High Tech Rochester.

Millennials aren’t chasing the dream of the Cape Cod or ranch in the suburbs “with the big yard and the white picket fence,” Zimmer-Meyer said. They’re happy to walk to work. Or bike to work. Or take the bus to work.

“The whole generation has a different view about the world in general,” she said. “The bike-riding, bus-riding quotient is significantly higher with this generation.

“And it’s impacting the location of innovation startups and expansions.”

But 35-and-unders aren’t the only ones doing the leasing. So, too, are folks at the other end of the spectrum.

“We’re seeing a lot of older and wealthier retirees, or mid-income executives,” she said. “It doesn’t mean the suburbs are emptying out, but it’s not how it was in the time period of 1945 to 2000.”

Tom Pomidoro and Cathe MacInnes moved into Spectra and Sibley Square in October. Their house on Gibbs Street was just too big. He’s 70 and recently retired. She’s 65 and still working.

“We had four stories and 48 stairs,” Pomidoro said. “When somebody was on the fourth floor, you wouldn’t know they were home. But we liked living in this area and we didn’t want to leave the area.”

Pomidoro said the renovated Sibley building was perfect.

“We’ve been living down here 12 years, and 12 years ago there was nothing,” he said. “I like what they did to the building. It’s a beautiful location and it’s not much different than living in a house except it’s a big building. For the apartment we got, we consider it to be the most reasonable value for our money.”

The kitchen in a two-bedroom apartment at Spectra at Sibley Square. (Courtesy of Tipping Point Communications)
The kitchen in a two-bedroom apartment at Spectra at Sibley Square. (Courtesy of Tipping Point Communications)

Spectra at Sibley Square combines the nostalgia of the Sibley Building with immaculate living space.

“The blend of history with absolutely modern amenities is what’s so attractive,” Ginsberg said. “The fixtures and the cabinetry together with the historic beautiful windows and the historic façade of the building—it’s a unique intersection of those qualities.”

WinnDevelopment is active in reclamation projects. The company renovated a 112-year-old Fitchburg (Mass.) Yarn Mill into a 105-unit property that opened in the spring. The Philip Livingston Magnet Academy building was used by the Albany city school district from 1932 until 2010. It’s now home to 103 rental units.

“Historic adaptive reuse,” the company calls it.

The Sibley Building is on the National Register of Historic Places. As such, the construction crew couldn’t just gut the building and create from within. Much of the original look needed to be preserved. For instance, the windows, some 2,800 of them, were required to match the original specs. And before the project could proceed, the New York State Historic Preservation Office needed to give its blessing on design/framework of the refurbished windows.

“There are very strict guidelines to adhere to,” Ginsberg said.

He’s quite proud of what is nearly a finished product.

“We’ve done projects up and down the east coast,” he said, “and this is the shining star/best example of our projects.”

The first tenants arrived in late September. Ginsberg said they’re essentially opening a floor a month, with completion of the residential floors set for sometime in the winter.

A food hall and farmer’s market are still in the design stages. So, too, is an outdoor dog park.

“The more people that move in,” Zimmer-Meyer said of the downtown upscale living projects, “the more people that want to move in.”

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These designs have made Rochester what it is since 1980

Great designs speak for themselves. Yet certain projects have a much wider and more significant impact, leading to “bigger and better” things. Famous examples from around the country include Camden Yards in Baltimore and the High Line in New York City. Projects like these have their own design integrity, but they also go beyond it to shape and define the character of their regions.

Here in our area, we have a number of parallel examples: designed structures and spaces that stand out as linchpins for our region. Taken together, they form a “Who’s Who” of community quality.

Prior to the 1980s, a number of projects transitioned what we think of as Rochester from its original foundational landmarks into a more modern era. These included buildings like Midtown Plaza and Xerox Tower in the ’60s, and the New City Hall in the ’70s. More recently, additional waves of design have yielded big changes.

Considering factors like visibility, uniqueness, catalyzing influence and community character, here is my Top 10 list of “Big Impact” projects constructed after 1980:

10. UR College Town

For years, the Town House Motor Inn anchored the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Mt. Hope Boulevard. With its recent removal, the suburban layout with large expanses of parking fronting major streets, gave way to a truly urban plan—one that transformed the Mt. Hope corridor, allowing existing businesses to front a new, more vibrant streetscape. It created a new neighborhood and established an eastern “front door” to our region’s largest institution.

9. Village Gate

Gary Stern’s vision of an arts-focused venue initially occupied an assemblage of industrial structures on North Goodman Street. Established in 1981, its unself-conscious urban interior is vast and playful. It has since grown in both occupancy and stature. Over the years, this has been a steadfast anchor in the burgeoning Neighborhood of the Arts, allowing surrounding venues to find their way to success. Today, Village Gate is home to independent shops, a variety of successful restaurants, salons, offices and loft residences—a truly unique environment.

8. Frontier Field

Back in the 1990s, where to locate a new community sports stadium was one of the region’s hottest topics. The decision to locate the stadium just outside the Inner Loop adjacent to Kodak Tower proved to be a winner. Opened in 1996, this design brought Rochester into the present, creating a successful replacement of a treasured community resource. The facility plan incorporated features unique to the site; the rail line visible on the embankment above the outfield fence, the city skyline as a dramatic backdrop and an existing historic structure.

7. Pittsford Community Library

Sometimes it is not outward impact that causes a project to stand out but instead, skillfully fulfilling a community-wide need as well. Constructed in 1997, this public library is a big building in a modestly scaled historically sensitive village; a difficult thing to design successfully, but this one does it. This is an example of a project that provided a central community gathering space for both village and town while managing to “fit in” with its neighbors.

6. Memorial Art Gallery Sculpture Park

Not so long ago, elegant wrought iron fences and gates defined the MAG’s site boundaries. It appeared more like a private precinct than the welcoming community site it is today. The museum’s decision to open up its grounds by creating a fully accessible, creatively landscaped and engaging sculpture park has changed the entire feel of its surroundings.

5. Public Safety Building

Before the 1990s, Rochester’s Civic Center Complex on Exchange Boulevard was regularly ranked as the region’s bleakest public space. The new building, which houses the city’s police and fire administrations, is a strikingly modern design statement. A symbol of then-Mayor Bill Johnson’s desire to express transparent open government, the Public Safety Building managed to cause the remaining utilitarian complex to recede into the background.

4. Eastman Place

This modern building, designed by architect Bob Macon, created both indoor and outdoor public space immediately adjacent to the historic Eastman Theatre. Its concave glass façade created an urban park immediately opposite the richly detailed, sweeping convex façade of the theater. With the more recent Kodak Hall renovations and additions, the “theater district” is an anchoring venue with a multifaceted neighborhood feel—a natural to host community events such as the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

3. The Strong

Having established itself in an out-of-the-way area of the central city that had yet to develop, the design of the Strong Museum has evolved to be like nothing else in our region. Opened to the public in 1982, it has since expanded twice. This nationally recognized institution has spurred infill growth that has consolidated as a unique part of the city. Recent nearby investments include ESL’s Corporate Headquarters to the west, the restoration of Manhattan Square Park, now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, to the north and the Inner Loop project to the east and south.

2. Midtown

When Midtown first opened in 1962, it became the heart of Rochester’s downtown experience. Fifty years later, after the waning of commercial space resulted in its demolition, a new urban district has emerged. In the newly designed public park and urban plan there remain echoes of the past vibrant venue in the street patterns that were Midtown Mall’s pedestrian concourses and in the three structures that remain: Midtown Underground Parking, the Seneca Building (occupied by Windstream) and Tower 280 (the former Midtown Tower). The investment has paid big dividends with unprecedented reinvestment in the existing surrounding buildings.

1. Geva Theatre Center

Before Bausch & Lomb Tower and the Frontier Building arrived on the scene to bolster the Washington Square Park district of the city, there was Geva. After a transformative renovation in 1985, the former Naval Armory and Convention Hall—originally constructed over 100 years earlier—became the home of Rochester’s most recognized community theater. This key project cemented a grouping of quality historic structures that included St. Mary’s and First Universalist churches, as well as paved the way for projects of larger size. The theater now stands as a revitalized sentinel, marking the southern vehicular gateway to the Center City.

Taken together, these projects represent designs that resonate, reshaping the character of our community. It may prove beneficial to keep them in mind as time marches on and more projects with “big impact” potential continue to emerge.

Jim Durfee is vice president and design principal at Bergmann Associates. An architect and past president of American Institute of Architects-Rochester, he can be reached at (585) 232-5135 or at [email protected].

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