Back to Main Street

Back to Main Street

This article was scraped from Rochester Subway. This is a blog about Rochester history and urbanism has not been published since 2017. The current owners are now publishing link spam which made me want to preserve this history.. The original article was published September 28, 2012 and can be found here.

Main Street Rochester. c.1908 [PHOTO: Albert R. Stone Collection]

   The image above was printed in the Rochester Herald on October 10, 1908. This was Main Street looking east from the Four Corners on a busy day in October. The sidewalks are thronged with pedestrians. Several traffic police are standing at various spots in the intersection. A cluster of westbound trolleys, one labeled "Plymouth" and the other "Saratoga", have stopped in their tracks. A few people are waiting to board, and others are crossing the street in front of the stopped cars. Several wagons, some covered, are traveling along the street. But then the trolley tracks were ripped up...

Main Street Rochester. c.1955-1960 [PHOTO: Vintage Postcard Collection]

   Smooth shiny asphalt went down and it stretched all the way out towards gleaming new suburbs. And so went the people. Allow traffic to flow freely and uninhibited, they said. Remove these dirty old buildings and make room for     parking    ! Replace these store fronts with glass towers! All of this, they said, would revitalize our downtown.

Main Street Rochester. 2012 [PHOTO:]

   Today we sit around and reminisce. And we ask ourselves, 'where have all the people gone?' This is surely a comedy. Oh well. We might as well have a good laugh at ourselves. Stop me if you've heard this one before...

"Hey man, remember when these streets
   used to be filled with people?"

"Aw you said it bro. Traffic sucked."

HAA Ha Ha Ha... heh heh... uhhh. WAAA WAAA WAAAAAH!

Ok, let's get serious for a moment. If we want to repopulate our city, we're going to have make the kinds of public investments that we made during the 20th century, only in reverse. An article in the USA Today reminds us that while our many     downtowns are enjoying robust population growth

external link

, it has not come on its own:    Government incentives such as giving land away to encourage redevelopment lured investors. At the same time, the Millennial generation of young professionals and empty-nester Baby Boomers created powerful marketing demand for housing in urban neighborhoods where they could walk to work or entertainment. In cities such as Salt Lake City, new rail lines created pockets of development around transit stops.

"People recognize the lower cost of living near things" says Ilana Preuss, vice president and chief of staff at Smart Growth America. Let's wake up Rochester. The time to capitalize on this emerging market is NOW.

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA