Midtown Plaza and Baby Steps Back to Urbanism

Midtown Plaza and Baby Steps Back to Urbanism

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 November 06, 2013 and can be found here.

New Democrat and Chronicle building at corner of Main and Clinton.

     The following is a guest post submitted by       Irene Allen      .
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I was thinking about our collective     reactions

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to the proposed D&C building, and the completed Windstream building. Clearly both buildings are more modest than what many of us hoped to see in this key downtown site (and what the zoning code spells out for downtown). It's an issue that I think applies to all infill development downtown, and the ideas behind Incremental Urbanism shed some interesting light on it.

Empire Theatre at Main and Clinton, 1900. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]

   If we look at old photos of Rochester in the early-mid 1900s, we see a mature streetscape, quality materials and design, with many buildings at least 5 stories tall. And of course we want to get back to that.

Clinton Avenue looking north toward Main Street, 1910. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]

   But we have to consider that the streets and lots of downtown actually got laid out in the early-mid 1800s (source: Wikipedia), it took a hundred years of incremental development to get from empty lots to those "downtown-worthy" buildings we see in old photos.

Map of Rochester streets (1888) where Midtown is today.

   Well, now we are starting over with empty lots in much of downtown - the Midtown site, small parking lots all over the place, and the lots that will be created by filling the Inner Loop. Is it realistic to expect these to go from empty lot to 5-story "downtown-worthy building" in one iteration?

New Windstream building at Midtown.

Maybe we need to accept that, for many of these infill lots, that isn't what any developer can justify building - even with tax breaks and other financial incentives. Maybe we need to embrace     Incremental Urbanism

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and its inherent messiness and look at proposals as "does it move us in the right direction" rather than "is it the desired end-state".

By the way, I am NOT advocating tossing out or totally ignoring the city's code, or building throwaway crap that we'll tear down in 20 years. But perhaps accepting more modest infill is ok, as long as it moves us toward walkable mixed use.

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About Irene Allen:

Irene Allen is a new city resident who recently moved from the suburbs. She is very much enjoying her new urban lifestyle at     Erie Harbor    .

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA