Toilet Paper and Rochester's Center City Master Plan

Toilet Paper and Rochester's Center City Master Plan

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 January 17, 2013 and can be found here.

Rochester aims to update its Center City Master Plan. It was last updated in 2003.

   Last night the City of Rochester held the first of two informational/public input sessions for the new     Center City Master Plan

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. This meeting was primarily intended for residents of downtown, although many people who work or live outside the inner loop also gave input.

I listened for about an hour as many great ideas were put on the table... "Plant trees down the middle of Main Street to make it nicer for pedestrians." "Make people feel safer about walking downtown." "Stop demolishing older and historic buildings."

Then one resident announced, "Sometimes I go to the bathroom and I need toilet paper, but the only place to find toilet paper is Wegmans or Tops which are too far to walk to." So, simply put, downtown could use more retailers and small grocers - for life's little necessities (i.e. T.P.). Brilliant!

Why is MOBILITY so far down the list of objectives?

   Now can somebody please explain something to me... On the meeting handout entitled "Center City Objectives," why is MOBILITY way down the list at #7 - right behind enhancing and expanding public spaces? Before I can enjoy all those beautiful public spaces, don't I need to GET THERE first? Oh, sure, I could drive there. Duh.

Here's the deal; downtown Rochester has an identity crisis. We want it to be a "real city," with shop-lined streets and people-jammed sidewalks. We ask it to be urban. But at the same time we also ask it to be drivable, and SUB-urban. Let's look at the facts:

Big box stores like this new Wegmans on East Avenue push out smaller grocers for miles around. [PHOTO:]

   To entice businesses to locate jobs downtown we allow     historic buildings

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to become parking lots.

To make people "feel safe" we spend millions to move all the RTS buses (and "those transit people") off Main Street.

To give people access to the little stuff, like toilet paper, we practically beg Wegman's to build one of the largest single big-box stores any city anywhere has ever seen.

And after all this, downtown residents still cannot get to the toilet paper?!

More than half of what could be developable land in downtown Rochester is currently locked up under parking lots. [IMAGE:]

   Rochester has tried to make peace with the automobile. Yet businesses are still     moving employees out of downtown

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because, they say, parking is difficult to find. And people still feel unsafe walking more than a few blocks downtown because vast expanses of parking lots (and garages) create     dead zones    where even the homeless don't dare roam. And even if we could convince a developer to put a shovel in the ground, sixty-percent of our downtown surface area is undevelopable because it might mean     parking spaces    would be lost.

Before any master plan can begin to help Rochester, Rochester needs to decide what it wants to be. We can be urban. Or we can be sub-urban. We cannot be both at the same time. And we cannot weave a walker's paradise through a maze of parking lots.

Okay, good. So we've decided to be urban. Next, we must deal with MOBILITY. Surprisingly, much of the thinking has already been laid out for us in dozens of previous studies, plans and reports...

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and to entice more people to come downtown - without a car.

  • Let's move faster on that      Bike Master Plan     . Finish connecting all those broken bike routes. And let's get a bike sharing system on the ground, NOW.
  • Let's take the      Circulator Study     off the back burner and let's give people a way to move across downtown free-ly and quickly - without a car.
  • And for Pete's sake... let's enforce all the stuff about "walkability" and "designing streets for pedestrians" that we put in the      LAST Center City Master Plan
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ten years ago!

You may be asking yourself, "How will we ever afford all of these dreamy things like bikes and circulators and good urban design?" And to that I ask, how will we ever afford more of the same old same old? Our downtown is dying for some toilet paper!

Get Involved:

Attend the next public input session:
    DATE:    Wednesday, Jan. 23
    TIME:    5:30- 7 p.m.
    LOCATION:    City Council Chambers, City Hall, 30 Church St.

And send your suggestions to:
     [email protected]

Center City Master Plan
   Bureau of Planning and Zoning
   City Hall Room 125B
   30 Church Street
   Rochester, NY 14614

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA