Rochester does incremental urbanism, fills in downtown without “maxing out” zoning

empire-theatre-main-and-clinton-1900From Rochester Subway writer Irene Allen: “I was thinking about our collective reactions 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.

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

“Well, now we are starting over with empty lots [and small parking lots] in much of downtown.  Is it realistic to expect these to go from empty lot to 5-story ‘downtown-worthy building’ in one iteration?  Maybe we need to accept that, for many of these infill lots, that isn’t what any developer can justify building.  Maybe we need to embrace Incremental Urbanism 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 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.”  Original post here.

5 Responses to “Rochester does incremental urbanism, fills in downtown without “maxing out” zoning”


  1. 1 cyobball December 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Ya Rochester that’s my home city!

  2. 2 townhousecenter December 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    go hometown pride! do you hear about other urban infill things that Rochester is doing right? let me know

  3. 3 cyobball January 13, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Sorry I’m so late to respond. Rochesterians have an unusual amount of pride in their city’s history. There are so many people living in the suburbs that want to see the city succeed again and I am certainly one of them. There are lots of good mid-density projects going on in the city. N. Plymouth Terrace (you actually posted about this development) looks great now. There is the new Windsor Gate town homes (also in downtown) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Windsor-Gate-Townhomes-Rochester-NY/385853634800668?fref=ts . Overall there is an obvious shortage of townhouses in the city. You would be interested in the Inner Loop project. I would definitely recommend googling “Inner loop Rochester”. There is lots of stuff on it, and it’s all about connecting a thriving urban neighborhoods to the city’s downtown core.

    P.S. I love this blog. Great job!

  4. 4 townhousecenter January 13, 2014 at 8:42 am

    plymouth and windsor look like great projects, maybe one of the developers could write a guest post. also the inner loop project looks fantastic — turning a sunken highway into an at-grade boulevard — but a boulevard is only as good as the buildings that line it. start re-zoning now for small scale (eg no required parking) and adaptability, but don’t over-regulate.

  5. 5 cyobball January 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Pedestrian friendliness is a primary focus of the project. Check out this utopian model of it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_OUDeKR5FM


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