Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Two Big Projects Taking Shape

At the end of today’s Preservation Issues Committee meeting, one participant commented, “that was a meaty meeting!”

It was indeed. We discussed two very large projects that have the potential to significantly reshape key areas in our region.

One of the two is a project called CityGate, where a developer proposes to demolish a complex of nine National Register-eligible buildings and redevelop the site as a mixed-use complex. This property is at the southeast corner of Westfall and East Henrietta roads, and was formerly the Iola campus, a tuberculosis sanitarium developed between 1911-1931. The complex has been determined eligible for the National Register due to its architecture (representing early-20th century institutional architecture; the work of German-trained architect Siegmund Firestone plus three notable Rochester architects) and for its social history, as a public health facility.

The site has very few neighbors, and thus far, there has been very little public interest in the project and few public comments. The Landmark Society is one of the few parties to have commented in the past, and we are currently working on our comments on the current iteration of the design. I would like to very strongly encourage anyone with an interest in urban design, historic preservation, planning, sustainability, adaptive reuse, etc., to take a look at what is proposed for the site and submit your comments. To do so, go to this site and click the link for the CityGate Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement. It’s a big file and may take a long time to download; hang in there!

The majority of today’s meeting was devoted to a detailed presentation by Mark Tayrien of LaBella Associates and Dorraine Laudisi of the City of Rochester regarding the Midtown project, focusing on the City’s vision for the site, the process of making decisions regarding the historic buildings (the State Historic Preservation Office has determined that the entire Midtown site is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places), and the procedure for public input.

We were pleased that our committee was the first audience for the city’s brand-new outreach presentation that will be presented to a series of audiences as the city seeks broad public input on this very significant downtown project. We have a small team reviewing the planning documents in detail and preparing official Landmark Society comments. I also encourage everyone interested in the future of downtown Rochester to review and comment; the relevant documents are located here. There are quite a few documents posted; go first to the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, dated November 10. You might also want to look at specific appendices, notably Appendix G, which deals with historic issues. It was clear from the presentation, and from the DGEIS, that some big decisions regarding the future of the site are not yet set in stone and the time is ripe for public input.

Comments on both projects should be submitted to Dorraine Laudisi at the city of Rochester (Dorraine.Laudisi AT; please send us a copy! Dorraine told us today that the City is very eager to receive and incorporate comments from the public, particularly from people with expertise in planning, design, and historic preservation. She and her colleagues really rely on these comments to help guide the City’s decision-making, and to help them steer the developers toward the best possible outcomes.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator