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Links of the Day (Downtown Edition):

– The Midtown Plaza demolition appears to be complete, a year and a half after it started. Construction will start soon on the former Seneca Building, where Windstream will go. The city hopes to rehab the tower, but that’s a $72 million project that has yet to secure financing. There are several parcels that remain to be sold.

The mayor has said the city has the luxury of time, as infrastructure work needs to be done. But I can’t imagine this doesn’t weigh heavily on City Hall.

– The Buffalo Convention Center is losing business because it’s on a strip with vacant storefronts and condition of Main Street is poor. Buffalo Rising suggests tearing the whole thing down:

If Buffalo wants to compete in this market, it needs to think smarter.  It needs to do something far outside the box.  My suggestion would be to tear down the convention center and don’t replace it.

(snip)

Buffalo already has countless large, underutilized spaces that would provide a unique alternative to the typical convention center and provide more than enough space.

Buffalo already has a giant problem with vacant buildings and lots, so destroying things doesn’t seem to be a good idea. However, after reading about the rejection of Buffalo’s Main Street for conventions, one has to wonder if Rochester’s convention business has suffered.

A large hunk of Rochester’s Main Street is pretty deplorable right now.

– Speaking of tearing things down, Syracuse is considering removing some downtown buildings. A Post-Standard columnist suggests making them a parking lot:

If we demolish these unfortunate wastes of perfectly good concrete, we’ll create much needed parking space for office workers, downtown dwellers and visitors.

This goes against smart urban planning on so many levels. Parking in downtowns is needed, but should be underground or in garages. When you create wide open parking lots, you’re discouraging density and taking up developable space. Besides, they’re freakin’ ugly.

Rochester is building on its downtown parking lots. A townhouse complex is going up at W. Main and Plymouth. The U of R has plans for Block F. There are other lots in development.

This column, written a couple years ago, is a rebuttal to the idea the Syracuse buildings should be torn down for parking.

– Expressways through downtowns should be called “expenseways.” They decrease the values of adjacent properties. There’s now a movement to remove some urban freeways, including Rochester’s Inner Loop and Syracuse’s I-81.

5 Responses to Tearing Things Down

  1. March 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm ben C. responds:

    OK, here we go again, touching the 3rd rails of ROC downtown:

    1. The Hyatt will offer rides to its room bound customers to Water St. and placed like the Eastman House because so many of them go out the front door, look to the left, then the right, go back in and ask what’s up with the desolation.

    2. Doormen and wait staff at the other 2 hotel will advise their customers to use the Main St. bridge to cross the river, not the more convenient Sister Cities ped bridge.

    3. The Con Center has a reputation for being “too small for the big ones and too big for the small ones” not to mention the4 awful truck off-loading problem that has plagued the place since its birth.

    4. Urban Renewal in the ’60’s opened up the River to great acclamation. That created an unfriendly pedetrian walkway, especially in cold, high-winds, and severed a natural flow of pedestrian traffic from east to west in downtown. This problem was once addressed with free shuttle rides on the busses to no avail. Visitors notice this quite a bit when on Main St.

    5. Urban Renewal allowed many-long walled or setback facades, often as part of super block commercial compounds which discourage non-authorized visitation of strangers and are very pedestrian unfriendly ala Jane Jacobs “eyes on the street.”

    6. ala Toronto, which of course has mass transit and a much more dense and cosmopolitan society than ROC, forced past developers to put pedestrian-friendly street level retail uses in high-rises and Malls like the old Eaton Center on Young. It too was uneconomical there but they demanded that the developers recoup their cost with addon rent to the above tenants.

    The ROC penchant for walled-off street facades with secuity guarded central doorways has a lot to do with not wanting to look at or associate with the folks on the street.

    Anyone remember the Mill (old Edwards) and the reno of it as a Blue Cross HG, with the long concrete palnter wall and tiny entrance facing the secuirty guard station? And, where was the bus stop on that block face?

    Actually, all the damage urban renewal did mid-century will take 10x’s or more the dollars to fix today. Sorry about that.

  2. March 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm Eduardo Ricardo responds:

    The luxury of time?!

    Q: Who in this world has the luxury of time?

    A:: NOBODY! Even if they did, they’d charge you for it.

  3. It’s an honor to have my Syracuse Op-Ed linked in your post! And Buffalo Rising is always good for great content on urban planning and community development issues — from both authors and commenters (I’ve been both).

    About urban expressways, Buffalo Rising has a recent series about the planning underway to “downgrade” the Scajaquada Expressway, which runs through Delaware Park (a highway through an Olmsted Park — great idea, right?), into a boulevard or parkway. The planning is being done by Rochester’s Bergmann and Associates OBO NYSDOT. As you can see in the links below, the current planning is almost universally panned, although in defense of Bergmann and their team lead, the great Mark McAnany (with whom I worked on the original ARTWalk) their work is constrained by the scope and options allowed by NYSDOT.

    http://www.buffalorising.com/2012/02/lets-cross-that-bridge-now.html

    http://www.buffalorising.com/2012/02/s-curves-downgrading-the-scajaquada-expressway.html

    http://www.buffalorising.com/2012/02/albright-bechs-downgrading-the-scajaquada-expressway.html

    http://www.buffalorising.com/2012/02/grant-street-downgrading-the-scajaquada-expressway.html

  4. March 5, 2012 at 1:27 am Nicholas Tyler Miller responds:

    Thank you for linking to my bit of commentary over at BRO.

    I’m not normally a fan of vacant downtown lots either, but the convention center is out-dated, small, a blight on the environment, and redundant. With Buffalo’s grand hotel ballrooms being restored back to their former grandeur, and an abundance of underutilized spaces like AM&A’s, not to mention new hotels (which will surely include meeting space) coming online and a plethora of large civic spaces throughout the city, I see no future for Buffalo’s convention center. It also cuts off one of Buffalo’s grand radial streets while fronting Pearl St with blank concrete walls, which to me are more grievous urban planning errors than the vacant lot that would replace it. It’s site would make a pleasant park in the short-term and I imagine private interests would quickly fill any voids in exhibition space.

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