• The Rochesterian in Your Inbox:

    Join 643 other subscribers

Erie Harbor, Photographer: Tom Belknap


Rochester has its fair share of uninspired and just plain ugly public housing projects. Manhattan Square is a prime example, consisting of gray concrete boxes jutting into the skyline.

Manhattan Square

The old prison-like River Park Commons along the river was the ugliest of them all. It was replaced by the more modern and colorful Erie Harbor development.

A lot of people don’t like Erie Harbor or the paint job on the high rise next door, The Hamilton. They think it’s out of place, Disney-like, too futuristic and just plain weird.

Stamford, Conn.

It turns out, Erie Harbor is part of a new trend in funky public housing and mixed income apartments. The Urban Land Institute found a bunch of similarly-designed complexes.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

I like this trend. People deserve to live in attractive buildings and their neighbors deserve to look at attractive buildings. It’s a win-win!

I hope we see more of this kind of thinking in Rochester. Let’s start thinking about what colors we want to see Manhattan Square painted.

12 Responses to Funky Public Housing

  1. March 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm Melissa Chinnock responds:

    I wasn’t sure what to think about the new Erie Harbor buildings when I first saw the plans, but now that they are up I think they look really great! It’s important to have architecturally interesting (and attractive) buildings in our city, especially given that these apartments are directly across the river from the upscale Corn Hill Landing apartments.

  2. March 15, 2012 at 4:13 pm Lynette responds:

    haven’t seen all the new bldgs up close & personal…but My God…the Hamilton is an eyesore & whoever designed it needs a punch in the head!

  3. Seriously… Any color would be better… 🙂

  4. March 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm Lynn E responds:

    People are still making public housing ugly. The color is no improvement.

  5. There are many reasons why subsidized housing on urban renewal parcels belong in and will be remembered as the “urban disturbin era” in architecture.

    First, many highrises like the ones found in Manhattan Sq. (old Southest Loop Urban Renewal Project) were built by the State Urban Developement Corp. in a deal with the city so that they could get the subsidies from state and local governmentsw and fast track the construction to meet project timelines re the Federal project goals. The UDC, as a state agency, did not have to follow local building codes, but rather used the state building codes. The UDC also folded the cost of design into the overall project cost as part of the subsidized finance package AND charged a hefty administration fee to the project for their management services which helped defray direct budgetary line support by the State of New York.

    The UDC also had fairly strict per unit upset costs as part of its financial structure feasibility. It also dabbled with “innovative” construction materials and practices as part of its charge given it by the state. The 3 apt. buildings in SE Loop were partly prefabbed off-site and inserted into a frame.

    As a result of all of the above, especially the unit cost caps, what we got was grey cast concrete-walled facades with lowest R-factor windows and no asthetics to speak of. This was true even for the market rate building at the Loop.

    The Riverfront project along the Mt. Hope also had to be changed to meet budget limitations. Originaly it was supposed to have modular townhouses set on a SW 30 degree angle to the river with goodly space between the modules. To save money, they ended-up in a contiguous line parallel to the river and became affectionately known as The Berlin Wall.

    The units violated the local height requirements for multi-family construction by putting i/2 story of living space below grade which wasn’t counted in the height requirements but did eliminate the need under state code for fire escapes or other second means of egress for each apt.

    Then there’s the Pines of Perinton flat rooves, St. Simon Sq. with it’s salt box grey panel siding, English Village with its compromise runged section ladder going out the bedrooms, etc., etc., etc.

    Slowly, these complexes will be torn down before their time. I don’t think they’ll ever be puting pics of any of it on postcards 100 years from now.

    PS: I hope the shoddy masonry work along the river walk adjacent to Corn Hill Landing holds up. I understand it was put in under the developers contract to save the city money. Check it out some day. They’re already patching it a bit as it’s spalling a lot. But then concrete isn’t what it used to be, either.

  6. March 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm Eduardo Ricardo responds:


  7. I agree completely!! They are new and bold, better than boring old concrete barracks! I work on South Ave, and take frequent walks in the neighborhood, and find the new housing stylish & attractive.

  8. March 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm Zack Seward responds:

    Hate to break it to you but Erie Harbor is overwhelmingly market rate: http://www.liveaterieharbor.com/pricing/

    • March 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm Rachel responds:

      I’m aware of that. It’s supposed to be mixed income, as it is replacing federal housing. It’s not a “public housing project” in the traditional sense.

      I also find the Mills at High Falls extremely pricey for a project that’s supposed to be mixed income. The rates for income-eligible apartments are more than I pay!

      Probably a subject that warrants further scrutiny.

      • March 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm Zack Seward responds:

        Agreed. If I remember correctly Erie Harbor is 80/20 market-rate/subsidized.

        And don’t forget Southview Towers in the Wedge. That badly needs color too!

  9. July 16, 2012 at 9:14 pm Jim Mayer responds:

    My wife and I live in a 3 bedroom townhouse at Erie Harbor and I think that it’s a real mistake to characterize the development as “a replacement” for the old River Park Commons. I think that Erie Harbor, and other similar developments, are best thought of as part of a nationwide trend for professionals to move back into the urban core. We didn’t sell our house in Brighton and move here to save money; we moved here because the location rocks and we love the lifestyle. We have three stories of amazing views of the river and the City skyline. We live in the South Wedge, which is a friendly, fun, neighborhood, and are an easy walk from Corn Hill, the East End, downtown, and the University. We actually got to use our club passes at the Jazz Festival… we walked there nearly every day. Our backyard is the Genesee River Trail. We loved our house, but not taking care of it frees up a lot of time that we can spend enjoying life. No regrets!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *