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In questioning the heaps of tax dollars going to University of Rochester’s College Town project, I’ve pointed out the Mt. Hope Ave. corridor is not distressed. Typically, you think of HUD loans and grants going to support places that are economically challenged.

Census data for 2010 shows us the area is doing far better than the rest of the city. In several census tracts surrounding the project, unemployment ranges from 4.8 percent to 11.5 percent unemployment. Median household income falls between $27,018 to $51,875. Poverty rates fall between 20.3 percent and 38 percent. (Keep in mind, there’s a heavy student population.) The average home lists for more than $100,000.

Meanwhile, on the west side of the river in several census tracts surrounding the Brooks Landing project, unemployment is between 17 percent and 23 percent. Median household income is between $14,022 and $29,422. The poverty rate falls between 37.5 percent and 50.4 percent. The median sale price for homes is under $65,000. In the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood, homes sell for less than $40,000.

The Brooks Landing project has also received substantial tax incentives and other support. There’s no question the Plymouth Ave. corridor is benefiting, as the college’s success is finally crossing the river. It took a boost from government and the college to make that happen.

But Mt. Hope Ave. doesn’t need a boost. It’s an extremely busy commercial corridor in a neighborhood with high property values and low unemployment. The College Town developers are getting a $20 million loan, to be paid back with their property taxes, as sweet a deal as we’ve seen in ages. If I’m the landlord of Bruegger’s, Starbucks, Chipotle and McDonald’s across the street, I’d be banging on City Hall’s door’s asking for the same deal to level the playing field.

I bet College Town will be great for the college and the city. I’m just at a loss to explain why taxpayers are paying one-third of this $100 million behemoth.

Links of the Day: 

– This cafe and deli seems like a great addition to Plymouth Ave. I walk the corridor often and it’s great to see vacant storefronts getting rehabbed.

– Wegmans is building a cheese-aging facility in Chili.

Will apple cider hit $8 a gallon?

– College rankings are a racket with implications beyond simple prestige.

“You, American Airlines, should no longer be flying across the Atlantic.”

5 Responses to East Side Story

  1. October 1, 2012 at 9:32 am Michael Bloch responds:

    The answer to why taxpayers are paying for College Town is very simple and can be answered in one word; POLITICS. That is how our political system works. Same reason why wealthy mall developers get tax dollars and why stadiums are built with tax dollars and false promises of how the ongoing expenses will be paid for. Politics in America, that’s the answer.

  2. October 1, 2012 at 11:59 am Peking Humonculous responds:

    Exactly, Michael Bloch! Same reason Mayor Richards just made pretty much the exact same deal with the purchaser of the Sibley building that screwed the city out of about $20 million in property taxes the last time it was purchased. Because tax payers will always take a back seat to rich developer friends of corrupt politicians.

  3. I’m going against the grain of this article and this thread, I guess. With this effort, the Richards administration and the Danny Wegman/Joel Seligman group build a stronger relationship between the city and the U of R. For starters, the increased U of R presence across the river could increase property values and the number of housing upgrades. Can’t it be said that it is a win for both city residents and the development group if the CollegeTown investment turns out to be successful? If the large number of jobs projected for College Town project is realized, employment possibilities increase for city residents in College town on the west side of the river. And as College Town needs more funding sources if it is to be completed, doesn’t this tax package stand as a “good faith” statement to other funding sources of local support? After all, there are parallel efforts — Schumer at the federal level, and New York’s Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council — to garner additional percentages of the college town project costs.

    It’s a bet to be sure .. but when it comes to urban planning these days, what attempt isn’t?

  4. My 2 cents….College Town is a worthy project. I do question why the taxpayer is so heavily invested. The U of R is not poor. They should assume much of the cost if they are so sure of its success. Of course Mayor Richards will give away anything to his supporters and those who share his belief that believe government PROVIDES and is the source off all that is good. I will take exception to the article’s theme that this government money should go to the west side of the river. First, there should be no government money going to either side. Second, giving money to the west side is akin to throwing it down the toilet. I agree with the previous post that there is a strong possibility that the success of College Town could result in job opportunities and economic gain to the people on the west of the river. Unfortunately, past history has shown that working for a living is not a preferred means of a fair majority on the west side. The jobs may be there…but will they come and apply when it is easier to get the government to just give you a check to spend freely and also pay for your housing, medical and anything else you may need. There will be no improvements in our government dependence unless the government limits it’s handouts.

  5. October 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm Orielly responds:

    College Town’s Developer and operator is a CLEVELAND based company. Want to tell us again how the UR gets to choose where the tax benefits go.. to out of Roch area developers? Again we in this area have given BILLIONs to the UR privately and close to a billion over the last 4 years, in state funding, yet the UR does not offer tuition breaks or acceptance breaks to Roch Area students. Ah but theu do accept 1000s of non US citizens every year who the UR educates who then go back to their country with UR and Taxpayer provided research, education and Intellectual property. Summing up the UR treats this area and country like dog dirt but wants our tax money for their projects. We get the minimum wage jobs. The scientist jobs go to out of state and many out of country Phds.

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