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The fight over the proposed demolition of a church on West Main St. is about more than historic preservation. It’s also about the proliferation of dollar stores.

Marvin Maye wants to tear down the 140-year-old former Westminster Presbyterian Church and put up a Dollar General. He said the building is in truly terrible shape and got the state to agree.

As for building a dollar store on the lot, Maye points to the low-income housing going up all along the strip. “Panera isn’t coming here,” Maye said.

Meanwhile, neighbors in the Susan B. Anthony area are horrified at both the demolition and the idea of a dollar store. There are already several within a mile radius.

This fight has played out in many communities across the United States. Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree have found a niche as the economy soured. Proponents say the dollar stores offer affordable goods in so-called “food deserts,” places with no full-scale supermarkets.

Opponents of dollar stores decry their unhealthy food options, potential to push out mom-and-pop stores, unsightliness. The opponents desire more diverse retail options. There have been dollar store fights in Philadelphia and Atlanta. New Orleans proposed restrictions for “medium box” stores:

“Family Dollar and Dollar General have got to become more sensitive to the needs of the communities they are going into,” Councilman Jon Johnson said. “They have got to become better corporate citizens.”

The two discount chains are “running everybody else off because they buy up the property,” Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said. “They’re just saying, ‘This is all you’re going to get.'”

Their increasingly ubiquitous presence “is defeating the purpose of us trying to get retail back into the East, back into the city,” Hedge-Morrell said.

The City of Rochester just got done passing strict regulations for bodegas, seen as attracting crime. The corner stores have also been accused of preying on the poor by selling diapers and cigarettes individually. But the city totally skipped over dollar stores.

Was that a mistake?

Links of the Day:

- A beautiful spiral Frank Lloyd Wright house in Arizona could be torn down by developers.

- An art student from Rochester made Play-Doh busts of Obama and Romney and won an award.

- Some California sex offenders are suing over laws that don’t let them display Halloween decorations or give out candy. Good. These laws are ludicrous and do nothing to protect people.

- Have you noticed a lot of your friends getting gel manicures? They’re hot. They’re also expensive and expose your hands to UV rays.

- NFL players think their new jerseys make them look fat. Poor babies.

24 Responses to Dollar Store Fight

  1. Must be big money involved in dollar stores to tear-down a big church like that to build one.

  2. October 3, 2012 at 9:36 am Orielly responds:

    So if I understand this correctly, somebody wants to tear down a dilapidated building thats not paying property tax in a poor neighborhood, and on that land build a new building that will pay property taxes. Additionally on that land, they will open a new business that will serve the area residents needs, many of which are poor, with inexpensive products.

    And the problem is?

  3. Why not put the dollar store IN the church? That would be pretty cool. How many Dollar Generals are in old churches? Plus, it would help preserve the neighborhood’s character and heritage.

    • October 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm Havahd St responds:

      Love this idea! I’m all for historic preservation, but sometimes buildings are just “old and sh*tty” rather than “classic and historic” and it’s time to get rid of them. That said, I hate generic looking chain stores, this could be a happy compromise There are a few examples of this around Rochester, the Chase Bank on Monroe is in an old bank building. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that national chains are reluctant to adapt their stores to different types of buildings and surroundings.

  4. If I recall – and view Google maps – correctly, there is a Family Dollar 0.3 miles from this property. So, that undercuts the “underserved” (with dollar stores) argument. More importantly, let’s not condescend to residents of this neighborhood by suggesting they “need” another dollar store so they can have “groceries.” Good god…. Has anyone ever been inside a dollar store? They don’t sell groceries. Anyway, sprawl-style suburban plazas have destroyed half of West Main Street. There is no excuse for repeating the horrible failure of Bull’s Head Plaza.

    Having said that, I don’t blame the owner for being put-off by the double standard. He wants to make a buck with a dollar store but can’t demolish his building, while NAB/Genny can do whatever they want. Complete double standard. But two wrongs (demolitions of historic buildings for parking/schlock) don’t make a right.

  5. The corner stores which you refer to as bodegas have been told what to sell and what not to sell. I suspect they didn’t think to sell cigarettes and diapers individually until consumers told them what they needed and wanted. Now people are complaining about Dollar stores in poor neighborhoods driving out these mom and pop stores often called corner stores and bodegas. Why do wealthier people who don’t live in these neighborhoods dictate to them as if they knew better? Dollar Generals show up often in lower income areas not serviced by a Walmart or other discount stores. You can see this in most rural areas of NYS such as Lima where wealthier people in Honeoye Falls drove out a Walmart several years ago. Dollar General doesn’t sell things just for a dollar but items such as mops, hoses, and clothing cheaper. If the US is going to let people live in the poverty we tolerate, then we should tolerate places that actually cater to the poor and want their business. I’m sure if they had the money, people wouldn’t shop there either but there is need.

  6. October 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm Orielly responds:

    So if I get it right, again bringing in competition between dollar general and Family Dollar is wrong? Competition is GOOD and drives prices lower while improving the number and quality of products offered. Its called capitalism. Who are (WE?) to decide what business can open where and what building they should renovate vs new build? (assuming its not a stip club next to a school) Are you going to fund the renovation costs vs the new build difference? No. You just want a say in how other people spend THEIR money. How many Obama stickers do you have on your cars? You all want to put roadblocks for the store developer who will make life in that neighborhood better. And you don’t like the way the store looks? Tell us all how often you will use the store or visit that area on a Friday or Sat night with your family. Yea I thought so.

  7. How do multiple versions of the same store within .3 miles of each other improve quality of life? How do suburban big box architecture and massive parking lots (look at the plans for the proposed Dollar General) help historic city neighborhoods? Would you want to live on the same street as this? Yeah, didn’t think so.

    According to Rochester Subway, Bread and Water Theatre has expressed interest in moving into and renovating the church and providing low-cost theatre productions for the neighborhood. I think this is an excellent idea and I hope they are successful. A neighborhood with cultural amenities is one of the big bonuses of urban living. A theatre would also promote neighborhood pride for residents and help attract more activities to the area.

    Seriously, why do you hate cities so much? I’m guessing that if you had your way, every building over twenty years old would be torn down and replaced with strip malls, gaudy McMansions, and eight-lane highways. You don’t strike me as someone who gives a damn about preserving history and urban character.

  8. I attended a planning charrette for the Plymouth-Exchange Neighborhood back in June. I remember one of the topics discussed by the leaders was the idea of good vs. bad urban architecture. Good urban architecture, they said, is built with community and walkability in mind. It is visually appealing and located close to the sidewalk. Parking should be in the back, not in the front so that it dominates the streetscape. While bland commercial boxes, vast parking lots, and strip malls may be acceptable in the suburbs, an urban neighborhood must strive to maintain its history and the special character that sets it apart. Speaking for myself, although I’m sure many Rochesterians agree, I chose the city because I loved the idea of being able to walk and bike to my errands through streets that reflect Rochester’s long history as a boomtown, manufacturing center, center of the arts, and home to creative residents who built many wonderful houses that still stand today (https://rocwiki.org/Cool_Houses). Think of the images you’ve seen of cities elsewhere and tell me what defines them. It’s not homogenous chain stores. It’s the nation’s largest concentration of colonial architecture (Annapolis); colorful and elaborate Victorians (San Francisco); shotgun houses, creole cottages and wrought iron balconies (New Orleans); antebellum mansions (Charleston); and pastel Art Deco (South Beach). Architecture is a major part of any city’s identity and that’s something that should be celebrated and preserved, not destroyed.

  9. (The above is an except from a letter of support I sent to Bread and Water Theatre to present to the city.)

  10. October 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm Orielly responds:

    None of those cities stopped progress and demanded condemned or soon to be condemned old buildings in neighborhoods be revitalized vs new build. Sure in a case two maybe, but it was commerce that kept those older buildings maintained in areas that never went through neighborhood decline as we have seen here.
    Two totally different animals comparing SF and Roch.

    Again if you want the building preserved, … put your money where your mouth is and pay for it vs demanding a new business or new buyer do what YOU want with the property.

  11. This is typical Rochester way of fixing thing in this city. Let the history go down the tubes by notvtaking care of the historical buildings. And then just knock them down. Think about all that has been lost for future residents of Rochester. Just about all of the history from main st had been lost. Let’s try and save the little bit that we have left.

  12. October 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm Orielly responds:

    Who’s going to the theater in the old church in that neighborhood? Not you, but you want them to take it over. Who’s going to pay the taxes on that land, Not the Theater group would be my guess. They want it property tax free.
    Two of the same type stores DRIVE competitive pricing and expanded product offerings. Thats why two of the same stores located next to each other are good.
    Would I live next to a dollar store? No. I wouldn’t live in that hood either. But I put myself through college so I didn’t have to. I don’t think I am qualified to say – how many theater goers will be in that neighborhood .. not many would be my guess. Total customers at the two “dollar stores” per day will be overwhelming vs the number attending the theater. So you tell me what the people in the neighborhood want? And who are we to say .. .Oh you should have a theater instead. Yea that will work.

  13. I would absolutely go to a theatre if it was in that neighborhood.

    God, you’re such a typical suburbanite. Do you actually visit the City of Rochester on a regular basis or are you too afraid of Scary Black People? “I wouldn’t live in that hood either. But I put myself through college so I didn’t have to.” Oh please. I have many friends who live in the Plymouth-Exchange Neighborhood and have looked into moving there myself. We are all college graduates, many from UR, and we all have decent-paying jobs. We like PLEX because it is a close-knit neighborhood, affordable, diverse, and has a ton of history and character. We have chosen to live in the city because we enjoy the benefits of urban living and are interested in neighborhood revival. And this is very characteristic of my generation, the Millennials. For the first time in decades, cities are growing faster than the suburbs. Car ownership among my age group is down and car companies are struggling to sell to us. If you look at the stats, the population of downtown Rochester has exploded in recent years, thanks to both young people and downsizing Baby Boomers. People are pouring into the expensive lofts in the St. Paul Quarter because they like the old industrial grit and proximity to cultural amenities. The proposed Dollar Store has received so much controversy because the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood is up and coming and has many dedicated residents striving to preserve its character and identity. You’re stuck in the twentieth century when it comes to Rochester.

  14. I would also like to add that one of the biggest advantages and attractions of urban living is walkability. People, offices, restaurants, and shops all live in close proximity to one another. This isn’t the suburbs, where you have your homogenous housing developments in one area and commercial strips of malls and big box stores in another area down the highway. Urban architecture must take into account the fact that people and retail live together. It is a pedestrian-oriented environment totally different than the suburbs. Attractive urban neighborhoods are appealing precisely because people want to enjoy and interact with them.

  15. October 9, 2012 at 11:45 am Orielly responds:

    I am in the city almost every weekend at night on the east end. Sure you love the plymouth Brooks exchange area.. Sure. Every night at 11 or so My wife walks our dog, by herself in the dark. Can you do that on Exchange St? Cars aren’t needed in the city of Roch? Really? Do you take the bus to Eastview/ Wegmans? Inner Downtown City population is exploding in lofts, is stated compared to 0% before. Actual numbers that are moving there are very low compared to park Ave area. Turnover on the east end dwellings is very high. But yea walk were you want on plymouth and exchange at Midnight. Trust me you won;t be doing that for long. And when you call the cops if you survive the first thing they will say is what were you thinking going out there at that time of night by yourself? Afraid? I call it smart, why put oneself in harms way?

  16. I have walked in Plymouth-Exchange late at night. I have biked on South Plymouth at twelve in the morning. I have never felt unsafe. The vast majority of violent crime is not random. It’s scumbags attacking scumbags over gang issues, drug deals gone bad, and fighting over women. Mind your own business and for the most part, people don’t bother you. I know this because I and all my friends have experience living in the city, including some dicey areas. Neighborhoods don’t improve when people tuck their tales in and flee to the suburban bubble. Two of my friends (both UR alumni) have lived in PLEX since the 1980s and were there all through its darkest hours when shootings were highest. They decided they would help save this neighborhood. They bought houses, became landlords, and were able to keep known troublemakers out of their properties. The neighborhood is where it is today largely because of they stayed and fought for it.

    No, I don’t generally take the bus to Wegmans because I shop at a local independent cooperative grocery to which I walk or bike. If by Eastview you’re referring to Eastview Mall, one of my PLEX friends works there and takes the bus. I personally haven’t been there in two years because I really have no reason to go there. Plenty of cheaper shopping in the city.

  17. Furthermore, contrary to your claims that you know what’s best for the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood, it’s been the neighborhood association and many of its residents who have been at the forefront of opposing the destruction of the church. City Newspaper interviewed a woman who lives across the street from it and she was adamant that she did not want a Dollar General there.

    I wouldn’t live in that hood either. But I put myself through college so I didn’t have to.

    So not only do you know what’s better for that neighborhood than its neighborhood association and the people who actually live there, you have nothing but contempt for this neighborhood and its people. You’re a real piece of work.

  18. October 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm Orielly responds:

    You name a few people and say you speak for all in the area. I speak for the business, commerce, taxpayers and those in that area who are constantly complaining about not having stores. If your friends want to risk their families to live in the city for a principle god bless them I hope it works out. I wouldn’t put my love ones in harms way if I didn’t have to. The neighborhood assn. has an agenda and thats anti business and development. Cheaper shopping in the city? How about choice? Everyone has the right to choose their own life style. I enjoy the Safety and privacy and nf the burbs. There is a reason why so many moved here.

  19. The neighborhood assn. has an agenda and thats anti business and development.

    Again, you are saying you know what’s better for a neighborhood than its own association, which is made up of neighborhood residents. I live in the city and know many people who live here in various neighborhoods, some good, some not so good, some in between. You live out in the boondocks and come to the East End once a week and think you know what Rochester needs. Have you ever even set foot in the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood? I have. Do us city folks a favor and stay in your McMansion.

  20. October 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm Orielly responds:

    Yea good point. Make sure you don’t voice an opinion on the Middle east or anywhere else as you Don’t live there. Don’t speak for or against Israel, if you’re not jewish. Don’t speak on the US military unless you’re a member. Makes sense.
    You want to make guess on the typical makeup of a city of Rochester neighborhood assn political leaning? Liberal or Cons? Dems or Reps? Pro Business and taxpaying or think business in many cases are bad and non profit, non tax paying theater Good? So I don’t have a clue or no voice as I don’t live there? It’s intuitively obvious that the neighborhood also wants more county financial support as they can’t support themselves with their own tax base. So I don’t have a voice? Funny how that works when the money/tax hits the discussion.

  21. There are many factors that you are unaware of Orielly.
    1. The current owner of the property, Marvin Maye, owns several other parcels of land in the neighborhood. He has not paid his recent tax bill and owes the City of Rochester $40,000+ in taxes.
    2. The owner, Marvin Maye, does no maintain his property. Paint is peeling off his buildings and trash is strewn about. Once built (and built poorly I might add) the Dollar General will rot there. Mr. Maye does not care about long term success, only short term financial gain.
    3. Because of the poor conditions of Marvin Maye’s properties his buildings are havens for drug dealers and prostitutes who practice their craft in public without repercussions.
    4. In terms of violent crime, the Monroe Avenue area has had more murders this year than the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood.
    5. A theatre group would be a neighborhood draw and would be paying payroll and income taxes although the property itself would be tax exempt. The Fringe Festival and the Jazz Festival are both examples of arts events that do not pay property taxes, but contribute to the community and pay a wide variety of other taxes. The University of Rochester is the region’s biggest employer, but pays little property taxes.
    6. Dollar General does not participate in competitive pricing. They sell cheap imports for slightly less than name brand merchandise. That means that customers pay more than they should for a cheap product that does not last as long. Dollar Generals plant themselves in a community in order to prevent other business from growing in an effort to monopolize the food desert they inhabit, but do nothing to prevent.
    7. Many of the theatre-centric events in the City are supported by people coming from the suburbs. Geva Theatre and the Auditorium Center are good examples of this. The church is less than a mile from 490 allowing for ease of access for people commuting to the area. There is also a great benefit to have a cultural and arts center in a historic district where other amenities are within walking distance.
    8. The church turned arts center would be able to provide after school programs and cultural enrichment activities to the neighborhood having a direct impact on the lives of community members. The community has expressed an interest in having such a center and does not want another Dollar General in its neighborhood.
    9. The theatre mentioned above currently prices admission for seniors/students at $6 and $12 for general admission. Less expensive than a trip to the movies.

    This area has been my home for many years and I am in agreement with my neighbors. I want buildings and organizations within my community that improve my community and not detract from it. This church is a symbol of our collective potential. Do we strive for success or instead choose the mediocrity and urban decay that Dollar Generals and other corporations have brought our region.

    If we want to be truly successful in life we must help our neighbor and extend a hand to communities that are struggling. Nothing is ever truly gained by knocking others to the ground and preying on the innocent victims of circumstance.

    Suzie B. Anthony
    “Failure is Impossible”

    Send letters opposing the demolition of 660 W. Main St. to anthony_susan_b@yahoo.com. Include your name, address and phone number in the letter for reference. You can also sign the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/help-susan-b-anthony-save-westminster-presbyterian-church

  22. October 14, 2012 at 6:40 pm Orielly responds:

    I would never support a developer landlord who does not pay his/her property taxes or keep their property maintained. Sounds like a problem for city government but if you keep electing only one party to run things its no wonder they aren’t clamping down on this guy. So thats a city voter created problem as well.
    Use the church for a theater, try it and see if it works. Don’t ask for tax dollars though. UR pays no property taxes? Their senior people live in UR provided housing tax free as well. That is a major problem and WRONG no matter how many they employ. THEY DO MAKE A PROFIT, billions of it. Why should we pay their taxes and supplement their income, those high earning UR people? Thats wrong.

    • December 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm W. Main St. responds:

      Orielly,
      I have been reading your responses. I would like to address a few of your comments. I see that Susan has already made several of my points. Being next to Mr. Maye’s properties, I can attest to the truth of her statements.
      1. I live next to the church. No one will be more effected than myself and the homeowner across the street.
      2. please come down from your political horse. I do not have any Obama stickers on my car if you know what I mean. I have 2 undergraduate degrees a masters, and a full time job. If you were to spend a little time in the Susan B. hood, you would find that I am certainly not alone in education or socioeconomic status. Our neighborhood is not hemogeneous. I believe in hard work, spending within your means, and owning your responsibilities. I pay my taxes and yes, I vote. I am one of 3 such residents in my home, and among many other. All of that being said, I also believe in rules and consequences. I don’t oppose capitalism, I love it. Its cronies that I don’t like, and this man is a slum lord. This property was purchased with the intent to demolish without any research into the citys codes or design guidelines, and with full knowledge that it was on the historic list. I call that a business mistake. On top of that, add the fact that he never reached out to the community, rather, he showed up and said I’m doing this, deal with it. Funny thing about human nature is you have to appeal to it. Bulldozing never got anyone anything but resentment, and that is what is happening here. The neighborhood association appealed to this man to let us support him, help find him money in exchange for a more intelligent design OR a rehabilitation of the church and he has shown that he is unwilling to compromise with the community he intends to build in. Also bad business.
      Getting to the taxes issue – yeah, the guy doesn’t pay his taxes. But I do. and so do the other people who are speaking out and thusly we should be protected, and what we want is no dollar general. If you move to this neighborhood, then what you want will matter too. Capitalism in its purest form would overwhelm the world with Dollar General, McDonald’s & WalMart. Occasionally, it is appropriate to curb excesses.
      With regards to competition, yes, its good. But 3,4,5 dollar stores within walking distance isn’t competition. They will match prices and leave them high. Chain research seems to indicate that for ever $100 spent at one of these places, only about $15 stays in the local economy. So no, I’m not in favor of supporting corporate overhead or Chinese manufacturers.
      The put your money where your mouth is arguement: well I did, thats why I bought my house. The thing about buying an old building is, there is an expectation of care, not neglect. Why buy an old building that you have to knock down that you know is on the magical list of old buildings when there is a perfectly good empty storefront in the plaza 2 blocks away that already meets all of the cities and Dollar Generals requirement? Answer is, because its right next to a Family Dollar. so again, we dont’ need it.
      Next! The neighborhood association certainly DOES NOT have an anti-anything business agenda, the exact opposite in fact. The fact of the matter is that some businesses are viable and good for one area and others are not. We are simply trying to find the right balance. A fellow came to a meeting not too long ago and wanted to open a bar. Most of us backed his idea, but others did not, and it didn’t end up working out, but thats business. We promoted the new cafe and voters block, we have worked with DePaul and Buckingham on turning old vacant warehouses into new lofts, and we are searching for a better fit for the church. we certainly want businesses to move into our area, but they must be good ideas like anywhere else, a little market research ahead of time would have helped Marvin.
      Maybe sometime you will visit the Susan B. Anthony House, take a walk around the block, have a cup of coffee at 1872 and see for yourself. Until then, please don’t speak for us, you will scare people away.

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