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Elm St.


Elm St.


If you thought rebuilding the Midtown block involves selling a few remaining parcels, think again. There’s a former office building on the site the city hopes to unload.

When demolishing the Midtown block, the city decided to keep 88-94 Elm St. Built in the 1960s, it has 13 floors and 83,000 square feet. The ugly brown high rise has been vacant since 1998, when the city acquired it through tax foreclosure. The city did asbestos work and replaced the roof, but the building has no operable HVAC and electricity and only some working plumbing.

The city put out a Request for Proposals for the building. The city will only consider adaptive reuse. The purchase price is an estimated $360,000. The city will consider reserving a certain number of garage spaces for the developer.

If the project doesn’t sound daunting already, consider the fact 88-94 Elm St. backs up to the Hotel Cadillac, which is used as a de facto homeless shelter. The city spearheaded a plan to get the county to stop using the Cadillac as emergency housing. Will a developer plunk down big money with the Cadillac – and it’s reputation – right next door?

The Cadillac was sold in 2001 to a developer who promised changes, including closing the bar. Back then, there were several drug deaths at the hotel. In recent years, the hotel has been the scene of fires. Neighboring businesses on Chestnut appear to have cleared out. The area has further declined, which may be due in part to Midtown’s closure.

A similar tension existed between Cascade District developers and the Open Door Mission. The mission made some rule changes and exterior improvements to appease the owners of high end lofts. The Open Door Mission does not appear to have prevented any progress in the area. Nothnagle and Bridge Square are two additions to the neighborhood.

Proposals for 88-94 Elm St. are due in May. It will be interesting to see if the Cadillac poses any kind of barrier, and if so, how the city plans to address it.

Links of the Day:

– A lot of Monroe County agencies do not post meeting agendas, resolutions and documents online, as required by law.

– An Albany inmate died after her pleas for heart medication went ignored. The state appears to be covering up report into her death.

– Schools do not want to be polling places anymore, because they’re worried about safety. This is a solution in search of a problem.

– Matt Lauer wants less tabloid fare on ‘Today.’ He has nothing to say after the reports, except expressing remorse for victims.

In yet another sign the East End is gentrifying, a chain restaurant wants to move in.

Yes, it’s a fast food joint. But Moe’s Southwest Grill is moving into the Sagamore, where condos sell for more than a few hundred grand. This isn’t a sign the Sagamore is failing. It’s a sign someone has some some serious money, as the franchise requires a $1.5 million net worth and $600,000 liquid cash available.

This is not a story about Henry B’s closing. (I’m sorry for the staff affected, but it was not a popular place. In a town with 1,000 Italian restaurants, fancy and high end is generally not going to work.) This is a story about the chains jumping Jefferson Rd. into the Inner Loop.

Chains take fewer risks than independent business owners. And when they do take risks, they’re very calculated. Tim Horton’s recently made its first push into downtown Rochester after 10 years in the market.

“It was a mix of the proper location and right opportunity. We know downtown is being revitalized and we want to be a part of that,” said Adam Grandmont, Tim Horton’s district manager of operations. He sees a chain moving to the neighborhood as a big vote of confidence.

The danger of chains swooping in is an area loses its identity. I will not be happy if Matthews East End Grill sells out to Applebee’s or Spot Coffee becomes Starbucks or Veneto morphs into Olive Garden. A neighborhood’s soul is in its unique architecture, streets and businesses.

In Buffalo, Elmwood Village neighbors freaked out when Panera announced it was moving in. Even though the chain was taking over a Blockbuster, residents worried about the character of their enclave. The debate made me think about a conversation I had with the owner of a historic W. Main St. church who wants to tear it down to put up a dollar store. “Panera isn’t coming here,” he said, pointing to the low-income housing going up nearby.

At least Henry B’s is being subdivided to include both Moe’s and a local bistro. (By the way, Havana Moe’s cigar shop across the street has got to be throwing a fit right now. It’s been around longer than Moe’s Southwest. I can see some drama ahead.)

While I don’t think there’s any danger of East Ave. becoming W. Ridge Rd., we have to keep an eye on the chains. On the one hand, they’re a sign of success. (Anyone see the Dairy Queen lines?!) On the other hand, they’re a sign of gentrification…and the generic.

East End Festival Facebook Page

Rochester’s East End Festivals started in 1990 as a way to draw attention to the district – and have a good time.

In 1990, the East End had the Eastman School of Music and several bars, including Milestones, Richmond’s and whatever Salinger’s used to be called. There was no Sagamore, Spot Coffee, expensive apartments, Jazz Festival, 2Vine or Tournedos.

The East End has gentrified.

The East End Festival finds itself in a bind. The festivals, which take places on three Friday nights in the summer, draw thousands of people in their 20s and 30s to the district. East Ave. is blocked from Scio to Chestnut. There are beer trucks and bands. It’s a huge happy hour.

The new neighbors can’t stand it.

Saying they face opposition like never before, the organizers say the festival can’t go on. If it does continue, it won’t be the same:

Mike O’Leary, owner of Temple Bar and Grill, has been involved in planning East End Festivals for almost two decades. “They won’t be the same in the future. They’re over as people know them.”

O’Leary said he believes the festivals will continue and retain the name, but there will be fewer stages and streets blocked off and the event will be “more sensitive to neighbors.”

East End Festivals have been cited by many young people as a reason they like Rochester. There aren’t a lot of problems at the festivals, which charge admission. Organizers point out no one complains about the Jazz Festival. It’s not hard to see why. Jazz patrons have more money to spend at the new businesses.

Perhaps it makes more sense to hold the festival in the Upper East End, near East and Alexander, which is mostly a bar and restaurant district.

The organizers say they’re not under pressure from the city to make changes and are doing this as a preemptive strike. I suspect they’re also hoping by announcing the festivals are possibly over, they will gain support for keeping them the same.

Update: The organizers are now being more forceful in saying the festival will remain, but with the changes described above.

Links of the Day:

– A fairly explosive story details how former governor David Paterson’s staff wanted state police to replace his security detail with black and Hispanic officers. Former state police officials are shocked then-attorney general Andrew Cuomo seemingly did nothing with the information.

Is high speed rail in New York picking up steam?

– That whole “women and children first” thing is a myth.



City of Rochester

Rochester’s public market is about to get a $10 million overhaul. The Democrat and Chronicle reports on plans to build more permanent and weather-proof facilities with better amenities, such as sinks and refrigeration.

But there are concerns the market will become too chic and expensive:

“They want to turn it into a yuppie coffee lounge,” (vendor) Gary Eaton said. “They can do to it whatever they want, as long as they don’t screw it up.”

The yuppie boat may already have sailed. On any given Saturday, dozens of people patronize businesses on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the market, sitting outside with their coffee and pastry while they socialize.

They also rub elbows with recent immigrants speaking some of the more than 30 languages heard at the market, and with low-income people using food stamps to purchase vegetables, meats and slightly out-of-date breads or chips.

“One of the things that makes the market special is the different socioeconomic groups and cultures that all interact together,” (market manager Jim) Farr said. “We want to make sure it’s still accessible (to everyone). It’s not our goal to yuppify it.”

It will be interesting to see how the market evolves. It has been in the same spot since 1905 and has already changed considerably. Click here for historical photos.

Links of the Day:

– Colleges and universities are tax exempt, but use a lot of municipal resources. The Democrat and Chronicle takes a deep look at what area universities pay localities. I don’t buy the argument the colleges are economic drivers and should be spared responsibility. You could use that for any company.

– Western New York has a lot riding on the negotiation of a new stadium lease for the Buffalo Bills. A Buffalo News columnist says the team is a “heartbeat away” from leaving.

– An Albany Times Union columnist takes the governor to task for editing the state archives.

– In a big blow to the standardized testing company used by New York, researchers have found Pearson uses flawed methodology.

– The Toronto Star sent 15 reporters to cover the funeral of an ordinary, unknown woman. Why? Because she is all of us.

– A Buffalo couple is getting remarriedafter spending 50 years apart.