More and more people are walking past downtown Rochester construction fences as Thursdays Downtown and other events draw crowds to the Heart of the City District.
With work on the $17 million first phase of reconstruction starting to wrap up after years of discussion and planning, residents and visitors are starting to see what will unfold.
Here are a few things to know about the project at this point:
1. First Avenue could open next week, or the week after
First Avenue south of Peace Plaza opened in time for the first Thursdays Downtown event, but the remainder of the street continues to be completed, with work ramping up this week.
Jamie Rothe, community engagement and experience director for Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency, said the plan is to open the street toward the end of the month.
2. The plaza reopening remains uncertain
Nationwide supply chain and workforce issues have left some projected construction timelines in limbo.
While the plaza was expected to open next month, Rothe said the schedule has become less clear.
“The construction on the east side of the Peace Plaza is scheduled to be complete later this fall,” she said this week.
3. Peace Plaza could reopen in stages
“We’re sort of doing a rolling open,” said DMC EDA Executive Director Patrick Seeb.
As work is completed, he said more and more areas will open, and fences will disappear as soon as possible. A special walkway and the scrim pool in the middle of the plaza are likely to see the greatest delays.
The walkway, designed by artist Ann Hamilton, has suffered from limited access to the required granite, while materials for the pool’s water barrier have also been difficult to access, Rothe said.
4. The lighting plan has changed
Costs have forced a change for the planned interactive overhead lighting designed by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.
The proposal called for the ability to animate the overhead lights through words spoken into a ground-level intercom, but custom engineering and price increases for required supplies put that aspect out of reach.
“It’s still a very custom piece by the artist, but it’s not interactive,” said Josh Johnsen, Rochester’s interim community development director, adding that the interactive aspect could be added later.
5. Prototyping led to changes
Throughout the development of the Heart of the City redesign, several aspects were tested to gauge public opinion and functionality.
Among items that were tested and changed are multi-use benches that provide spaces within the “forest rooms” created by trees along First Avenue. Originally designed in metal, Seeb said public criticism led to the new design featuring wood while keeping the primary functions in place.
“Those benches are the thing that people will interact with most directly,” he said.
6. The street designs also evolved
Seeb said a design study determined that the section of First Avenue Southeast between Center and Second streets isn’t heavily traveled, which allowed for changes from the initial proposal.
“Converting that street into much more of a pedestrian space was an innovation,” he said.
Since the street rises to sidewalk levels and narrows at Second and Center streets, Seeb said drivers will be prompted to drive slower through the area.
The use of sand-locked brick pavers instead of traditional concrete or asphalt is also expected to notify drivers it’s not a standard street.
7. There is no timeline for the second phase
The city hasn’t set a goal for renovations of Peace Plaza west of First Avenue, which is also expected to be completed with DMC funds.
Johnsen said the initial phase, along with Discovery Walk work planned on Second Avenue Southwest, will show how people respond to the redesigned areas, which is likely to inform future upgrades.
Seeb noted that the final stage of the current redesign will be a post-occupancy evaluation, which is expected to be conducted next summer.