Jesse Welsh and Sean Allen: Development should live up to quality planning
The first criterion listed in the Destination Medical Center evaluation plan for projects asks, "Does the project include a plan for achieving the DMC vision, goals and objectives?" and more specifically, "Is the project part of a bold and aspirational concept for the future?"
We have, as a community, purposefully adopted a plan that sets very high standards around growth and development. Yet, the city of Rochester and DMC Corp. Board are considering funding two projects on Second Street Southwest that fail to meet the standards as they are outlined.
The proposed Holiday Inn project at Second Street and 13th Avenue Southwest has fumbled its way through planning and zoning approval and now is requesting $7 million in tax-increment financing through the DMC effort. Not only does this project not meet the criteria outlined in the approved DMC plan, but it is not being thoughtfully considered in the greater context of the development of the Second Street corridor.
The DMC planning team's attention to Second Street Southwest calls for increased multimodal transportation options, including the potential for a bus circulator or railed streetcar, enhanced pedestrian experiences and streetscape improvement. In fact, the plan specifically calls for the creation of "world-class streets, designed for people."
Yet, as the DMCC Board considers using public funds for what is arguably not a "bold and aspirational" project, the city of Rochester also is considering spending an additional $271,104 for design services related to the next phase of redevelopment along Second Street from 11th Avenue to 16th Avenue, with production costs estimated at more than $5 million.
These two related projects are not only critical to the viability of a core urban area of Rochester, but they represent an opportunity to raise the bar by insisting on better planning, better design, better projects and more thoughtful alignment of current and future infrastructure.
The well-documented criticism of DMC's slow start is not a reason to provide $7 million of what would be public funds to a Holiday Inn project that is poorly designed to meet the needs of the community. The proposal currently would give the community:
• The possibility of a mid-block subway connection to St. Marys Hospital, which would make a stairway a major entry point to Mayo Clinic;
• Limited public parking without a plan to ensure this can be reserved for short-term use to support neighborhood businesses;
• Minimal/poor on-street pedestrian activity, design and engagement.
As a community we are very good at planning. Yet, we have a history of not living up to our own aspirations. The impending development of Second Street Southwest is a perfect opportunity to be better, to wait for the right projects and to more carefully consider how parallel projects can complement and enhance each other to meet the needs of a community that waits to be inspired.
Jesse Welsh and Sean Allen, both of Rochester, are members of Imagine Kutzky, an independent advocacy group supporting great urban design policy, projects and initiatives in all downtown Rochester neighborhoods.