Archive for June, 2013

72 Conkey by JF adj

Our old friend at Clifford and Conkey. Photo by JF.

We got to thinking this afternoon, and we did some looking around for some facts that might help. Join us in thinking about this:

Total number of housing units in Rochester, New York:

99,788 units (ACS data, 2010)

Total number of vacant housing units:

10,131 units (ACS data, 2010)

About 10 percent vacant, many slated for demolition in the City’s Project Green. (City of Rochester web site)

Total number of housing units owned by the Rochester Housing Authority:

2,432 units (from the RHA 2014 annual plan)

Total number of Section 8 housing units:

8,226 (same source)

Now here is where it gets interesting.

Current RHA Waiting List (as of 03.23.13):


Average wait: 31 months

Current Section 8 Waiting List:


Average wait: 47 months

Total units on Waiting List:


Hmm. Does this add up?

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Here’s the next installment.

In 1906, the area along the east banks of the Genesee River in our city looked like this:

Barge Terminal and South, 1906

My heartiest thanks to Mike Governale/Rochester Subway for discovering and caring for this sensational view.

And in 1921, the area looked like this:

North from Capron 1921

Looking north on South from Capron Street, 1921.

Court and South looking south 1921

Looking south on South Street from Court Street, 1921.

The old Barge Canal Terminal, the new Barge Canal Terminal, and railroad tracks were at the very edge of the river, but the surrounding city was just that – a city. These views do not depict the site I am about to investigate: instead they show the immediate area, and most importantly they illustrate what were commonly held understandings about how cities were made. Streets, blocks, buildings.

Today, along the river we have a new development on Mt. Hope Avenue (what was once called Railroad Avenue). Here we find Erie Harbor, a development of townhouses and a rental building at the foot of the Clarissa Street Bridge. It looks like this:

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So what do we have here? Townhouses pushed to the rear of the site to take advantage of river views, and along the street – cars, lots of asphalt, and rocks in cages (click on the last view to see this detail).

Compare and contrast the two ways of making cities – hold the street edge with buildings as in the old way of making cities, or offer up autoworld, as in the new development.

I have had enough of this. You may have a different view, but in a city awash with parking lots, I say it’s well past time for us to remember how we once made Rochester.

One of you might remind me that in those days we had far fewer cars. And I say, read this: http://places.designobserver.com/feature/roads-to-rails-terra-nova-streetcars/37854/. It is an excerpt from a new book called “Terra Nova: the New World After Oil, Cars, and Suburbs,” by Eric Sanderson, and it is simply the best description of how to put cars in their rightful place in the next city. Fair warning: the article is long, but it is absolutely sensational.

More to come.

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When you make a bad building, or make a building which ignores the streets and blocks of your (urban) setting, (or both) then you have an opportunity to make a creative addition to a very special category of urbanism – drive-by urbanism. Herewith, two examples quite close to home.

First, the recently completed Wegmans at East Avenue and Winton Road here. There is a very long list of things wrong with this new building, and a relatively short list of what’s right, but this corner, with its low masonry wall concealing the loading dock, is in the running for this year’s Rochester Drive-By Urbanism Award.

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Another view:

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Wegmans must have been taking lessons from another creation, only two blocks away. Though a bit older, this one is still in the running as a nominee this year, mostly because of the sensitive inclusion of benches.

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Another view:

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More nominees to follow. Feel free to offer your candidates for this coveted award.

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