Drive-By Urbanism, Part II

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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