Posted at: 11/01/2012 11:55 PM
By: Don Hudson
Rochester City Officials hope in the near future that Midtown Plaza will create a new era for downtown Rochester. On Thursday, they showed the public the latest plans for the plaza's open spaces, and parks.
Concerned citizens had a lot of questions and comments for those officials. One suggested the city try to increase bicycle access to the area. Another said there was still time to make improvements to the proposed plan.
The main concerns had to do with parking. Harvey Botzman, a concerned citizen asked, "Why are we even thinking about putting in so many parking spaces? You need spaces for people to walk."
City officials, like Rochester Business Development Director Bret Garwood, were ready with answers.
Garwood said, "The parking on the street, the parking below is necessary to attract the kind of business investment and housing investment you want to see."
Another concern was bicycle and pedestrian traffic mixing with motorists who are not used to all the people on the roads.
"They're used to pedestrians sticking to crosswalks," says Bill Collins. "They're going to have to slow down to walking pace. And right now the infrastructure is not there to do that."
City officials didn't really have an answer for that in the designs, but there was no shortage of suggestions. However, Garwood says for the Midtown project to work; pedestrian movement has to work.
Garwood says, "We have to balance the needs for cars and parking and the desire to accommodate and make pedestrians the most important thing."
Another question people have is will the downtown project really work? Garwood says when you look at the current site, it is hard for people to imagine it becoming something unique and vibrant. He believes in time it will become just that.
"Once the infrastructure pieces are underway it is going to be much easier to market," says Garwood. "People need to see that it is real and that it is coming."
The project is still in its early stages. Windstream, which is the major player committed to locating in the Midtown Plaza, will move in during the summer of 2013. The open spaces and landscaping will really start to take shape around the same time. Future decisions, discussions and debates on the Midtown Plaza redevelopment project will go through Rochester City Council as part of regular public hearings. That means there will be regular presentations, and opportunities for public comments.