More sunlight on St. Marys area

Here is a little transparency on the St. Marys area discussion. If we kept up with our own recommendations for planning in the area we wouldn’t be struggling right now.

Council

I sent staff my concerns about our recent Holiday Inn meetings and wished to express the same concerns to the council as well. I believe that once again the lack of proactive city planning has led to a situation were rather than implementing a quality plan we are bending to accommodate whatever comes forward.

Here are my concerns, you will notice that none of them are with the current project its self for which we are still in a quasi-judicial capacity. I see the TIF discussion as being unrelated to the project discussion.

1) Small group meetings were held in secret away from public scrutiny – There were other topics discussed that clearly can’t be public at this point, but absolutely nothing was discussing regarding the Holiday Inn that could not be discussed in public. While this does not violate the open meeting law, I think it violates the spirit of transparency. Further it removes the ability of the council to interact and control the discussion. I also disagree with this, except when it is necessary.

2) There seems to be a disconnect between the project needs a tunnel and we need to pay for a tunnel. As with all TIF in this project I will ask staff to show quantitate data justifying TIF before I am willing to support it.

3) DMCC did the right thing – I appreciate their willingness to ensure that a project meets the design standards for a great neighborhood before supporting it.

4) The parking bothers me some and I will ask for some independant guidance. The idea of using TIF to build private parking with private revenues but some public oversight is novel. It seems that the cost per spot might be better than we can get otherwise, but again quantitative data is needed.

5) Planning, Planning, Planning – I have seen how flexible Larry has been to try to get things done. This tells me that if we had done a better job in creating a district plan ahead of time we would probably be done my now. Deciding on your infrastructure and design standards after a plan has been submitted is a terrible way to do business. Building a tunnel system around a connection to a single block that is cutoff from the rest of the area by utilities MAY be a bad practice (or it may not).

6) Creating a great place – every time we have created a great public place, peace plaza for example the public has embraced it. St. Marys Place can be another great place, but only if the public spaces are inviting. Bisecting the area with fast moving traffic (4 adjacent lanes averaging 12′ apiece) will crush the neighborhood, tunnel or not. My goals would be 1) safety / connectivity 2) Neighborhood / Business Vibrancy 3) Everything else 4) L.O.S.

7) I am asking some community volunteers to help me create an event to draw attention to the needs for better planning in this area.

And here is the response from the City Administrator:

Some additional thoughts concerning the lack of a plan for the 2nd St. SW area. The Rochester 2nd Street Corridor Framework Plan, which was submitted in February, 2009 has been proclaimed by individuals in the area in question as the guideline plan to be followed for the redevelopment of the area. A pedestrian tunnel connecting St. Mary’s Hospital to 2nd St. is illustrated in the St. Mary’s District framework plan. When discussing parking needs, the plan states “Creative solutions should be explored to meet parking requirements such as consolidating parking into efficient shared underground or structured parking facilities…” The plan also states “Seek opportunities to consolidate parking, access, and servicing. Provide creative opportunities for meeting parking requirements without allowing it to dominated the streetscape.”

The DMC vision plan for the St. Mary’s place indicates a need for an additional 1,400 parking spaces and indicates that a hotel would be a desired usage for the area where the Brutger project is located.

From my viewpoint, there has not been a lack of planning for this area and as the Brutger project advances, we are trying to provide the tunnel or subway connection to St. Mary’s Hospital, that has been a subject for many years, and we are seeking to formulate creative solutions to the area’s parking needs by consolidating public and private parking needs into the planned parking structure.
Steve

And here I reinsert facts into the discussion:

Stevan,

  • Glad to see we are now looking at the 2nd street corridor plan.
  • On Page 86 you will find the implementation strategy that never happened. We only adopted the plan after the Shoppes on 2nd debacle where the plan was completely ignored because it had no teeth. After that we adopted the plan 6-1 to prevent a repeat when inventive / restricted development was used.
  • I am patiently waiting for staff to do step 2, preferable not in response to a proposed project…
  • On Page 94 you will find that 1% of respondents find moving cars quickly to be a priority and yet that dominated the street design proposal.
  • On Page 95 you will find how the public wanted priority for transit / pedestrians over speed of cars.
  • On Page 62 you will find the 10 BPAC recommendations, most of which have languished awaiting action. None of these include a tunnel.
  • On Page 57 you will find the land use recommendations, most of which are awaiting action.
  • On Page 58 you will find built form recommendations awaiting action, especially important is the missing design guidelines.
  • On Page 70 you will find that the actual tunnel connection described is an a different location and could avoid utility conflicts.

Its been 7 years of inaction. It would have been nice to have this planning done ahead of the development. This is why I am heartened that DMC and neighborhoods are stepping up where our own planning has not. I would suggest this is case and point why we need a city staffed planning department. Short of that I hope we continue to lean on those with great urban design expertise.

3 comments

  1. Still concerned about your trashing the planning department, you get what you pay for, their budget has been cut over the years in response to criticism from the chamber and builders, staff and fund them and see what happens.

    1. I support funding a department capable of planning the future of Rochester. Unfortunately the county pay scale and actions by PASC have not provided sufficient staffing to follow through on basic obligations.

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