What happened to Walgreens?

While the 4 1/2 street neighbors are the victims on this one, this could affect any of our neighborhoods unless we take steps to prevent this abuse. My request remains to have a city council COW meeting to discuss changes with the developer and take steps to avoid a repeat of this. Spread the word on this and contact your council member if you agree with this request.

There seems to be a number of council members that have no interest in reviewing the actions that have taken place at Walgreens. Maybe this philosophical or maybe there is more information required. Steve suggested that I provide more information, so this note contains many details. I was initially contacted by a couple of concerned neighbors and I hope that we don’t sit by and allow our neighborhoods to be exploited. Unfortunately, our failure to lead on this has likely cost the 4 1/2 street neighborhood, but we should at least force the developer to explain himself and take steps to ensure that this never happens again.

We are all aware that 4 1/2 Street is one of the highest crime areas in the city. To that end, we have taken steps to address potential redevelopment in that area, focused additional community policing efforts there, and worked with neighbors to address existing crime and prevent future crime. In an incredibly progressive move, the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association, Imagine Kutzky, RAF, and the 4 1/2 street neighbors long ago came up with a plan to guide future development aimed at building a neighborhood to deter crime. This plan identified a number of likely redevelopment sites including the corner of 11th Avenue and Civic Center Drive, where a new Walgreens is currently being built.

To be clear, this building is an improvement over much of the poor land use, automobile-only strip malls that have been all the rage in Rochester, however this is less than what the neighborhood and the developer had previously agreed to. The developer had some outstanding plans that integrated principles of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. This included pedestrian friendly facades on both Civic Center Dr. and 11th Avenue. The developer showed wonderful elevations to the neighborhood and the city council made special arrangements to accommodate this design. The developer then, completely changed the 11th Avenue elevations introducing a crime wall to the development. Our planning staff did not check or comment on these changes to the council.

Some of you have not had experience or classes discussing Crime Prevention through Environmental Design so the link below will provide some information. Please click on this link.

Here is a key excerpt on “natural surveillance” as it pertains to the Walgreens site (notice the first and most important bullet point involves window placement):

Natural surveillance and access control strategies limit the opportunity for crime. Territorial reinforcement promotes social control through a variety of measures.

Natural surveillance

Natural surveillance increases the threat of apprehension by taking steps to increase the perception that people can be seen. Natural surveillance occurs by designing the placement of physical features, activities and people in such a way as to maximize visibility and foster positive social interaction among legitimate users of private and public space. Potential offenders feel increased scrutiny and limitations on their escape routes.

·         Place windows overlooking sidewalks and parking lots.

·         Leave window shades open.

·         Use passing vehicular traffic as a surveillance asset.

·         Create landscape designs that provide surveillance, especially in proximity to designated points of entry and opportunistic points of entry.

·         Use the shortest, least sight-limiting fence appropriate for the situation.

·         Use transparent weather vestibules at building entrances.

·         When creating lighting design, avoid poorly placed lights that create blind-spots for potential observers and miss critical areas. Ensure potential problem areas are well-lit: pathways, stairs, entrances/exits, parking areas, ATMs, phone kiosks, mailboxes, bus stops, children’s play areas, recreation areas, pools, laundry rooms, storage areas, dumpster and recycling areas, etc.

·         Avoid too-bright security lighting that creates blinding glare and/or deep shadows, hindering the view for potential observers. Eyes adapt to night lighting and have trouble adjusting to severe lighting disparities. Using lower intensity lights often requires more fixtures.

·         Use shielded or cut-off luminaires to control glare.

·         Place lighting along pathways and other pedestrian-use areas at proper heights for lighting the faces of the people in the space (and to identify the faces of potential attackers).

Natural surveillance measures can be complemented by mechanical and organizational measures. For example, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras can be added in areas where window surveillance is unavailable.


Now that you understand why a proper site design was so important to the neighborhood, lets look at what was shown to the neighborhood and then the changed plans that were submitted to planning. Both files are attached.

Principally I am looking at the 11th Avenue elevations, though other elevations were also made poorer. The elevations that were shown to the neighborhood and council to win support (proposed_walgreens1) show an significant number of windows along 11th Avenue as well as additional 2nd floor windows. Along 11th there are 15 window panes looking out over 11th Avenue (plus additional ones to be situated just to the south of where the elevation ends). In short, the proposed elevations did a wonderful job of offering passive safety and surveillance to pedestrians on 11th Ave.

Now let’s look what planning subsequently approved (walgreens_changed1). All 15+ of the window panes are now gone. Every single one of them. There are only some fake windows and high windows that do not have the crime preventative effect. In short, we replaced a crime preventative design with a crime wall. A ugly metal box was also added. Even with this significant change the plans were approved without so much as a comment from Brent, even after the extensive discussion with the developer at city council meetings, and even after the negotiated meetings between RAF, Kutzky, and the developer.

I don’t understand how anyone can look at this bait-and-switch and not be angry. I am angry, but at this point I know there is almost nothing we can do except have the developer explain himself and make sure that is does not happen again.

I was disappointed with Dennis Hanson’s reply. He stated:

I just came back from the Walgreens site and am unsure what has changed. It is a very nice looking building and the landscaping is coming along very well. I believe that the owner has complied with our wishes when looking at the way the exterior of the building was put together.

 

I see no need to bring the owner/developer to the council for any reason other than to thank him for the way he worked with the city and the neighborhood.

 

Denny


I disagree and don’t think the developer complied with agreements or should be thanked…


Regards,

Michael Wojcik
Rochester City Council – Ward 2

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